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As I mentioned in my kickoff post, we are hosting a series of blog interviews pre and post SXSW with speakers from our PreCommerce Summit (March 10) and Movers & Shapers Summit (March 12). Today’s interview is with the Kyle Flaherty, VP of Solutions Marketing at security company, Rapid7. Kyle spoke yesterday on the topic why marketers are easy targets for cyber security breaches. To say that it was eye-opening would be an understatement.a - KyleFlaherty

Before we jump into our interview, here’s a little bit more about Kyle. According to LinkedIn, Kyle is a “technology marketing executive [who has] worked with early-stage startups to $1 billion+ high-growth companies changing the worlds of big data, IoT, BYOD, SaaS, open source software, network security, fraud detection, data analytics, marketing automation, and network management. Known for launching high profile technology startups, with four successful exits, [his] passion is to not only message technology and brand an organization, but build award-winning marketing teams that work in lock-step to rapidly produce marketing campaigns that drive measurable results to impact the bottom line.

Now on to the interview:

  1. Aaron: How do you define innovation?
    Kyle: The word innovation is so overused it’s makes me nauseous to even think about the definition. Honestly we must start to think way beyond innovation and start thinking about technology aiding human life; what I call human-driven alteration (well I didn’t invent the words, just the use). For two decades we’ve seen a rise in ‘innovation for innovation’, with technology being spit out that does pointless things like order us more Amazon boxes via a mysterious cylinder cone in the corner of our house. That’s not what I call innovation, it’s laziness masked as technology. The next few years will see a good healthy dose of closure around pointless and directionless innovation, instead a focus will be held on pragmatic uses for technology that will actually make us more secure, our earth cleaner, and our bodies more healthy. That’s what I call alteration.
  2. Aaron: What are you or your organization doing to drive innovation?
    Kyle: Working in security the past two decades I’ve seen my fair share of “innovative” introductions and great new technologies. Yet we are now in an era where we are more insecure than ever. We have all been hit by data breaches, and if you think you haven’t it’s simply because you don’t know yet. One of the reasons is that our industry often times focused from the outside in, building a stronger or smarter firewall, rather than helping to amplify the talents of security pros to make them smarter or more talented — because we all know the attackers can get past the preventive security solutions. I recently joined Rapid7 because they have a vision of creating products that have the human-being in mind, not simply the bits and bytes. Our entire mission is to build technology that restores confidence and control back to the security team, and ultimately back to the business.
  3. Aaron: Who is someone in your industry (or outside) that you admire? Why?
    Kyle: Jennifer Leggio, a mutual friend of ours. Fortunately I met “Mediaphyter” many moons ago when she just happened to sit in on a webcast I was doing for a PR agency about this new-fangled technology called Twitter. Ever since that time we’ve crossed paths and have even been able to do some work together in the security industry. Jen is a rock star in our community and has taught me that it’s not enough to just know marketing, you have to understand the community that makes up security because not only is it truly unique, it will feed your soul. I consider myself blessed to have her as a contemporary and a friend.
  4. Aaron: Where do you see your industry being in 3 years? 5? 10?
    Kyle: In the next few years the security industry will begin to understand that we can no longer prevent attacks, and thus the era of rapid detection, fed by user behavior analytics, will take hold. As we move into the 5 to 10 year frame we will actually see the security teams begin to better mesh with their contemporaries in IT as they understand their shared resource of the data that courses thorough their company and the ability to harness it so that security becomes only necessary for incident response, and IT is now handling the rest. That would be a monumental achievement if it can happen.
  5. What book are you reading right now? How did you choose it?
    Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ by Giulia Enders. I’m trying to better understand the effect different foods have in my body, not only so that I’m not a big lard ass, but also how it changes my moods, triggers my Psoriasis and arthritis, and more. It’s a fascinating, and often times disgusting, read.
  6. For fun: what three things would you make sure you brought with you in a zombie apocalypse?
    Kyle: Chuck Hemann, Pops, and a bottle of great bourbon.

Thank you Kyle. Good choices for the zombie apocalypse. I’ve heard that that Pops is a really zombie killer.

Our PreCommerce Summit started off our events with a bang. Hard to believe, but 2016 marks the 6th annual version of the summit. We built it around a series of 10-minute Ted-style talks, and rounded it out with a few panel discussions and a couple of fireside chats.

These discussions featured insights from executives and leadership from some of our top clients and partners. It’s a view into what’s next, the technology that’s impacting all of us, how its changing business, as well as other aspects of our lives outside of work.

  • Lord Peter Chadlington, Founder of Shandwick and Huntsworth Group; See Lord Chadington’s preview interview here.
    Lord Peter Chadington discussed global communications trends with our own Bob Pearson. In terms of global trends, Peter pointed out that 50% of the world’s population have just started getting access to the Internet.  Lord Chadlington is someone who’s dedicated much of his work to politics and shared his thoughts on the impact that social media is having on politics. According to research they did in the UK, 72% said social media and the Internet made them more involved in politics. They feel empowered. You can watch Bob’s interview with Lord Chadlington at about 33:15 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Amy von Walter, EVP Global Communications and Public Relations, Toys ‘R’ Us
    During Aaron’s introduction, he shared the news that Amy is now EVP at Toys ‘R’ Us. Amy gave a powerful talk about first impressions. She’s passionate about encouraging confidence in her employees. It’s an extension of her confidence which comes from her experiences overcoming first impressions.  And she’s an expert there, based on her reality of being from South Korea and raised in Minnesota by her adopted parents. She referenced the work of Dr. Hendrie Weisenger’s about the many ways you can build confidence. You can watch Amy’s session at 58:04 in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Manny Kostas, SVP and Global Head of Platforms & Future Technology, HP
    Manny discussed breaking through silos to get into more conversations with customers. He’s a person with unique perspective since he’s been CMO at both Symantec and a division of HP and now he’s responsible for 3,000 engineers working to reinvent HP’s printer business. Manny’s passionate about not imposing our business structure on our customers, which breaks the dialog with our customers. You can watch Manny’s session at about the 1:07 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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Before the first panel, my friend and someone I really respect, Robert Scoble joined Aaron on stage to share his recent news that he will be joining UploadVR as their Entrepreneur in Residence. All the best to you in the new gig Robert. Your early work at your Channel 9 days at Microsoft and you (and Shel’s) book Naked Conversations helped me prepare for taking the reins as Dell’s chief blogger back in 2006, Onward and upward, my friend! You can watch Scoble’s news at about the 1:24 mark in the PreCommerce livestream. Thanks to Jeremiah Owyang for the live pic.

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  • Susan Glasser, Editor in Chief, Politico and Peter Cherukuri, EVP Audience Solutions & President, Politico
    Susan and Peter discussed the evolution of sponsored content. Interesting perspective from the two of them and how they’ve made a new publishing model work for Politico. To do it, they re-invented what it means to be an online news platform in an era where journalistic speed a given in the space. That meant diving deep into new types of stories and experiences to stay ahead of their competition. You can watch their session at about the 2:16 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • David Kirkpatrick, CEO, Techonomy, author of The Facebook Effect and Graham Weston, Founder/Chairman, Rackspace
    David sat down with Graham to get his take on where the cloud was headed. Before jumping into the conversation, Graham took a minute to thanks Robert Scoble for his 7 years at Rackspace. Rackspace is a $2B company who provides cloud infrastructure and integration services for AWS and Azure clients. His company’s still focused on providing “fanatical” support in the midst of a changing competitive landscape. Lastly, David asked Graham about his considerable community efforts in the city of San Antonio and beyond. You can watch their fireside chat about the 2:47 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Jeremiah Owyang, Founder/CEO, Crowd Companies
    My good friend Jeremiah spent a few minutes getting into the future of Crowd business models. He shared examples of how the collaborative economy is already disrupting traditional businesses and also shared his take on how it would evolve moving forward . Key takeaways 1) Common digital technologies empower people to get what they need from each other. 2) The crowd is becoming like a company—bypassing  inefficient corporations. 3) Like the Internet and social, corporations must use the same digital strategies to regain relevancy 4) This requires a business model change: Product>Service>Marketplace>Repeat. You can watch Jeremiah’s session at about the 4:08 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Greg McCullough, Senior Director Partnerships, Medtronic and Gail Day, VP, Publisher Harvard Business Review
    Greg and Gail sat down to discuss what’s next in brand/ media partnerships. Gail attributed part of HBR’s success to the organization’s commitment to a goal to rid the world of bad management. That focus also extends to their partnerships. They’re strict about working with their brand, and that’s why they choose to work with limited partners. Medtronic was one of those partners. Their collaboration resulted iYou can watch their session at about the 4:31 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Becky Brown, VP Digital Marketing & Media Group, Intel
    Becky spent a few minutes discussing The New Digital. Becky reiterated that marketers are all aware of consumers’ aversion to ads—look no further than ad blockers and the fact that they are willing to pay a premium for services without ads. Intel is answering this co-creating with companies like Buzzfeed and Mashable. And now, taking that idea with new ESPN where they integrated technology into the X Games, which allowed both companies to create new kinds of content. And they are building on the success of their online magazine called Intel IQ, where they will introduce original programming next month. You can watch Becky at about the 5:28 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Amy Hoopes, CMO, Wente Vineyards
    Amy took some time to discuss how user experience is becoming the new marketing. The family Amy works for has been in the wine industry for 133 years, in the Livermore Valley area of California. They were always good at making great wines. To understand the history of Wente Vineyards, Amy did extensive interviews with the family. Through that research, it was clear that the Wente family had been doing many innovative things, like operating a full-service white tablecloth restaurant that recently celebrated it’s 30th birthday. Amy talked about here SMS strategy: Simplify, Motivate and Share. You can watch Amy’s session at about the 5:43 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • The third panel of the day, All Hype Aside featured 1) Michael Putnam, SVP Consumer Marketing, AmericanWell 2) Lorie Fiber, Global Corporate Communications, IBM Health and 3) Jeroen Brouwer Director of Marketing, Sales and Business Development, Philips
    Our own Rob Cronin moderated this esteemed panel of guests to discuss how digital health will impact our lives in the future. You can watch the panel discussion at about the 6:20 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Alex Gruzen, CEO, WiTricity Corporation
    Alex discussed the future of wireless charging and how it will impact us with all the smart devices we carry with us every day. When he says wireless, he means it. Their technology doesn’t require a charging pad to be plugged into on outlet. It’s about moving power over a distance. WiTricity Corporation’s technology works with all kinds of devices: from Bluetooth headsets, to laptops and tablets, and event electric cars. You can watch Alex’s session at about the 6:56 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Amber Naslund, SVP Marketing & Chief Evangelist, Sysomos
    Amber used her time to discuss the Future  of Analytics: Social Data and Beyond. She started by talking about how much customer expectations have changed. They expect answers in 30 – 60 mins, and they also expect those answers on nights and weekends. She  also talked about how creative design is even more important as a way to reach customers. Then, she discussed the importance of bridging the gap between data scientists and marketers or communicators. Analytics is currently a specialized skillset. But back in the 50s, typing was a job that was done via dedicated employees. Amber argued that data analysis will ultimately become a core skill just like typing did. You can watch Amber’s session at about the 7:10  mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Shiv Singh, SVP Global Head of Digital & Marketing Transformation, Visa
    Shiv discussed how to open source your brand.  He started with a simple but painful premise: that customers don’t trust your brand. And then he offered examples of how Visa reached out to the startup community for innovative ideas. One outcome: they are opening up the Visa network as an API for developers. You can watch their session at about the 7:20 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

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  • Hugh Forrest, Director, SXSW Interactive and John Battelle, CEO of NewCo and co-founder of Wired Magazine & The Industry Standard
    This fireside chat was a blast. John interviewed Hugh on the past, present and future of SXSW. See my earlier blog post here for a much more detailed summary of that lively discussion. The interview covered a lot of ground. My favorite quote from Hugh? “TED is this finely curated meal. And that’s wonderful. [SXSW] is a 24-hour all-you can eat buffet, and that’s wonderful at times too.” You can watch Hugh Forrest’s interview at about the 7:40 mark in the PreCommerce livestream.

Make sure to tune into W2O Group’s Movers & Shapers event.

 

Out of all the great speakers that took part in W2O Group’s 2016, PreCommerce Summit, the fireside chat between Hugh Forrest, director of SXSW Interactive Festival and NewCo CEO John Battelle was one that I personally was most excited to hear about. Though it’s huge now, it didn’t start that way. Beginning a few years ago, it surpassed the music festival in terms of attendees—a trend that continues in 2015 and probably beyond.

Hearing the humble beginnings (Interactive started as the SXSW Multimedia festival in 1994… anyone rememeber CD-ROMs? Heh!) from Hugh’s perspective to what it’s grown into now (Hugh expects about 35,000 will attend Interactive this year) was worth the wait in my book. He covers a lot of the history and the evolution of the festival. And maybe next year we can expect a single ticket for all SXSW? And BTW, Mr. Robot fans can check out the Ferris wheel(!) on 4th and Congress.

If you want to watch John’s interview of Hugh, tune into the #SXW2O livestream at just about the 7 hour 40 minute mark.

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Here’s an edited summary of the Q&A between John and Hugh.

Q: When was the first year of SXSW Interactive?

A: The Music part started in 1987. In 1994, we added SXSW Multimedia because we thought multimedia was the future back then. With CD-ROMs, there was a lot of potential there, wasn’t there? 🙂

Q: In 1994, how many people attended?

A: That first year, we combined it with the Film part, so it was SXSW Film and Multimedia. If you counted all the volunteers, we had about 1,000 attendees combined. We thought at the time it was a good first showing. After that, we split it into two separate events, one for Film and the other for Multimedia. In the startup world you have concept known as the Valley of Death. For startups that survive, it’s usually a period of  about a year to 18 months. We had about a 10-year Valley of Death, where we were really struggling to find our voice, to find our market to understand what we were doing. The reason we survived during that 10 years was  of the success of the SXSW Music event. It was paying the bills during that time. If we’d have been a standalone event, we would not have survived that difficult period.

Q: During that period, did you have a lot of difficult meetings where people thought. Maybe this multimedia thing isn’t working. Did they ever think: maybe we should just stop doing it?

A: Many things keep me humble. This was one of them. I remember an above the banner headline in the Austin American Statesman from 1998 that was something like “Excitement Coming to Austin: Music, Film, Rodeo, Multimedia!” No disrespect to the Austin Rodeo, it’s a cool event. But we were slightly below that. In terms of meetings, it was more me wondering to my boss, why are we doing this Multimedia thing? It doesn’t make any sense. We can’t find our audience. The Music festival brings the rockstars from all over the world. We’ve got this film event that brings in movie stars, and all I’ve got is a bunch of geeks.

Q: When did it tip?

A: Certainly the biggest tipping point was 2007 with Twitter. But, we started to see a little bit of an uptick in growth in 2004. A keynote speaker that year was a guy named Jonathan Abrams from Friendster.  I had seen him on a late night TV show, and I thought this guys kind of interesting, let’s try to get him for SXSW. He turned out to offend about half the audience. That’s a common theme in many of our keynotes.

John: I remember in the early keynotes, those people in the audience were really quick to tell you if they weren’t pleased with what you were saying.

Hugh: Are you saying that from personal experience?

John: I’m saying it from watching it happen to someone I interviewed onstage. I don’t remember all the specifics, but that person answered a question and got hisses and jeers from the audience.

Hugh: It’s a tough crowd, not like this one… Jonathan’s keynote in 2004… when he offended some people here coincidentally or not, that was about when Friendster hit it’s peak uaage in the US. I think it is still popular in Asia. But that was our first real foray into social media. Who could have known in 2004? I mean, in retrospect it makes sense, but we didn’t know back then that social media was going to be such a big deal, so much a part of our lives. Many things contributed to our eventual growth after 10 years of non-growth. I would say that startups and social media are two of the biggest things. Again, particularly Twitter in 2007 [was the big turning point]. The irony of the Twitter story is Ev and Biz have always credited SXSW as the place they launched, but the fact is they actually launched about 6 months earlier. Thanks to both of them for that.

John: I know I wasn’t there that year, but I was following what was going on, somehow, before Twitter… maybe e-mail. Everyone was talking about Twitter. I knew it, because I knew Ev, but it became a big deal here…

Hugh: Yes.

Q: So, how many people are copmong this year

A: Probably about 35,000 total.

John: So about 35x growth, with most of it coming in the last 10 years?

Hugh: We were lucky enough to experience a hockey-stick level growth from about 2004 – 2014. It leveled off at that point simply because we really hit capacity in Austin. There were some years where the growth numbers were crazy. On the one hand you’re happy after not growing, after struggling so much for so many years. But it’s just as mystifying [to think] why are we growing now when we couldn’t grow before?  Now, it’s the challenges of growth, of scale, of trying to retain the user experience that helped growth is very significant in and of itself.

Q: What year did the marketers show up?

A: You should ask these guys in the crowd… they’re the ones who know.

Q: The startups obviously caught on at some point. Was there a tip to that piece?

A: There wasn’t a Twitter-like tip there, but again, Twitter just changed things so much for us. More startups wanted to come to SXSW to be like Twitter, more venture capitalists came looking got the next Twitter. Branding and Marketing people wanted to come to discover the next big thing before their competitors did. Twitter was 2007. 2009 was Gowalla… remember them? And 4square actually launching the same day at SXSW.

John: Yeah, it was like a duel for the location-based services with the local favorite, less highly-funded Gowalla.

Hugh: Right. And Gowalla is in the digital graveyard at this point. What’s interesting here and even going back last year to Meerkat is the products, apps, services, startups that get the most buzz out of SXSW are the ones that help people digest SXSW. Twitter got so much use because people used it to find which parties their friends were going to, where they were eating breakfast or lunch, what panels they were going to… it helped the crowd digest a large event. Same thing with 4square and Gowalla… and Meerkat. You can broadcast you’re in a session that’s great or horrible. It’s simple, but it can be complex. If you want the most buzz at SXSW, figure out something that helps people better digest the event.

Q: Do you see anything this year that is an emerging possibility to break out the way those did?

A: It’s interesting on the eve of their one year success at SXSW, that Meerkat announced that they were pivoting, essentially changing direction, changing business models. Facebook Live is certainly doing a big push here, and it’s essentially an updating of that type of app. Again, we’re seeing more functionality with mobile devices that take advantage of increased broadband in terms of personal broadcasting. I think that if something breaks out, it could be that. We were surprised as anyone that Meerkat got so much buzz at SXSW. It was a perfect storm for them. I remember the Apple Watch press conference had been on Monday before SXSW. People were using it there, it got featured on Product Hunt. It had some buzz going into the event. It kind of broke all the rules that we thought had become rules in the sense that it didn’t have a whole lot of money, was a relatively small startup, and all the sudden it got huge traction out of the event. The common wisdom at that point was that SXSW had grown so big… to rise above the noise you have to have a huge budget, it’s impossible to do. But again, something that hits that sweet spot that helps registrants better absorb, digest or discover the event is what popped. Who knows if that will happen this year?

Q: How has Interactive grown compared to Film and Music and is it the muscle that’s driving the business as much as Music was before?

A; Interactive is the biggest industry portion of the event in terms of people buying badges. The tables have turned around from 15 years ago. Part of that growth came from people who were buying badges for Music started buying badges for Interactive to understand how they could navigate the change in the [music] content industry. Over the last 15 years, geeks have become the rock stars. That narrative of Mark Zuckerberg dropping out of Harvard, creating a startup, getting crazy rich… that so much powers the startup ecosystem, the startup mindset of people much younger than us doing cool stuff out there.

Q: Has Interactive has kind of consumed the film and entertainment industry?

Hugh: Is this your Marc Andreessen moment where you say software is eating the world?

Q: I notice you have a Convergence Track where you’re sewing the two together. So people who have both (Film and Interactive) badges can go to both?

A: Yes. We have more and more convergence stuff that tries to bring these industries together. The idea being that 25 years ago,  it was easy to tell the difference between Music and Film, and this weird thing called Multimedia. Now, years later it is all so interwoven and blended together. We argue, discuss converse within our staff: if you have a session about a YouTube or Vine star. Is that Interactive because they’re using technology? No it’s film because they are the film stars of 2016. Or it’s Music a song that way. These lines are completely blurred at this point.

Q: Will it come to the point that you just sell one ticket to the whole deal?

A: That’s a pretty good idea, John.

Q: So will we hear about that more next year?

A: I’m saying there’s a lot of good ideas that come out of this event on March 10 right?

Q: What lessons do you have for marketers or brands who are looking to make the most at SXSW?

A: We’ve seen lots of interesting, crazy, fun, weird promotions at SXSW over the years. This year it’s the Ferris Wheel on 4th and Congress creating the buzz. But the things that will create the most buzz with this audience. the visual trend setters, the forward thinkers, the people with huge social media followings  are things that help people better absorb the event. We’ve been lucky to have automobile sponsors like Chevy and Mazda. The thing they do best? Provide rides to people. That solves a problem for people since it’s so difficult to get around. The program was called Catch a Chevy and they provided free rides to people. That’s where they got the most buzz out of the event.

Q: Without naming names, I’ve seen some [brand] activations that seem a bit off… do you or a team approve how marketers get to activate?

A: We’ve taking a much more active role here.. in the wake of some activations that weren’t quite right.

John: Can you give us examples?

Hugh: No, there are too many people tweeting in here. I don’t want to do that. But we do try to give brands guidelines to help them be successful here. As the event has gotten bigger, we know there is more noise. Now, rising above that noise is always a challenge. It’s harder and harder for a brand or startup like Meerkat to gain traction. A story that I still love is that when foursquare launched when we thought location-based apps were the next big thing, the promotion that Dennis Crowley did was he drew a four square with a piece of chalk outside the Convention Center. He was playing foursquare with people.  I mean you’re playing four square with the founder of foursquare. It wasn’t reaching huge numbers of people, but it was reaching people who could create buzz about it. It’s harder to do that now since we are more strict about brands using chalk on the sidewalk, but…

John: Admit it. This year, you would have kicked Dennis off the sidewalk.

Hugh: I like Dennis. I wouldn’t kick him off. Maybe others.

Q: What people find most valuable are the vast number of get-togethers that happen all over town. So much good stuff. What’s your point of view? Is there an official view toward the unofficial side of SXSW?

A: We are much more aggressive in terms of trying to control unofficial events. That’s mainly due to safety, since we take safety more seriously than some of the pop-up events do. As organizers, we try to bring those unofficial things in. But, most attendees can’t tell the difference between what’s official or unofficial. Attendees know, I went to Austin, had a great time at SXSW, went to a party, met great people, I made connections, I got business opportunities out of it, it was a worthwhile experience. It’ s a cops and robbers game. As soon as we bring them in, other unofficial things come up.

Q: SXSW really lights up the city.

A: It does take over the city. That’s a good thing for a lot of people. But lots of people don’t like this week because it’s a huge traffic disruption. For many years, some will tell me, “I’m not a huge fan of SXSW, but I rent my place out via Airbnb that week, so you paid for my vacation. There’s a thriving under-the-radar economy there.

Q: Lastly, tell us the story about President Obama speaking here:

A: We have been working, cultivated relationships in the White House, particularly in the Obama administration, for many, many years. There have been speakers from the White House who have participated in panels, other speakers who’ve moved onto the White House. We’ve had pretty strong context there. There has been interest in previous years, but the timing didn’t quite work out. This year it did work out… I will say that the White House was very easy to work with throughout this process. There was very positive conversations. It wasn’t confirmed until we announced it last week, so we were sweating it out. I’ve said before that in the State of the Union address in January this year, the president mentioned Austin, at one point, while talking about startups.

Q: What’s President Obama going to talk about?

A: He’s going to talk about 21st century civic engagement. That geeks should go to Washington D.C., help reinvent government, help make it more efficient and effective. I think it’s a really good message for SXSW. We’ve pushed community good social causes for a while, and this fits well into that. That said, we also know a lot of the audience isn’t particularly political and believes that the government doesn’t understand technology all that well. They’ll be somewhat skeptical of this message.

Questions from the audience:

Jessica Federer, Global Head of Comms and PR Bayer Healthcare Animal Health:

Question for John: Are we going to ever see NewCo Austin together with SXSW?

A: We avoided SXSW. I’ll tell a story. I thought in 2007 or 2008, I noticed marketers were coming to SXSW when I was with Federated Media and we were doing events. One of them was called Signal. I actually called it Signal SXSW. Big mistake. I had Marissa Mayer come and asked other people to come a day early. It was kind of like the PreCommerce Summit. I reached out to Hugh. We worked it out. I changed the name to Signal Austin. Ever since that time I was one of the unofficial events and I was making such a bad mistake… Fortunately, I got pulled into the tent. From that point on I made sure I got Hugh’s permission and that I didn’t schedule anything around SXSW. Now, NewCo Austin will happen in July.

Rohit Bharghava, CEO & Founder, Influential Marketing Group

Question for Hugh: With so much activity in terms of content sessions, are you looking at the TED kind of model of making video stream recordings available?

A: We do record audio of the sessions and make them available as podcasts after the event. We’re doing more with livestreaming. TED is this finely curated meal. And that’s wonderful. [SXSW] is a 24-hour all-you can eat buffet, and that’s wonderful at times too. Presentations and panels are great, but ultimately what people come to events to meet other people, make connections, have face-to-face conversations that happen outside the panels, at the bar, happy hour. Panels are just the hook to get people in and to market the thing.

As I mentioned in my kickoff post, we will host a series of blog interviews over the next two weeks with speakers from our upcoming PreCommerce Summit (March 10) and Movers & Shapers Summit (March 12). Today’s interview is with Lord Peter Chadlington, former CEO of Huntsworth and founder/former Chairman of Shandwick Int. Peter will sit down with our own, Bob Pearson, at the PreCommerce Summit on Thursday, March 10 for a fireside chat focused on global digital trends in EMEA.a - Peter Chadlington

According to Peter’s LinkedIn profile, he has spent his “entire working life in communications, as a journalist after graduating from Cambridge University and later in Public Relations both in-house and consultancy. [He] founded Shandwick in 1974, which [he] then developed into the largest PR consultancy in the UK, holding that position for 17 years. [He] built the firm overseas and sold it to The Interpublic Group of Companies in 1998, forming the group that became the largest PR consultancy in the world. ” Some of the skills he’s been endorsed for by his peers are public relations and business strategy.

Without further ado, let’s jump right into our six questions:

  1. Aaron: How do you define innovation?
    Peter: An improved or new solution that adds value – it could be totally new idea, a marginal improvement, or something more radical that disrupts a market.
  2. Aaron: What are you or your organization doing to drive innovation?
    Peter: Leaders can influence by setting the tone for how risk taking will be tolerated …and as importantly, how failure will be managed.
  3. Aaron: Who is someone in your industry (or outside) that you admire? Why?
    Peter: Baroness Martha Lane Fox. She epitomizes my motto ‘never give up’! She is a successful entrepreneur, charity campaigner …and a wonderful person!
  4. Aaron: Where do you see your industry being in 3 years? 5? 10?
    Peter: The boundaries between the traditional marketing elements will continue to blur and at the same time there will be increasing specialization in specific areas, like analytics.
  5. Aaron: What book are you reading right now? How did you choose it?
    Peter: I’m re-reading The Spark by Kristine Barnett. It’s amazing what the human brain can do!
  6. For fun: what three things would you make sure you brought with you in a zombie apocalypse?
    My family! My Ferrari and an endless supply of crumpets with marmite.

We look forward to hearing more from you this week Peter. And in the meantime, marmite lovers UNITE!

As I mentioned in my kickoff post, we will host a series of blog interviews over the next two weeks with speakers from our upcoming PreCommerce Summit (March 10) and Movers & Shapers Summit (March 12). Today’s interview is with long time friend, author and Principal Analyst at Altimeter, Brian Solis. Brian will be doing a featured fireside chat at our Movers & Shapers event on Saturday. His session is will be right after lunch at approximately 1:15 PM CT.
a - BrianSolis

According to Brian’s LinkedIn profile, he is “globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders, speakers, and published authors in new technology, digital marketing and culture shifts. His new book, X: The Experience When Business Meets Design, explores the importance of experiences and how to design them for customers, employees and human beings everywhere. Solis also designed the book to be an experience as a physical example of what’s possible when you take a step back to rethink products, services and models in a new economy (and world).” Some of the skills he’s been endorsed for by his peers are social media, digital strategy and marketing.

Without further ado, let’s jump right into our five questions:

    1. Aaron: How do you define innovation?
      Brian: I believe we live in a time where we need a balance of iteration and innovation to break free from “business as usual.”
      – Iteration is doing the same things better.
      – Innovation is doing new things that creates new value.
      – Disruption is doing new things that make the old things obsolete.
    2. Aaron: What are you or your organization doing to drive innovation?
      Brian: I start by observing technology’s impact on business and society. I then look at how behavior, expectations and values are evolving. I study problems and approaches to solving them. I also study how innovation plays out in terms of challenges, opportunities, successes, people, etc. I then share my perspective on everything in the form of research reports, books and speeches to inspire people to drive change.
    3. Aaron: Who is someone in your industry (or outside) that you admire? Why?
      Brian: I admire anyone in any organization stepping outside of their roles to take on the great task of change. It’s political. It can be demeaning. It’s frustrating. It makes you want to quit. But it is because of these people that any form of transformation can see the light of day.
    4. Aaron: Where do you see your industry being in 3 years? 5? 10?
      Brian: Change is now a constant. Disruption is now a choice. We either disrupt ourselves or the gift of disruption is given to us. Here are some of the things I’m thinking about over the next 10 years (also embedded below).
    5. Aaron: For fun: what three things would you make sure you brought with you in a zombie apocalypse?
    • Milla Jovovich aka Alice
    • Water
    • Perishables
    • Tools/supplies
    • Documentation
    • First aid supplies
    • Effective weapons
    • Delorean

Okay, that’s eight. But always a good choice to pick more rather than less. And smart vehicle choice with the Delorean. Assume that’s because it runs on nuclear power.

As some of you know, we host a series of events leading up to (and slightly overlapping) SXSW Interactive. Two of our most popular events are our PreCommerce Summit held on Thursday, March 10 and our new(ish) Movers & Shapers event on Saturday, March 12. Both feature a variety of brand leaders and thought partners — all focusing on how business is changing. Or put in simpler terms, innovation.

Over the next two weeks, I will feature a variety of those speakers here. First up is from Mark Young who is the CMO of Sysomos, one of this year’s premier sponsors and a close partner of W2O Group’s. I’ve asked each of our speakers the same five questions (plus a fun/bonus question). Of course some will adjust the questions to be more germane to their talks/business but ideally at least in the neighborhood of what I asked.

Here’s the list so far along with a few I know who will be contributing over the next couple of days:

  • Mark Young, CMO, Sysomos [interview here]
  • Javier Boix, Senior Director, StoryLab, AbbVie  [interview here]
  • Brian Solis, Author & Principal Analyst, Altimeter [interview here]
  • Lord Peter Chadlington, former CEO of Huntsworth PLC and founder/former Chairman of Shandwick Int, PLC [interview here]
  • Chris Heuer, CEO of Alynd and founder of Will Someone [interview here]
  • Patrick Moorhead, Founder of Moor Insights & Strategy [interview here]
  • Julie Borlaug, Associate Director, Borlaug Institute [interview here]
  • Kyle Flaherty, VP Solutions Marketing, Rapid7 [interview here]
  • Amy von Walter, VP, Best Buy
  • Alex Gruzen, CEO, WiTricity
  • Manny Kostas, SVP and Global Head of Platforms & Future Technology, HP

It is that time of year again… South by Southwest (SXSW). Once again, our company will be hosting some awesome events leading up to (and slightly overlapping with) SXSW Interactive. For those not familiar, SXSW is a giant conference/festival comprised of three parts: Interactive, Film and Music. Given the importance of Interactive or “digital” to our clients’ business, we take this opportunity to invite many of our clients and partners to town to learn, network and celebrate.

Recap video from our awesome 2015 events

Our signature event, the PreCommerce Summit, takes place on Thursday, March 10 from 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM and is packed with speakers from well-known brands like Bayer, Hewlett Packard, Best Buy, Medtronic, Intel and Overstock.com. We will also have thought leaders from companies like Techonomy, Politico, NewCo and Crowd Companies providing a look at what the future holds in store. This event focuses squarely on innovation and its fast-paced formats (10 to 20 minute TED-like talks, power panels and pithy fireside chats) allow for learning on steroids. And of course there is the networking.

This event will be attended by about 450 plus customers, partners and other industry thought leaders. A cocktail reception will follow with special WILCO side project, Autumn Defense. The event is complementary, but invite only. If you are interested in attending, please email us at info@w2ogroup.com. In that email, be sure to provide name, title and company. We will also be live streaming the event if you can’t physically be there. Registration is open to the public.

In addition to PreCommerce, we also host a digital brunch at our swank offices located in East Austin. If you like food trucks, cold-brewed coffee, music, cocktails, cool demos and lost of interesting people, you will enjoy this. We have also ordered sunny weather so this is a good opportunity to work on your tan.

Every SXSW, we do our best to cover “what’s next” in the world of  business. This year, we’re planning to host an event called “Movers and Shapers” (formerly GeekFest) on Saturday at CB’s (the new VIP event space at Stubbs) from 10:00 A.M – 2:00 P.M. Speakers include senior level marketers and thought leaders from companies like Intel, AbbVie, Galderma, Techonomy and Bayer. Featured speakers will include Ray Kerins, SVP Comms. & Govt. Relations at Bayer and Robert Scoble, Futurist at Rackspace.

In addition to these three amazing events, we will also host our seventh annual Geekacue Saturday night at iconic Stubbs BBQ on Red River. This year, we’ve booked Red Bull Sound Select artist, Not in the Face along with new festival darling, Black Pistol Fire (check out their video below).

If you need more proof that these events are amazing, check out my 2015 wrap up post.

Eventbrite links/details for each event (official link to our events pages here):

Thursday, March 10th: Sixth Annual PreCommerce Summit –  It will be a series of 10 minute TED-style talks, panels, and fire side chats.

  • Eventbrite here (password required – email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
  • Topfer Theatre at Zach — 202 S Lamar Blvd, Austin, TX 78704
  • Sessions run 9:00 A.M.-5:00 P.M.
  • Cocktail Hour from 5:00-6:00PM featuring band, Autumn Defense
  • Live stream available for those not able to attend coming soon
  • Complementary but invite only.

PreCommerce 2016 Speakers Include:

Friday, March 11th: Digital Brunch (350+ director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)

  • RSVP Here (no password required)
  • 3000 East Cesar Chavez, Austin, TX
  • 10:00 A.M. – 2:00 P.M.
  • Food trucks, music, innovative demos, coffee, brunch, and mimosa/Bloody Marys to fuel your first festival day
  • Shuttles available from the Stephen F. Austin Hotel starting at 9:45am

Saturday, March 12th: Movers & Shapers Summit (150 director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)

  • RSVP Here (password required — email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
  • Stubbs BBQ — VIP area called CB’s — 801 Red River St, Austin, TX

Movers & Shapers Summit Speakers Include:

7th Annual Geekacue: Saturday, March 12th:  (800 director to CMO level brand marketers/digital/social folks expected)

  • RSVP Here (password required – email info@w2ogroup.com to request invite)
  • Stubbs BBQ – 801 Red River St, Austin, TX
  • 6:00 P.M. – 10:00 P.M.
  • Roundtrip shuttle available from the Stephan F. Austin Hotel starting at 4:45 PM

As you can imagine, space is limited at these events so please make sure to RSVP soon. And if you do RSVP and decide after that you can’t make it, please be courteous and let us/me know that your slot is available.

We are over-the-moon excited to have Bayer and SysomosDynamic Signal, Synthesio as our sponsors this year. We greatly appreciate their support.

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It’s rare that we have an opportunity to find out more about what makes CMOs tick, and more importantly to share what’s on their minds. Today, we had the rare privilege of having our W2o Group President and Chief Innovation Officer, Bob Pearson, sit down with three marketing leaders at Overstock.com, Interstate Batteries and Accel Partners at the Holmes Report’s In2Summit.

Here are quick questions and answers (with a huge infusion of wisdom) from Natalie Malaszenko (Overstock), Dorothy Jones (Interstate Batteries) and Larry Yu (Accel). Enjoy!

in2summit panel pic

 

Background and Thoughts on Being a CMO

Natalie: Over my career I have realized the importance of following my heart. Early on, I underestimated how important it was to be happy and passionate about your work. Having that alignment with your job is critical to getting to the next level. During my time at Hewlett Packard, I also learned how important it was to stay focused. Ignore the politics. Do a great job and concentrate on leading the people you lead courageously.

Dorothy: I have led marketing in three very diverse business. My key learning over those three opportunities has been to work with a purpose and to maintain a work life balance. It took me taking two years off to really understand what I wanted to do. During that time, I realized I had a choice regarding the people I wanted to work with/for.

Larry: The length of time people stay at organizations has changed. Making sure that you are picking companies to work for on paper as much as you are picking the people you will work for is underestimated. I’ll talk more about this later but during my early days of Facebook, it was clear that Facebook had a real mission and I now realize the criticality of this to a successful company.

Scouting Emerging Talent (Keys to)

  • No “one type” of marketer. Key to find story tellers. (Natalie)
  • Find people that have flexibility and multidisciplinary experience. Other key is leadership. Can’t teach people to have drive or to think ten steps ahead. When you see the raw gem, you take it. (Dorothy)
  • I have a communications background with a marketing title which speaks to the ambiguity of marketing these days. I like to look at people’s ability to take in data and translate that into the best possible story. Problem solving is also a needed skill. Do employees have the mental agility to figure things out? (Larry)

As we shift toward digital, what are we learning?

  • Everything is measurable which is a good and bad thing. And we are now looking at experience and journey versus single channels/pathways. Sometimes we can over-analyze and make the wrong decisions. (Natalie)
  • Data is your friend. But you can spin it however you want. And Digital is changing so rapidly, it’s critical to stay on top of it/out ahead of it. The whole purchase life cycle has changed. It is more important than ever to be in tune with what’s happening. Brand trust/positive sentiment can change overnight. I learned this firsthand at Susan G. Komen. (Dorothy)
  • How do you protect certain brand assets online? Example: trying to update your company’s logo on Wikipedia. (Larry)

What do you read? How do you learn?

  • I never miss an opportunity to learn from m,y network. At the same time, time is precious. I can’t read my daily “8,000” emails. Instead, I rely on my team to help me filter/seek out the most relevant topical ideas and news. (Dorothy)
  • When I am teaching classes/companies, I tell teams that if you aren’t willing to say, “I don’t know the answer,” you aren’t really learning. (Bob)
  • I ask experts, “who are three other people I should meet/talk to” about a particular topic. I also leans on social/aggregators to stay abreast of current topics. I have also found out how important it is to pick the people with whom you spend your time. (Larry)
  • Everything impacts ecommerce these days (Superbowl, Star Wars, David Bowie’s death so I am a student of pop culture. I also study business people intensely. (Natalie)

Additional Keys to Picking Best Talent

  • Surround yourself with people that are smarter than you. (Natalie)
  • Keep language simple and being mindful of not using terms like, “change management” while doing change management (it’s construed as a negative term). I also think about using language I would use with my grandmother who was not college educated to explain things. (Dorothy)
  • Great leaders keep messages clear and simple to make them understandable and repeatable. (Bob)
  • Organizations are very decentralized these days. People work from home more than ever. Orgs are also global. So it’s very important for companies to lock down the values and clearly communicate them. As an example, when Facebook did their IPO, it didn’t go well and employees were rattled. What helped keep the troops together was having  values (and a mission) as a touchstone. Even the leaders at the time were scared and didn’t want to let employees down. But the leaders got out there and helped bring everyone along. One other point is that values need to be organic. They can’t be handed down from the top leaders. (Larry)

Most pivotal part of your career

  • Mine wasn’t magical but was pivotal. “Peace in the midst of a storm” during time at Pepsico in the middle of a divorce. Had a baby (single mom) and working 75+ hours a week. Running a $2 billion division. Remembers running to pick up daughter from daycare, went to networking event with her girl. Took her back to office. At midnight, couldn’t find her and panicked. Realized she had crawled up under desk and fallen asleep. This was not a good “mommy” moment. It was pivotal because it taught her balance. (Dorothy)
  • Got to leave everything digital at HP. No politics among digital leaders within all the divisions at the company. Digital people find digital people and work hard to avoid politics. Had one mission and one cause. Lesson was, independent of companies goals/mission, you can always find people with a common cause. (Natalie)
  • Don’t judge people too quickly. Remembers seeing Zuckerburg at Web 2.0. Saw him on stage with hoodie and was wondering, “who is this guy?!?” Fast-forward two years, I followed my boss to Facebook. I remember one of Mark’s first internal Q&A sessions and was blown away by what he heard. (Larry)

What do you want your department to focus on?

  • What is the mission? A lot of time is spent focused on product but not on the “why” of the brand. (Larry)
  • Be idea generators. Money follows ideas. (Dorothy)
  • Don’t be afraid to kill things that are stale. The world is constantly changing so it’s okay to pause and sometimes weed. (Natalie)

How do you mentor?

  • I make time on the front end while being mindful of time and I always try hard to be willing to take calls/emails or even set up 30 minutes meetings at Starbucks on the way into the office. Sometimes I find just referring someone to the right person or providing the right business insight can be enough. (Dorothy)
  • I choose people that I can ultimately help be happy. My message is keep it simple. And then I work to make them feel comfortable with the idea of finding their own path. (Natalie)

When I joined W2O Group in 2009, Jim Weiss said to me that I should write a book about the future of digital marketing and communications.  We talked about it a lot and what I realized is that I should write a series of books over time that reflect what we’re learning from our clients and our teams.  If you’re working with the most innovative people in an industry, the answers about what’s next are literally right in front of you.

This thinking led to the creation of PreCommerce, which came out in March, 2011.

PreCommerce centers around a very important and simple concept.  Less than 1% of the time we spend online for our entire lives will be transactional and involve ecommerce.  The other 99% is referred to as PreCommerce – a time where customers make their own decisions to buy or support a brand before and after the transaction, with or without a company’s involvement.  Our life’s work is to create the algorithms and models that give light to what is happening in our PreCommerce world.  Whether it is reaching influencers, generating ideas, improving customer experience or transforming the internal mindset of your team, the book touched on what was important to be successful.

Today, nearly five years later, the concepts and models in PreCommerce are more relevant today than they were even a few years ago.

During this time, I’ve been obsessed with what’s next beyond PreCommerce, the world of influencers and all we’ve done to shape conversations and behaviors.  Once again, our clients and our teams provided a series of answers that will reshape how we market and communicate in the years ahead.

The next book in this series is Storytizing, which is centered on how the marketing model (paid, earned, shared, owned) will flip on its head due to the birth of audience architecture.  The combination of technology advance, analytics expertise and a need to improve outdated models is leading to a new way to identify, architect and then learn from the specific audiences you care about.  If you can listen to what 25,000 cardiologists are thinking and doing online or what your customers are saying online or what your next million customers think, it changes how you prepare for the market.

It means that earned and shared media are becoming the lead dogs in how we shape a market and paid is still important, but it will start to be used far more strategically and at far less expense for our clients.  In addition, with our knowledge of how our audience really works, we can start to see new ways to deliver our story across the full ecosystem for a target audience.  What this means is we will consider broad-based advertising to be less impactful with time and we’ll look for ways to pull our story through multiple channels to penetrate our full audience.  We’ll be Storytizing.

Storytizing looks at how search, media, issues management, corporate reputation and other models of communications and marketing will have to evolve as a result.  It’s important in this book to take the time to look at each area in some level of depth to understand why this change is occurring.

Just like PreCommerce, Storytizing is also filled with awesome advice from 15+ leaders who share their thinking in side bars in nearly every chapter.  Whether it is Jeff Arnold, Chairman of Forbes Travel Guide or Rick Kaplan, who has 47 Emmies and was president of CNN or Natalie Malaszenko, CMO of Overstock.com, you will gain keen insights that further illustrate what is ahead of us.

Storytizing will serve as a roadmap of how our world will evolve over the next 3-5 years.  It will be out March 10, 2016 to coincide with our PreCommerce Summit right before SXSW.

It’s a lot of fun to share how our world is changing right in front of our eyes.  We see it every day through our work and it’s nice to step back now and then and realize how profound the changes actually are.

Hope you enjoy Storytizing, which is now available for pre-order on Amazon.com.

Enjoy, Bob Pearson

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


WCG_BobPost_640x420_v1

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.

collaboration

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?

—–

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

W2O Group’s 3rd Annual HIMSS Social Conversation Report: Not your mother’s #HIMSS15 social media analysis

What do you get when you mix tens of thousands of healthcare IT’s most influential experts with today’s increasingly social conference atmosphere? An incredibly unique and unmatched opportunity to identify key trends in digital health and health IT overall, and a perfect laboratory to study industry conversation and market shifts through social data analysis.

For today’s healthcare and technology business leaders, using social media to understand how market conversations are trending and how to reach and engage with top influencers is no longer optional. And when it comes to the intersection of healthcare technology and social media, the HIMSS Conference and Expo is undeniably where it’s at, and the power that lies in its corresponding social data and conversation analysis is truly greater than ever before.

HIMSS’15 convened more than 43,000 of the health IT industry’s forefront thought leaders, influencers, movers and shakers and garnered nearly 83,000 tweets – or more, depending on the timeframe of measurement used – all driving social engagement on and around the #HIMSS15 hashtag.

Having been locked in the basement since the event, our W2O analytics wizards have been diving in and churning through the plethora of social data from this year’s conference. Drawing out notable takeaways and offering expert analysis, our #HIMSS15 Social Conversation Report helps today’s business leaders and healthcare communicators target their engagement strategy, optimize their social investments and better understand the ever-changing digital health ecosystem.

HIMSS’15: Social conversation analysis

So just what was the beat on the HIMSS’15 social street? How has the conversation grown in relation to prior events? What individuals and companies have made the biggest leaps forward with their #HIMSS15 social footprints in relation to previous events? How are physicians and patients factoring in to the social conversation? Let’s find out!

Per the below, between 2012 and 2014, the HIMSS social conversation rose consistently year over year. While 2015 saw continued growth in social conversations overall, it also saw a steep decline in the number of unique individuals who were a part of that conversation. Further, the rate of year over year conversation growth slowed from 55 percent between 2013 and 2015 to 11 percent between 2014 and 2015. Could the astronomical rise of social conversation at HIMSS be leveling off? (Fig. 1)

Fig 1 Conversation Slow Down

Fig 1.

Note: Want to know how the top health tech brands performed in terms of social impact and influence at HIMSS 15? For a rich analysis on the most influential companies at this year’s event, as well as more detail around those key social influencers driving the conversation around electronic health records (EHRs), telehealth, mobile health and wearables, please reach out to W2O Practice Leader, Rob Cronin, here, or see below for additional information.

Another interesting fact that we came across in our analysis was related to the relatively small proportion of tweeps who were driving social engagement for the conference as a whole. In looking at the chart below, 50 percent of the HIMSS social conversation was driven by just 4 percent of the individuals engaging, and just the top 1 percent drove 30 percent of the conversation. This is slight a change from 2014, which saw 50 percent of the conversation driven by 3 percent of the individuals engaging in conversation, and the top 1 percent of individuals driving 3 percent of the conversation. This tells us that, though it has increased slightly, it is still a very small group of “power users” and engaged tweeps who are driving at least half of the HIMSS social engagement (Fig. 2). This is yet another illustration of the 1-9-90 rule of influence that W2O Group has measured and reported on across multiple industries (Fig 3).

Fig 2 - Few Individuals Drive ConvoFig. 2

Fig 3 - 1 9 90Fig. 3

There is no denying that connectivity between patients and caregivers is increasing as providers continue to embrace health IT adoption and include in the care delivery process. And as the industry moves to a value based care framework, whose success is rooted in interoperability and the expanded use cases for EHRs and health data, it is not surprising to see a rise in the number of clinicians becoming active participants in the health IT conversation. And as we’ve seen per the tremendous growth in our own MDigitalLife Health Ecosystem (#healthecosystem), more and more physicians are, in fact, becoming increasingly active in the healthcare social media space.

When looking at the HIMSS’15 conversation, we were pleased to see this trend was reflected here as well. In spite of the slowdown in total HIMSS social conversations overall as compared to past years (see first image above), as we see below, physician participation in the HIMSS conversation continues to steadily rise, both among physicians who have participated in the HIMSS conversations in past years, as well as among newcomers to the conversation. (Fig. 4)

Fig 4 - Physician RelevanceFig. 4

Additionally, the #HIMSS15 hashtag was used by nearly 350 unique practicing physicians. As a point of comparison, in the past year*, the #MGMA14 hashtag was only used by 22 unique practicing physicians, #ACHE2015 by 21 unique practicing physicians and #ACC2015 by 52 unique practicing physicians. The #ASCO2014 hashtag, however, was used by 441 unique practicing physicians; though the attendee make up of that event is primarily clinicians, a stark contrast to HIMSS.

Key takeaway? The fast growing and relatively high physician engagement rate at HIMSS shows just how invested clinicians are in advancing the health IT conversation.

As for the new kids on the HIMSS block, we looked at who “stepped up to the mic” this year in terms of the HIMSS conversation (see slide #6 in embedded deck below). A few highlights in terms of the individuals and solutions who increased their engagement in the HIMSS conversation the most this year are:

Individuals:
Michael Crone: New to the HIMSS scene. Business development at Emids. Engagement was primarily retweets.
Bill Bunting: Went from near zero to hero this year. Director of healthcare solutions at EMC.
HIT Conference Guy: Also a new kid on the HIMSS block. Active content curator.
La Lupus Lady – Well known patient advocate. Minor participation a couple years ago, but active this year.
Regina Holliday: Not new to the space, but Regina more than doubled her participation in the HIMSS social conversation since last year. Data access for all!
Vendors:
ClinicSpectrum: Medical billing services provider new to the HIMSS conversation. Took first place for vendor participation growth.
TruClinic: Telehealth platform. Active social participation.
Dell: The company stepped up its social presence at the conference, engaging attendees and encouraging them to stop by their booth.
Intel Health: Account has existed since 2008, yet this was their first time participating in the HIMSS conversation.
Mayo Innovation: First time tweeting at HIMSS as well. Demonstrative of Mayo Clinic’s increasing digital footprint and growing social reach.

In terms of the HIMSS tweeps who were mentioned most in the #HIMSS15 conversation, as you’ll see below, HIMSS, Healthcare IT News, Brian Ahier, Farzad Mostashari and Deloitte garnered more social mentions from individual accounts tweeting at the event. However, Regina Holliday garnered more mentions among leading digital health influencers – or, those who are the most influential socially across the healthcare IT landscape on Twitter — including: Wen Dombrowski, Dave deBronkart and John Sharp. These individuals, who are all actively engaged in conversations around the patient role in HIT advancement — are a further indication that patient engagement is becoming an increasingly integral part of the health IT conversation. (Fig. 5)

Which social handles were mentioned most in 2015?

Fig 5 - Most Mentioned Handles

Fig. 5

When looking below at hashtags that had the biggest spikes in use as compared to previous HIMSS conversations, #engage4health and #physicians saw growth in number of mentions. While the former supports the increased focus on – and importance of – patient engagement, the latter highlights physicians’ increasing alignment with and participation in the health IT conversation. Another hashtag to note is #dataindependenceday, the popularity of which is a testament to the strength of Regina Holliday’s message of enabling health record data access for all. It is also worth noting that #HITchicks usage grew this year, a hashtag that supports women leadership and female participation in healthcare IT and the HIT conversation. (Fig. 6)

Which hashtags had the biggest spikes in use?

Fig 6 - Most Mentioned HashtagsFig. 6

Additionally, #HITsmCIO was another new-to-the-scene hashtag this year. This @W2OGroup-initiated tag focuses on health system CIO engagement in social media, and was created to celebrate and educate on how health IT leaders are using SoMe to drive improvement throughout the industry. Including social powerhouses CHIME CIO of the year, Sue Schade, from the University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers (@sgschade), Dr. Rasu Shrestha, chief innovation officer at UPMC, Will Weider, chief information officer at Ministry Health Care (@CandidCIO) and David Chou, chief information officer at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (@dchou1107), the #HITsmCIO community is harnessing the power of social to drive innovation and quality across the healthcare continuum. For more details, including a summary of our first-annual reception held the night before HIMSS on April 12, 2015, please see here.

In terms of health IT solutions providers who stepped up their website-engagement-via-social game, Deloitte was highly successful at driving users from social media onto its own digital properties. Conversely, although Walgreens and IBM successfully garnered conversation, they were not nearly as successful at driving individuals to their respective sites via their #HIMSS15 social participation. (Fig. 7)

A few notable mentions include:
Healthcare IT News: The premier publication of HIMSS. Created substantial content during the conference.
HIMSS Conference: A highly shared, in-conference resource.
Deloitte: The content winner of the conference – by a long shot. Created highly sharable content that drove attendees to share infographics, blog posts, research findings and poignant social media posts.
HIT Consultant: Created a mix of sharable and rich conference-focused content throughout the conference.
• MedCity News: Conference-focused editorial content drove shares.
YouTube: A mix of interviews and promotional videos were shared more this year.
Forbes: Bruce Japsen, John Osborn, Larry Husten, Louis Columbus, Matthew Herper and Nicole Fisher drove numerous articles shares within the health IT community.

Which domains were shared the most in 2015?

Fig 7 - Most Shared DomainsFig. 7

Another trend we followed was around the domains which garnered the greatest gains – in terms of social shares per user – from 2014 to 2015. Translation: we looked at the site properties whose number of shares increased the most from previous years to 2015. Once again, Deloitte was highly successful at driving shares of owned digital properties, but also improved significantly since its efforts in 2014. Other significant improvements include, HIT Consultant, MedCity News, HIMSS, Healthcare IT News and HealthIT.gov. (Fig 8)

In looking closer at Health IT.gov, the federal site shared more content – including more of its own content and links to its own site properties – and took on a more active role as an industry educator and social engagement leader at this year’s event. Another account who stepped up their game, in addition to Deloitte and HealthIT.gov, was HIT Consultant, who was very successful increasing the amount of content shared that drove traffic back to its online properties. Lastly, Cerner was notably the only EHR vendor included on both our list of top shared domains and biggest domain share increases from 2014 to 2015. This showcases a great opportunity for EHR organizations across the board to improve and refine their content and social engagement strategy to connect with this influential audience.

Which domains saw the greatest increase in number of shares in 2015?

Fig 8 - Domain Share IncreaseFig. 8

It wouldn’t be HIMSS without an announcement around meaningful use! The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) released their draft meaningful use rule – that reduces the requirement that providers have 5 percent of their patients electronically download, view and transmit their medical record to a single patient – days before HIMSS, and as expected, this drew a lot of conversation on the topic. Regina Holliday, Sherry Reynolds, Mandi Bishop, Susan Brown, Charles Webster and Wen Dombrowski, among many others, were all active participants in the meaningful use conversation at HIMSS 15, with CMS, the ONC and Brian Ahier adding to that list of those who were also mentioned the most in relation to MU at HIMSS. (Fig. 9)

Meaningful use: Who drove the conversation?

Fig 9 - MU Convo DriversFig. 9

As noted previously, patient engagement was another topic gaining traction in the HIMSS 15 conversation this year, and we wanted to know who the most active tweeps were from an engagement standpoint, as well as who was mentioned most by others in patient-related conversations.

Not surprisingly, patient engagement strategist and health technology consultant, Jan Oldenburg, drove the conversation around patient engagement, followed closely by patient data rights advocate Regina Holliday. Clinicspectrum and Get Real Health were two of the solutions providers most active in the patient engagement conversation. (Fig. 10)

Patient engagement: Who drove the conversation?

Fig 10 - Patient Engage Convo DriversFig. 10

Not only has the conversation around patient engagement as it relates to HIT increased at this year’s event, but patient-related topics are also heavily rooted in discussions around health records and health data information ownership, with patient engagement being increasingly aligned with notions of transparency and access. In looking deeper at the health records/patient empowerment conversation, overall, we see that conversations about health records continues to rise, and is actually one of the key conversations related to patients at HIMSS’15.

As can be seen below, access, support, rights, own and need are all among the top terms used in the patient and patient engagement conversation at HIMSS’15. Additionally, the number of conversations about these topics rose incredibly fast since 2014, and with data and records appearing near the top of the list as well, it becomes clear that patients are increasingly associating empowerment and engagement with health data and EHR/EMR records access. While there was a slight dip in the number of people talking about patient engagement from 2014 to 2015, it still remains the single most discussed topic surrounding the patient perspective/experience. (Fig. 11)

Patient empowerment and data ownership: A growing trend

Fig 11 - Patient Empowerment TrendFig. 11

While survey also ranked very high in terms of growth, there are always a good amount of these documents released at events, and this year was no different. One such survey that received a lot of social engagement was Deloitte’s Survey of US Physicians, which provided data-driven insights on how physicians view the healthcare system healthcare reform. Last, but certainly not least, as can be seen in the continued increase of electronic as part of the patient-focused conversation, the divide between the business of health IT and those whom it is built to truly benefit is definitely shrinking.

And there you have it! Well, most of it, as we saved some of the real meat for those data geeks and organizations looking for a deeper analysis on key trends and eye-opening takeaways – including influencer and engagement metrics around mHealth, wearables and telehelath – as well as more insight around which companies were the biggest winners – and losers – in the social engagement and social influence game. For a deeper dive into the research and to set up media briefings, please contact:
• Rob Cronin, Practice Leader, Technology and Digital Health (@robcroninNY)
• Jen Long,
Group Director, Technology and Digital Health (@jensparklong)
• Jenny Laurello,
Senior Manager, Technology and Digital Health (@jennylaurello)

W2O Group’s HIMSS’15 Social Conversation Report

And for more @W2OGroup research, including our analysis of socially active hospital and health system CIOs (#HITsmCIO), please see here and visit our MDigitalLife Health Ecosystem to learn more!

Let’s begin with an oversimplified summary of marketing macro-trends from the past five years. Advances in technology have led to rapid innovation cycles, an open door to startups, and greater competition in virtually every major industry. Increased competition places greater pressure on marketers to successfully position, target, and reach new (fickle) consumers, thus leading to increased budgets but greater scrutiny. Concurrently, channels of distribution and social media proliferation have reduced the overall effectiveness of traditional paid media (TV, radio, print). Investments in digital media continue to rise, but these tactics run the risk of becoming just another billboard until a standard measurement scheme is adopted…impressions no longer count, folks. Marketers find themselves faced with too many options but the same old dilemma…how to reach the right eyeballs with a relevant message to drive funnel activity? Relax, you don’t have to do it all alone…

Your Brand is No Longer Yours

As mentioned above, the proliferation of digital media has become an open invite for informal journalism and product critique. Consider your personal news feed, anyone with a Twitter handle, Pinterest page, or YouTube channel can pose as a resident authority for a given topic. Combine this with a human tendency to seek recommendations from trusted networks at the speed of “fiber”, and all of a sudden pay-for-play review services like Zagat, Forbes, and Michelin become a little less relevant. Similarly, a brand’s ability to tell their own story objectively is in itself oxymoronic. Consumers yield more power than ever in curating brand experiences for rebroadcast with greater organic reach than any single brand or network can provide. So how can you make heroes out of your customers and are you comfortable with passing the mic?

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Never Discount Vanity

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(ex: Warby Parker’s Home Try-On)

Just Cause

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