We’ve recently had the pleasure of collaborating with on a segmentation project geared toward better understanding men. Joe launched in 2015 and already is one of the biggest premium male-focused publishers in the UK. With an array of mottos like “for men, not lads” and “the voice of British men,” the website focuses on giving men something ‘better than what they’ve been used to over the past few years of online publishing.’ We wanted to use research to demonstrate that men are more complex than we give them credit for, and that current advertising aimed at men is missing the point.

The project entailed two different parts: a deep qualitative survey and a detailed audience segmentation.

While the survey is not the focus of this blog post, its results were startling and confirmed our initial hypothesis:

  • Only 17% of men felt that UK media represented them
  • Over 73% of men did not identify with the word ‘lad’

Perhaps more interestingly, modern men revealed that they felt significant pressure in their everyday life:

  • 40% admitted to have suffered from depression
  • 71% felt too much was expected of them
  • 68% wished they had better ways to deal with stress

The survey results provided a lot of detail about how men felt, but what were they interested in? What is segmentation and how can it be leveraged to reach an unparalleled depth of audience understanding?


Click on the gif for a slower animation.

Segmentation is divided into three phases. First, an audience and a normative are selected. For this project the analysis was made up of approximately 38,000 Twitter accounts of followers, and a UK normative of 41,000 UK Twitter accounts selected at random.

The second step is to collect and categorize every handle the audience and normative follows. We then group these handles by “interest,” using a technique called clustering, which clusters handles that are commonly associated. An interest is typically comprised of 50-100 clustered handles, and—while this is fundamentally a mathematical process—results are later interpreted by human analysts who identify the underlying themes and patterns.

For example, we may see that “Interest 1” is comprised of a strong followership correlation amongst David Beckham, Gary Lineker and Rio Ferdinand. We may wish to call that interest “ex-England Footballers,” but if the next most active handle belongs to Cristiano Ronaldo, we have to revise our title to “famous football players.” This scenario is likely to occur more than once and is why analysts are brought in to avoid inaccurate categorization.

Finally, groups of handles are bundled into segments. This is done through a technique called agglomerative clustering that allows us to see the proximity between interests. Like clustering by interest, this process is a combination of technology and mathematics, layered with human insight. As interests are refined and renamed, segments begin to take shape.


Segmentation of the UK male audience, based on research by W2O Group and JOE Media
Segmentation of the UK male audience, based on research by W2O Group and JOE Media

We identified eight major segments within the Joe set, each with their own idiosyncrasies.

While we don’t surface the majority of the data on this blog post, there are three elements to think about when looking at the data below.

  1. The segments themselves, which represent a unique audience through a combination of interests
  2. The Interest Reach, which represents the percentage of people in the Joe audience who followed a particular interest
  3. The Interest Index, which conveys the rarity of an interest by showing (in the form of a multiplier) how many times more likely the Joe audience was to follow this interest than was the UK normative

Let’s look at a few of the segments from our case study in more depth:

Example of Starstuck segment from W2O Group & JOE Media analysis.
Example of Starstuck segment from W2O Group & JOE Media analysis. Click for a slower/larger animation.

Starstruck is one of our two most mainstream segments. The leading interest here is Hollywood Actors, which is comprised of predominantly male celebrities from Hollywood. Household names like Simon Pegg, Leonardo DiCaprio, Samuel L. Jackson and Tom Hanks are accompanied by more recent additions, like Aaron Paul and Seth MacFarlane. This audience is also very interested in UK Comedians and Shopping, both of which are also popular with the UK normative. An interesting aspect of the latter is the lack of differentiation between online brands (e.g. ASOS and Amazon) and traditional street brands (e.g. M&S and Ted Baker).

Londonites are all about metropolis lifestyle.

Londonites epitomize big metropolis living. They represent both young men living in London (and other large urban areas) and those striving to do so. Londonites are well versed in current affairs and follow a bipartisan list of news outlets and politicians. They have no discernible political stance at this level, with near-equal levels of followership for Jeremy Corbyn, Nigel Farage or even figures like Edward Snowden. They also enjoy the lighter side of current affairs, with Armando Iannucci and Charlie Brooker reoccurring in their News & Politics interest.

Londonites also follow interests related to both London venues and restaurants. Their interest include the Glastonbury music festival, Time-Out recommendations, restaurant reviews from Nigella Lawson, and weekend public transit updates. Londonites are all about making the most of what the city has to offer.

I Bet You is all about competition and gamification

I Bet You is a segment about competition in all its forms. While a large part of the Joe audience is focused on football, this segment is deeply interested a wide range of organized competition. They’re very interested in Rugby, Horse Racing, Darts, Snooker, Cycling and the Olympics. Beyond watching competition, I Bet You enjoys betting on sports outcomes; a rare interest when compared to the UK normative data.

Gamers have multiple interests outside gaming including UFC and television shows such as Walking Dead and Game of Thrones

The Gamers segment is primarily driven by Video Game Companies and unique UK Streamers and YouTube celebrities. While these interests are common across all gamers, the specific streamers found in the interest were unique, featuring the likes of the KSI and MrSyndicate. Additionally, this segment boasts the second rarest interest within the whole research, UFC fighting, which it is 5.4 times more likely to follow than the UK average. The whole segment is rounded off with an affinity for US scifi and fantasy shows, led by interests comprising the casts of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones.

As you can see, each segment provides a unique glimpse into the mind of an audience. Some represent mainstream appetites, which often align with those in the UK normative data. Other segments embody niche interests, which diverge from the mainstream and represent unique behaviors. Together, the segments provide a more nuanced understanding of Joe’s diverse audience and an unique window into the various affinities vying for their attention.

Register here to join W2O Group president and Storytizing author, Bob Pearson, as he shows you real world examples of “storytizing”.

Thursday, August 4th | 2pm-3pm CT


You will come away with:

  • How the marketing model (paid, earned, shared, owned) is pivoting due to the birth of audience architecture.
  • How to best target, identify, and architect specific audiences.
  • Trends in the ever-changing digital world and what you can do to stay ahead in marcoms.

There will be a live Q&A session. Can’t make it? We’ve got you covered. Sign up here and we’ll send you a recording of the webinar as well as the accompanying slides.

I was recently interviewed by David Pembroke, leader of the contentgroup, based in Australia, about Storytizing and what it means for the public sector.  My thoughts, of course, apply to both public and private.  Here is the podcast.

David, by the way, runs a cool weekly podcast, called InTransition, which is dedicated to the practice of content marketing in the public sector. Every week David interviews leading experts in public sector communications from policy makers, to agencies with government clients, to journalists and technical specialists.  Worth a look at what topics he is exploring.


Interested in learning more about Storytizing? Check out my latest webinar!

In early May, 2016, I was asked by Mi-hye Kang, a senior staff writer for The PR, a monthly on- and offline magazine for PR professionals in Korea, to participate in their six-year anniversary issue. In celebration of the 6th anniversary, The PR asked to interview myself and Paul Holmes, Publisher of The Holmes Report.  What readers in Korea may not have known until this interview is that PreCommerce has been printed and is available in Korean.  Thank you to Professor Joon Soo Lim, a professor at the Newhouse School, Syracuse University for helping to make this happen. This interview originally appeared in The PR.

1. Could you introduce the W2O Group and yourself to Korean PR practitioners?

W2O Group is a communications and marketing firm with a foundation in data science.  We decided to build our own algorithms, software and new models to understand influence, content, language and channel selection so that our campaigns for our clients can be more precise and aligned with what customer’s desire.  We work in 20 languages today, including Korean.

For myself, I have been a leader of communications at several Fortune 500 companies, including Novartis and Dell and, at Dell, I was asked to build the world’s first global social media function for a Fortune 500 company.  Now, I am president of W2O Group and spend all of my time with clients and in creating new models for our industry.

2. What are the most important needs among your company’s clients these days?

The greatest need is how to shift from a coverage model to an influencer model.  Essentially, it is no longer enough to just get coverage.  In fact, that is the starting line.  With algorithms, we can see exactly who drives share of conversation, exactly who shares your story and exactly who forms your search engine optimization position.  So when we get coverage, we have to syndicate our earned media into the shared media world.  This can occur simply by sharing in the right channels, but it increasingly requires the use of small amounts of paid media as well.

3. I heard that your new book “Storytizing” has just come out. (We are sorry that we have not read the book yet.) What do you want to the book to convey and how have your ideas evolved since your previous book Pre-Commerce?

The big change involves technology advance and our audience. We can now see exactly who our audience is online (all forms of media) and understand who they respect, what they read and all of their public habits.  This allows us to align what we share with them.  It enables us to empower the key people in the audience to co-share a brand’s story more effectively and it changes how we measure.  We want our stories to pull through and reach the entire audience we care about, which is how Storytizing works. Advertising can’t do this, it just catches our attention.  Communications can if we know who our audience really is.

4. What did you mean when you suggested that all public relations activities begin with creating the audience architecture? How do social media analytics help practitioners do so?

Social media listening is evolving from “listening” to “audience intelligence”.  If we just listen, we often don’t know what to do next.  That is not acceptable in the future.  Audience architecture means you define the audience you want to reach before you do a campaign, learn what they want, learn who has influence, and even learn what time of day to share content.   We build intelligence so we know how to reach a professional audience (e.g. physicians), a certain customer audience (e.g. company’s partners) or a new audience (e.g. future customers).  We can then keep learning and adjusting to our audience and get smarter with time.

5. What are the global conversation topics or trendy words in digital PR among practitioners these days?

It seems like everyone is talking about influencers.  This is great to hear.  However, what we often see are that agencies are just creating new media lists and calling it an influencer list. That does not work.  The real trend here is the rise of micro-influencers.  For example, if we are looking at who is influential for Samsung in mobile, there may be 20+ categories of importance from video to open source.  Each of these topics has its own influencers with less overlap than we think.  The ability to identify the right influencers by topic, sub-topic, issue, language and country is what really matters.

6. One of the challenges for PR practitioners regards how to plan and implement a marketing/PR plan that leads to sales increase. This is also directly related to the campaign budget. What’s your and W2O’s approach for this issue?

We live in a quantitative world so we can show how we are shaping behavior and, in some cases, how we drive sales via social media.  The big trend here is what we call “agile campaigns”.  This means that you are learning from your audience and figuring out what to share on a daily basis.  Said another way, if your client asks you to lock-in a campaign plan for the year and stick to it, you will be far less successful. Even with big campaigns, you need room to make agile decisions and adjust to your audience.  Then, ROI improves.

7. Like media planners in the multi-channel media environment, PR practitioners are also required to make a strategic and integrative use of diverse social media platforms. What are your suggestions for and effective social media mix?

PR practitioners will be doing media planning for earned and shared media.  It is important to identify the exact channels and outlets where our customers spend their time.  What we find worldwide is that customers tend to congregate in four channels or less (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) and this channel mix can change by brand, country or language.  It is important that we know why we use each channel as well, since each channel serves a different purpose in the customer journey.

8. When it comes to a social media mix for a campaign, PR and marketing in Korea trend to rely heavily on Facebook. It seems that this trend is based on the potential reach and continued growth of the platform. How do you foresee the potential and limitations on Facebook?

Yes, Facebook has become our new television due to its reach. Facebook can be an effective channel if you know exactly who you want to reach.  However, I always remind our clients that Facebook does not impact search, where 90% of our customers go to learn more on a daily basis.  Google+ is a minor channel, but Google favors it in its algorithms, which impacts search.  Twitter impacts search.  In this case, think of the 1,9,90 model (1% create content, 9% share content and 90% learn from the 1 and 9).

9. We are observing a trend in which diverse areas of strategic communication gradually converge on digital and social media. As a result, we see the business boundaries between advertising, PR, and marketing gradually becoming diluted. How can a PR firm (or a practitioner) raise its (or his/her) competitive edge in this ever changing environment?

You are exactly right.  The worlds of communications and marketing are converging rapidly. What this means is that communicators have to become more expert in search (the 90%), in use of strategic paid media (small amounts of paid media in social channels), agile campaigns and audience architecture.  The world is actually moving in the direction of the expertise of the communicator.  The ability to tell a story, build relationships and adjust to changing conditions are all skills communicators have.  The Storytizing era is really our era!

10. What is and how do you know about the Korean market of social commerce and public relations?

When I was at Dell, we would always stay up to date on how leaders in Korea were utilizing forums to hold conversations, how gaming was changing habits and how social media was used overall.  I’ve always viewed Korea as one of the countries in the world that innovates a bit faster than the rest of the globe.  In fact, I am thinking of writing my next book on how innovation is occurring in key countries, like Korea, and what it means for all of us worldwide.  A mega trends type approach.

11. Do you have any thoughts or comments that you would like to share with the readers who are Korean PR practitioners of the PR?

Yes, I know myself and my colleagues would like to hear more often about how Korean PR practitioners are seeing the media world evolve.  We would like to learn from each other.  This interview is a great example of the type of sharing that we should do, two-way, more often.  Maybe we think about how to do this together?

Also, my new book, Storytizing, is now available on Kindle on

Thank you for this opportunity.  I enjoyed our discussion and hope this furthers the conversation.


At W2O Group, proprietary analytics power everything we do, so we decided, “Why not use our analytics to see who is dominating socially going into the Final Four of March Madness?” We live and breathe for the targeting our analytics can provide for our clients in order to set them up for success. Plus it is pretty interesting to see who is in the “double bonus” when it comes to share of conversation.

First, we wanted to pull analytics to highlight the social engagement of the teams that reached the Elite 8. Take a look at not only Syracuse University’s domination, but also a nice ongoing climb that the University of North Carolina has. (I have to wonder if W2O Group’s alignment with Syracuse’s Center for Social Commerce is helping the Orange’s efforts of practicing what we preach for social media while holding back my Tar Heels.)

W2O_FinalFourGraph_1024x512 (2)

Next we wanted to look at which team was producing the “loudest” fans in terms of social engagement. Louisville should be happy with the results from the Yum! Center.


Each year millions of fans tune in on their TV, laptops, tablets and smartphones to cheer on their alma mater, their hometown team or to watch a low-seeded Cinderella team defy the odds and beat a well-known number one seed. Whether it is at work, in a lecture hall or at home, Americans have an obsession with tuning in for every game – and now sharing their point of view, battle cries, chants, smack, photos, highs and lows. And the fact that the game will be live-streamed in virtual reality makes us geek out even more, salivating at all the data and social shares to come out of this tech milestone.

Last year, the tournament averaged 11.3 million viewers — the highest viewership in 22 years. Thanks to second-screen conversations adding to the story and increased social engagement, fans are helping tell the team’s story. They’re part of the team. The schools need to see the value in being storytized, because there are so many stories to tell.

Before the start of the tournament this year, CBS compiled a list of the odds of the top 25 teams winning the national championship. Out of the top five teams included on the list only one remains in the Final Four, the University of North Carolina.

Odds graphic

This year is far from an anomaly. Perhaps the reason March Madness is so popular is the tension of expectation versus reality. You expect a #4 seed to clobber a #13 seed, but suddenly the opposite happens. You are nearly 100% sure that #1 seed is destined to be the national champion, and suddenly they are out in the second round. Consistently during four weeks in early spring, the nation is stunned, and history has proven this:

There is no predicting March Madness. You can only sit back, relax and enjoy the ride. In many ways, March Madness goes hand in hand with our passion and fascination for the predictive nature of analytics. But sometimes, like our clients, we are amazed at what the data actually shows us – often throwing a wrench into our client’s perception of their Goliath.

The only predictive constant that March Madness possesses is that data, probability and statistical analysis mean nothing. Is it helpful to know a team’s ranking coming into the tournament? Sure. Is it wise to predict the outcome based off these rankings? Not necessarily. March Madness is the one time of year that analytics do not make sense to us fans and oddly enough we are ok with that. We know it will pass and after the tournament concludes, order will be restored. Part of the fun of March Madness is that anything can happen and that is what keeps us all watching.

It’s SXSW Eve, so we thought we would feature one of Austin’s up and coming entrepreneurial couples this evening.  Bryan and Amelia Thomas decided to blend virtual world creativity and real world play to found a company called PopUp Play.  If you ever buy presents for kids, you’ll be interested in this company.

Here’s a brief Q&A between myself and Amelia and Bryan.

Q: How did you come up with the idea for your company?

From Amelia: PopUp Play began with a conversation I had with some friends.  We were talking about our favorite toys as children, and I remembered the “Flying Phone Booth,” a shipping crate my sisters and I turned into a spaceship. Over the next year we refined the concept as we talked to people who had young children.  It was the enthusiastic response from these parents that pushed us to make PopUp Play a reality. So, we knew the business concept was really attractive to prospective customers.

What gets us excited is that kids can experience the joy and self-confidence of bringing their creations to life and playing with them. Taking a digital design and then interacting with your life-size creation is an experience previously reserved for adult engineers, architects and designers. We have brought that experience to kids.

Q: What are the most important learnings as an entrepreneur that could help others as they start their companies?

Building any kind of company will involve an entire community.  Friends, family, former co-workers, strangers, we could have not gotten this far without the help of countless people who have donated their time and money to make PopUp Play a reality.

Create a lean business canvas as soon as possible and review it regularly.  Early on, it will force you to ask all of the hard questions about your business.  As you build your business refer back to it regularly to see whether your assumptions have changed and to keep you on track.

Openly share the idea.  This is great advice from Guy Kawasaki, in his book “The Art of the Start.”  Sharing your idea with people you trust and respect will result in a huge amount of feedback that will make it better or change your direction entirely.  This value far outweighs any potential cost of someone “stealing” your idea.  After all, ideas are free, execution is where the value is.

Q: Tell us about your main product.  How do children interact with it?  What do they like?

PopUp Play enables kids to design and build their own toys.  Our first product is an experience where kids, ages 3-9, design a custom playhouse that we then manufacture exactly to their specifications and deliver a few days later.  Kids are able to easily set up their playhouse, decorate it and then play inside their creation.

The experience begins on an interactive design app called the PopUp Play Build Lab.  Kids select from options like a house or castle.  They place structural components like towers, windows, doors and roofs.  Then they decorate their creation with graphics torches, dragons or fairies.  At the press of a button they can order their creation.  We deliver their creation a few days later as a life-size playhouse.  Then the play experience continues when the kid creators decorate and color their playhouse and play massive games of make believe inside their creation.

Kids love that they can take what they are seeing on their tablet and play with it in their living room.  It’s a new way of thinking that kids otherwise don’t have access to.  When a kid sees this structure in real life that they created on their iPad, the sheer amount of joy on their face is remarkable.  The phrase “mind blown” might have been created for this moment.

Q:  When you were a kid, what were your favorite toys?

We already talked about Amelia’s favorite toy, the Flying Phone Booth.  Bryan’s favorite toy was a bicycle.  He loved the freedom it gave him to explore and go on adventures.

Thank you Amelia and Bryan, you’re building a very cool company and Austin is proud of you!  We wish you the best of luck.


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 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


There is a content and media surplus. Attention defecit. Consumers have tunnel vision. Their media consumption habits and behaviors are unpredictable.

This makes it extremely difficult to reach an audience.

Whether it’s an ITDM, a physician type, millennial, developers or an affluent consumer, you name it. You can’t just launch a campaign and expect to make a difference much less any business impact.

But imagine if you had the intelligence that define their behavior online? What type(s) of media they consume, their specific language and context when talking about key issues? Their platforms of choice or what time(s) they are online? Essentially, knowing what makes that specific audience unique from everyone else?

This intelligence is critical.  And, this is how you break through the clutter and reach your audience with content and ideas that matter – to them, not you.

Everything else is just a guess.

A lot of folks talk definitively about storytelling, being human and of course content marketing.  And many of the campaigns referenced are certainly creative with catchy tag lines, cool hashtags, interactive video, etc. They may even get a nice write up in Digiday or Adweek.

But I wonder how impactful these campaigns really are.

Below are some slides I put together an approach that leads with audience architecture which should be the backbone for all marketing campaigns.




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, 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

Enjoy, Bob Pearson

We conducted a survey of 37 Millennials this week to learn more about the relevance of the Super Bowl in their lives.  Some pretty cool insights.  Here’s what we learned.

Commercials Only vs. Game Only — if Millennials have to choose between just watching commercials or just watching the game, they are evenly divided.  Either way, they are entertained.

When We Watch Ads – if you are a millennial in college, you start watching super bowl videos and available ads the week before the game.  If you are working post-college, there is a strong preference to watch videos and ads the week after the game.  Very interesting.  Basically, if you are in school, you have more time on your hands and you walk by a lot of pre-game promotion within the University, so you’re more active pre-game.  If you are working for a living, you don’t have as much free time anymore, so it’s perfectly cool to let the marketplace decide who the winners and losers are…..and then they benefit from this crowdsourcing.

Make Me Laugh….or I Don’t Care As Muchthe Super Bowl is an evening of entertainment.  In that spirit, millennials overwhelmingly want commercials that are funny.  Commercials that are emotional or educational are not their choice.  And if you make millennials laugh, you then earn the right to add in some education or emotion.   Brittany literally laughed at this insight as she said “If I’m with my friends, I want to hear a beer commercial that is funny.  I don’t want to hear about all of the side effects of a new drug during the Super Bowl.”

Rethink What $5MM Can Do in the World – we always say that millennials are growing up to be aware and concerned citizens of the world.  Slightly more than 50% said they thought $5MM for a 30 second commercial is not worth it.  So we asked them to make a choice on what they would do with this money.  Overwhelmingly, they said they would choose to build 714 water wells in Malawi and Mozambique at $7,000 per well or pay the utility bill for 20,000 families in February ($250 per family) rather than create a commercial.  This shows what an enormous opportunity there is for a company to have the courage to NOT create a commercial next year and, instead, help the world….and then let us know of this choice the week before the Super Bowl.  Someone will do this right in the future.

Olympics More Relevant than the Super Bowl –given a choice, millennials view the Olympics as a sporting event that gets their attention whether or not they like sports.

Ads Do Work – About 80% of millennials said they take action on an ad now and then.  Nothing controversial here.  Ads can work and always have if done well.

Broncos Favored Just Barely – by a vote of 19-18, the Broncos are the favorite.  That’s surprising to us since the quarterback for Carolina is a Millennial and the quarterback for Denver is Gen X.  But, of course, if Cam Newton scores a few times and does the Dab, Brittany and her fellow millennials will be pulling for the Panthers.  Bob will continue to pull for Peyton and will not understand that he just saw a Dab, since he can only remember “a little dab’ll do ya” Brylcreem commercials.

Now time to prepare the Nachos…….enjoy the game.


Brittany and Bob



Mitch Joel is considered to be one of the leading thinkers in digital marketing.  He’s also been thinking about social media, digital marketing and how our world is evolving for about as long as I have.

When Jeff Slater, leader of global marketing for Normacorc, recommended I participate in one of Mitch’s podcasts, it was an easy decision.  With approximately 500 podcasts under his belt, Mitch knows how to ask the right questions to talk about what’s next.

Here is our discussion via podcast.  This is #498, to be exact.  Enjoy, Bob

This post, written, by Dr. Augustine Fou, Chief Marketing Science Officer for The Advertising Research Foundation is part of our CES-Inspired blog series.  This topic is our first, Geo-location.  My related post is here.  


As more and more consumers spend more and more time on their mobile devices (even exceeding their time in front of computers) we are aggregating a massive new data set — geolocations based on the GPS locations in their mobile devices.

There are obvious benefits to having this data. Waze (Google) uses real-time speed information to crowdsource traffic stats that inform navigation systems. Ads for the closest barber shops or listings for restaurants in the vicinity can be brought up based on where the user actually is. Furthermore, geolocation can be used for additional context to understand the meaning of users’ searches. For example a search for “pizza” on a Friday night from home, usually means the user is looking for home delivery of pizza for dinner; while the same search for “pizza” at noon from an office location might mean the user is looking for a restaurant near the office to go to for lunch.

Along with these enormous benefits there are new risks that should not be overlooked. For example, knowing that someone is not home during certain hours every weekday could allow bad guys to easily burglarize the house. Knowing someone’s favorite restaurants, bars, or home address may present personal safety risks if that information falls into the wrong hands. So it really boils down to who has access to what information about individuals’ locations, at all times based on their mobile devices.

So What?

For the most part, the forerunners in the mobile data space like Foursquare, with location-based “check-ins,” have done a good job protecting users’ privacy by careful handling of their geolocation data; these were “walled gardens” with unique, custom data sets. But more recently, data management platforms, which sell user targeting data to programmatic ad exchanges, collect users’ place-based information via their mobile devices, often without their knowledge. They collect this information on users via many partners, from mobile apps, analytics packages, and even telecom providers (that pre-install tracking on locked phones).  Then they sell the data to drive prices higher — i.e. higher premiums associated with greater targeting, because advertisers are willing to pay more for users whose locations are known.

But while these members of the ad tech supply chain are making higher profits from the buying and selling of user data, most users are not aware of the extent to which their data is being used, nor do they have any means to determine that and control their own information. That leads to bigger questions — who owns this geolocation data — the users or the companies that collected it? What rights do users have and what can they do if they wanted to “get their data back?” There is clearly enormous value in that data; but consumers are not getting any value from it at this point, while companies are profiting from it. Is this sustainable or does it have to change?

Now What?

History has shown that any significant imbalance of value must ultimately be rebalanced in order for a healthy ecosystem to persist. We see this in physics – areas of high energy will balance with areas of low energy. We see this in nature – ecosystems with an explosion of invasive species will rebalance and settle into a new steady-state. In our digital advertising ecosystem, as consumers continue to gain power, they will also start to exercise their rights to see what data is being collected of them and demand the ability to control, edit, take it back, or delete it.

Other ecosystems have had to “rebalance” and acknowledge the rights of the consumer – think, Do Not Call List. There is already the digital equivalent called Do Not Track and Ad Choices, pioneered by digital advertising trade associations. Facebook and Google both now allow users to download their own data from the cloud — from emails to photos to videos, and every other type of asset — if they so choose to take their data with them.

Further, past analyses of how ecosystems evolve show some consistent patterns: 1) when a new market is being developed, pioneer companies create walled gardens in their attempt to set and become the standard and own the entire market, 2) then in order to continue to achieve growth, fast followers promote interoperability in order to gain access to previously established walled gardens — the interoperability increases the value of the network effect, and 3) once most players are interoperable, most of them no longer have unique, defendable competitive differentiation, which leads to waves of consolidation and eeking out more efficiency.

In the programmatic ad tech ecosystem, we may already be in phase 3 and some consolidation has already been witnessed. But the companies in the ecosystem that can most proactively make changes to empower consumers to know and control their own data will likely be the ones that succeed long term.


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


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. 

Column published in the November 23, 2015 issue of PRNews

It’s relatively easy to anticipate macro trends in technology for 2016.  It is much harder to predict how those trends will change the communications profession.  Based on work with large brands and entrepreneurs of all shapes and sizes, here is a list of top trends that will matter most for the Chief Communications Officer and his/her team.

  1. Audience Architecture Starts to Replace the Coverage Model: We now can see exactly who our audience is online (all social media channels and mainstream media), so we can listen to its needs, align our story with its desires and measure our success in reaching the target market for our brand or topic. Getting coverage is only one piece of this puzzle. Why? Blogs and Twitter drive 2/3s of content flow. Mainstream media has become a catalyst that blogs and Twitter drive. Think of the audience as becoming more important than the outlet. When you get coverage, the PR pro’s job is just beginning.  He/she needs to ensure that this coverage reaches the audience; the job calls for sharing it via social channels so it gets to the right people.  The end game used to be coverage itself. No more.
  2. Responsive Experience Replaces Responsive Design: Since more than 50% of content is consumed via phone and that figure will rise to more than 75% in three years or fewer, we have to provide the right experience the first time our customer looks for it online. If we direct people to a website and make them hunt for the desired information, we will lose most people and they won’t come back. We have to deliver the exact content right away.  Since people tell us what they want via search, e.g. “company x, product y pricing”, we can deliver this exact content on the first visit.  The search words serve as a trigger for the right content, which you have pre-packaged, to show up.  Imagine preparing for ten types of customers to visit your site.  Once you know who they are via their search terms coming into the site, the content changes to meet their needs.  This is simple technology we can all use today.
  3. We are Entering the era of the 9%: In the 1,9,90 model, fewer than one percent of people create content, approximately nine percent share the content and 90 percent lurk and learn, benefitting from the 1 and the 9. The first ten years of social media have been about the 1 percent. Now, technology advance has made it super easy for the 9 percent to share content, add comments and continue the conversation in any channel and on any device.  This is the second sales force for a brand.  We must know who they are and start building far better relationships with the 9 percent.  They are the best friends of the one percent and should be of us as well.
  4. We Have Fewer Than Three Seconds to Make an Impression via Video: Facebook boasts 8 billion video views per day, so it knows a thing or two about how users react to video. Its data show that we have fewer than three seconds to grab the viewer’s interest. The result is how we produce video must change. We need to create a strong first impression and should be investing in a wider range of lower cost video, not longer, expensive video.  Disagree? OK. But I usually avoid arguing with what we learn from 8 billion views per day.  That’s a big enough focus group for me.
  5. Internal Communications will Start Learning from External Audiences: We have long made the mistake of examining only internal metrics to measure internal satisfaction of our employees. Now, we realize via new models that we can identify what matters to specific employee groups by analyzing their external activities: where they hang out (social channels, forums, blogs), talk, share and learn from each other.  The answers to how better align with employees can be found outside of our walls and inside their tribes.
  6. The Full Story of a Brand Must be Delivered to the Customer: We can now use technology platforms to deliver the full story of a brand (think 4-6 articles and 2-4 links) directly to our customers in any social channel. We can then watch what they like, what they share and dynamically change the content in all channels in seconds. Interactive storytelling is emerging as a new discipline, since we can deliver content anywhere, any channel, anytime.  It’s time for us to go to the customer, not ask him/her to visit us.
  7. The Agile Campaign Starts to Replace the Traditional Campaign: Since we now can see what our audience is doing and thinking in close to real-time, we can introduce the right content into the market based on their current needs. This means that we need to proactively build out libraries of content, so we have pre-approved material ready to share. The days of spending 6-9 months to create a campaign, get approval for it and then enter into the market are ending.  In the future, we’ll only do that when we have a specific end date, e.g. when we have a product launch or a drug approved.  When we have a choice, we’ll move to agile campaigns 365.

Overall, communications is moving into an era that I call Storytizing, which represents what is possible beyond advertising.  We can align directly with our customers via earned, shared and owned media and supplement these interactions with the strategic use of paid media.  Our job now is to meet customers on their home turf and pull our stories through the customer’s entire ecosystem in full alignment with their needs.

A new era calls for new techniques and the full embrace of what technology has to offer.

Contact: @bobpearson1845

Note: Bob Pearson’s next book, Storytizing, will be available in March, 2016. 

The fundamentals of communications are timeless. The art of telling a great story, the science of selecting the right channels to share our story in and the nuances of language always have been and will continue to be critical to success.

The environment in which we tell stories, however, is evolving faster than ever. In its wake, the role of the communications function is changing completely.

The reason is simple. Technology has empowered the entire audience to tell a brand’s story. This shift in capabilities is a game changer. As a result, it’s time for courageous leaders to change the communications function with more urgency than in past years. Our customers will benefit from the work of a next generation of audience architects.

Below are several market shifts that cry out for the communications function to change forever.

Audience Overtakes the Outlet: For media relations, our definition of “audience” is changing due to how technology is empowering the “9%” in the 1, 9, 90 model. For years, we have focused on the 1% of a marketplace who create content and act as influencers. The influencers are still important, but now the 9% or those who share content, also are driving the market. The 1 and the 9, together, reach the 90% of people who lurk and learn and benefit from what the 1 and the 9 do.

We used to be able to focus on five to 10 journalists, get them the news and they would share it and everyone else would follow. Now, we have customers joining in to share and interpret our story as they ensure their communities are informed.

Action: We need to know who matters in the 9%. And in many markets where 9% of the audience is in the hundreds of thousands or millions of people, we are realizing that finding the right audience to share content with is more important than getting coverage in an outlet. The former moves markets. The latter adds impressions. CEOs want to move markets.

Flipping PESOs: Since the 1% are important and the 9% now shape markets, this translates into “earned media” and “shared media” as being most important. In today’s world, when we get news coverage via members of the 1%, we want to have it shared via the 9%, either via shared media channels or paid media used strategically within shared to drive the content through a community.

Action: Since paid media will support and follow conversations and news, communicators must become fluent in how to effectively use paid media along with earned and shared. It’s no longer a bad word for communicators. Paid is in. It is becoming a core skill of communicators.

Markets Don’t Wait for Campaigns Anymore: The agility of our campaigns must match the agility of the markets. Communicators are experts at knowing when to pivot on a story. Now, we need to partner with our creative colleagues and embrace the concept of “agile creative,” so we can share content that matters with a market in real time, based on the needs of the market. The idea of taking weeks or months to develop a campaign has become old school.

Action: We need to develop a library of content and stories that are preapproved and ready to share based on real-time insights. This will lead to a new definition of media planning for earned and shared.

Micro-Segmentation Replaces Personas: We always knew top-down, persona-driven segments of “five audience types” were wrong. Now, we’re realizing that each person actually represents his/her own media ecosystem. For example, if I am a cardiologist, I may follow healthcare providers, other MDs, nurses, journalists, patients, insurance companies and other professionals on my social channels. If we are going to track what 1,000 cardiologists care about, we can look at the online media ecosystem of all 1,000 of them and determine which outlets they care about, which channels are important, what content is relevant to them, what time of day they go online and much more. The roll-up of these ecosystems defines the media network. We just flipped segmentation on its head. Now we look from the bottom up and must understand how content is shared and consumed within each person’s network.

Action: We need to become fluent in the use of data and excellent in developing insights from these data.

Fragmentation of Media Means Something New: We used to say fragmentation referred to the proliferation of media outlets. That was an old-school way to look at change. What we see now is that an audience decides where and when it participates, which leads to real fragmentation. Fragmentation of people’s attention is far more important.

No longer are many of us CNN or ESPN fans. We consume content and have conversations in multiple channels with multiple communities and consume content on multiple devices from multiple platforms. We are news or sports fans and decide where we participate and consume content. The result is our definition of audience is very different today.

Action: We are entering an era where we must become audience architects, able to identify, develop and track the right audiences, learn from them and then align with their needs. If we’re not aligned, we may just be talking to ourselves.

This article originally appeared in the September 21, 2015 issue of PR News. Read more subscriber-only content by becoming a PR News subscriber today.

The potential to analyse Facebook topic data has led to several key innovations in the ability to adopt a targeted marketing strategy, according to Kester Ford, Director of Product Marketing at Datasift.

kester ford presoSince 2007 Datasift has been working with social data and social analytics, analysing how audiences are interacting with brands online.  With the recent release of Facebook topic data this research has been transformed in scale and size.  Facebook has over one billion daily active users and, crucially, is a closed network and therefore users tend to be more authentic and less self-promotional, than in open social networks such as Twitter.

However, topic data from Facebook is anonymised and aggregated.   Data never leaves Facebook servers and it is impossible to reverse engineer the content to link it back to individual user accounts.  But, Kester tells us, this does not make it less valuable to digital marketers.  This new data set allows us to understand audiences to answer questions such as:

  • Why are my competitors more popular with Scottish women?
  • What are men under 25 talking about in Argentina?
  • What type of content does my target market share?
  • How do people talk with their friends about saving money?

This targeted understanding of different demographic groups gives us the ability, for example, to build new creative content to address the answers to these questions.  In a world where we constantly hear about the proliferation of data and the importance of ‘big data’, this new data source could be a game changer in our ability to analyse and understand audiences in a way that was previously impossible.  With the ever increasing importance of digital privacy and data protection, Facebook topic data gives marketers access to these scalable insights whilst still respecting the privacy of the individual.

With this quote by Jack Welch, Bob Pearson finished his talk at the W2O PreCommerce Summit in London today. The President and Chief Innovation Officer at W2O Group, encouraged the audience to remain nimble to be able to adapt to future trends and changes and shared some of his insights into tomorrow’s world of brands, customers and media.

As described in his book PreCommerce, Bob sees the biggest value for brands in decreasing the distance to their customers and focus on pre-commerce phase vs. the actual point of sale: Only those who are able to listen, will be able to respond and adapt to market needs – maybe even before those needs actually exist.

The digital age definitely enabled brands to be much closer to their target audiences than ever before; however, the structures, relationships and stakeholders, as we have known them for years, will no longer exist in the future. Bob Pearson summarizes this development in four key game changing trends:

  1. Our Definition of Audience Is Changing

If we look at the 1-9-90 model, we can clearly see the former content creators and outlets are no longer as relevant in the online conversation as the 9%, which we define as brand advocates, those who spend their time inside social media channels, who are part of strong peer groups and, who add their views to existing content, that will share the future of your brand’s or company’s story. With this development, the audience is now more important than the outlet.

  1. The PESO model is flipping

As the 9% grow in importance, so does earned and shared media. This requires us to integrate a new media planning model that defines an insight-driven social media channel and influencer strategy, which roles out into campaigns, content and experiences. As part of this model, paid media amplification remains an important part to break through the “noise”, but it will follow conversations and communities more than news.

  1. Markets Don’t Wait for Campaigns Anymore

Digital conversation is dynamic and to be able to participate, brands need to be agile. Providing customers with what they need, where they need it and when they need it, is a challenge that includes our creative approach. Those brands who are able to use data and respond to trends in real-time, with content dynamically changing based on interest, will make the 365 campaign become real.

  1. Micro Segmentation Replaces “Personas”

Or in Bob’s words “We always knew that top-down persona-driven segments of “five audience types” was wrong”. With each person and each audience having their own media ecosystem, the roll-up of these ecosystems defines the media network. In order to customize content to their target audiences, brands need to understand how the audience and their attention are fragmented. Therefore, the future media leaders will excel in audience architecture.

About Bob Pearson

Bob Pearson is President and Chief Innovation Officer at W2O Group. Bob has a unique combination of social media, marketing and communications skills acquired during nearly 25 years at three Fortune BobPearson500 companies and a major consultancy. In 2011, he published his book “Pre-Commerce: How Companies and Customers are Transforming Business Together”, in which he shares ideas for leaders to engage directly with customers to shape their brand and marketplace success. He is currently working on his next book, which will be available in March 2016. “Storytizing” will focus on the importance of creating a compelling and at the same time relevant narrative for your brand.

At today’s PreCommerce Summit, Colin Foster wanted to know from Dina Rey, Head of Digital Group at Roche, Anna Gruebler, Data Scientist and Software Engineer at Altviz, Jessica Federer, Chief Digital Officer at Bayer, and Anita Yuen, Global Head of Digital Fundraising at UNICEF, how digital has influenced the well-being of society.


 4 Key Takeaways

  • Digital content is driven by the business and therefore it is important to prioritize the business’ value as well as its medical or commercially related objectives
  • The greatest challenge to creating an integrated digital strategy is in finding the right people. But it is also the most rewarding to find those people. As Jessica Federer explained, “Find the people who will open the doors, step through and lead it.”
  • It is crucial to have strong leadership – a digital champion – who believes in digital with or without evidence in order to open doors and be willing to innovate and disrupt the status quo. The most important factor is being able to speak both languages and being able to talk about the data from a marketing and the science perspective.  Therefore it can be irrelevant whether a digital marketer is male or female, a scientist or an engineer.
  • Digital enables organizations to engage external people to bring about digital transformations. By being able to improve touch points and interfaces with organizations and foundations, digital allows an improvement in the way we connect with the different stakeholders. This creates more traction and engagement with all stakeholders and enables us to impact well-being.

When discussing whether it is better to have people who know the business and teach them digital or have digital experts and introduce them to the business, the panel was in agreement that both types of people are needed. You need people who know the business objectives, but you need the geeks that will inform them.