Category Archives: Advertising

Management by Algorithm

In a recent post by Brian Solis “Influencing the Influencer” I was struck by the image showing a definition of leadership. Solis goes on to suggest how important people are in the marketing mix. Rightly so, he sets the context as the ‘attention economy’ as many who participate in social networks have an insatiable appetite for attention, notably those who see themselves as “authorities and tastemakers” or at that exalted level of self-actualisation, brands. Apparently, these are the folks that brands must recruit across the social media galaxy in order to truly lead, then connect with the broader audience – the ‘everyman’, in a most sincere and meaningful way.

So, like the days of television rabbit ears, brands need a shill: “A person who publicizes or praises something or someone for reasons of self-interest, personal profit, or friendship or loyalty.” (via Dictionary.com)

This is the oldest game in the advertising playbook.  The difference is of course, that the brand is supposed to recruit people who come from a superior gene pool, that of the online reviewer or opinion leader. It’s real time, it’s from the heart and… it’s transparent. To reinforce this approach, a number of SaaS applications are mentioned such as Klout and PeerIndex that use ‘human’ algorithms to calculate one’s social currency (capital?). It’s so valuable, anyone can calculate their influence scores for free.

Has it occured to those who advocate this kind of approach to identifying influencers that some consumers have no interest is what others think? Rather, consumers prefer to try things themselves. In otherwords, they prefer to take the lead, thank you very much.

For marketing managers, understanding customer preferences and value drivers, is really the first place to start. Management by algorithms alone is a very dangerous thing to do as it places limits on the ability to learn, develop insight and understand consumer behaviour in context.

As in using spell check, your facility with language doesn’t improve over time.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

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The Social Maze

Where are all my customers?

 The funny thing about all the endless advocacy of social media is that nothing has really changed in the business of matching consumers with brands. Oh sure, now that consumers ‘control the brand’, companies are at the mercy of infantile twittering tantrums such  as when consumers don’t get their way (especially on an airline) hoping to unleash a social firestorm primarily with the hope of getting noticed for a nanosecond or two. (The same folks likely get back on the same airline, content to collect their frequent flyer points.) 

One would think, with all those folks splaying their private lives out in public via the likes of YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Foursquare – lest we forget this thing called a phonebook or the science of geodemographics and credit card purchase data – that people would be easy to find. In fact, with all of the yottabytes of data out there about consumers, it should, in the year 2010, be a matter of running an algorithm or two to find customers, understand preferences and match any product or offer with any consumer 24/7 in any country with high Internet penetration.  It would be the end to the need to advertise using traditional channels.

Funny indeed. The search and storage/processing technology required to make the social web possible has, as the main output, data. Whether you call it media or content it’s still really just more data taking up space on some distant server farm deep in the Mariana Trench. As such, are we all the wiser? Not really. With free cloud apps having a shelf life not much longer that the vegetables in your local supermarket, many are wary of the risks of implementing something that will be obsolete by the time it gets traction in the marketplace. With the yet to be proven value of social media monitoring and analytics, it’s not as if the world has abandoned representative random sampling or in-market product trials.  

Do companies really have the strategies, skill sets or business processes to effectively leverage the social web? With only $2 billion slated for social media spending in the USA this year, I doubt it. Yet, evangelists are forever hopeful, as that is their stock in trade. Like Charles Revson, founder of Revlon once said, “In the factory we make cosmetics; in the store we sell hope.”  

On the other hand, Charles Revson didn’t have social networks at his disposal but his customers had no trouble finding the Revlon counter.  

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensMedia

MaaS Marketing the new Mass Marketing?

Is marketing now only about placing the order?

I have worked in a number of environments where marketing technologies have been at the centre of business transformation. I don’t mean to suggest that customer wants and needs were not a consideration. Rather, there was a tendency to undertake business tranformation in a way that was technology-led where the requirements of the client were the last consideration in defining the vision and implementation strategy.

Today, we have what appears to be an increased love affair with marketing appliances. What I mean is that there is an almost universal embracing of the latest piece of technical wizardry to hit the marketplace. When a new gadget hits the market it’s not just covered in a technology publication, it’s a major event that makes the front page of the daily news. On the consumer side, it’s been about various tablets, e-readers and smart phones. On the business side, it’s been about apps ranging from the latest in search tools for consumer-generated content, customer relationship management and licenced applications in general that provide augmented value through Internet access on demand known as SaaS – Software as a Service. Implicit here is the pervasive expansion of social networking platforms.

By no means am I suggesting a dislike for gadgets – I have plenty of them myself. It’s really about the illusion that using applications or appliances in and of themselves augment the value of a brand experience or address a complex business challenge. For example, having a website or microsite has little effect on consumer behavior if it does not enable something (or someone) and lead to an action or at best, a positive result. The same can be said for having a fan page on Facebook, opening a Twitter account or running banner ads on the Internet. Similarly, “ordering up” the latest in mobile applications might demonstrate that a marketing manager is taking an action but unless that application delivers value that the customer can see or experience, an enterprise is best to take the money, put it in the bank and let the interest payments flow to the bottom line.

We are a society that makes an increasing number of decisions based on data. Business goes to market with an array of marketing appliances. We all spend more time on the Internet. What we seem to be missing is the opportunity that technology should enable us to do and that is to have more time to create. What I mean is create new artforms in business – incorporating creative ideas that reflect an advancement of culture, art and intellectual enlightenment, something that seems to more of the past than in our future.

I was influenced early on in my career by Theodore Levitt. He wrote a book entitled  “The Marketing Imagination”. I was also influenced by Wally Olins, a practitioner of corporate identity and author of “The Corporate Personality”. Both books were about ideas, identity and shaping the corporate personna.

If we want to uncover opportunity in our own marketing futures, let’s take a turn toward the creation of ideas and not rely too much on appliances to do the work for us. That’s the difference between between having 15 seconds of fame in web-wide world and creating brands endure long after a marketing technology has reached the end of its lifecycle.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Social Media is a Croc

There’s an awful lot of chit chat on social media networks about Apple’s latest product – the iPad. This is yet another successful product launch and continued revolution that Apple is leading in bringing new technology appliances to the consumer marketplace. It’s absolutely stunning that Apple doesn’t spend a cent on social media yet has garnered an enormous amount of publicity (admittedly good and bad) from people who just can’t help talking about Apple products on the social web. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why Apple doesn’t spend any money advertising on social networks – all of the publicity through Word-of-Mouth from those who desire, own and love to talk about Apple’s products is FREE anyway.

By the way, anyone who purchased Apple shares a few years ago would have made enough money to fund their iApple desires for the next decade…

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

Advertising in The Cloud: The Known Unknowns

Anti-Ageing Cream Might Work Better Here

The company advertising here markets some form of youth hormone treatment. Google rotates a series of unrelated ads through this post. I doubt that anyone has a clue on the advertiser’s end where the ad ended up. I could be wrong but placing this message alongside some dried out million-year old pin-headed skull overstates the case a bit.  

This could have been your brand and it may be on some websites unbeknown to you. Key question is – do you know where your brand is out in the cloud and who is paying attention to it? This also begs the question regarding accoutability in advertising in the cloud and what you, your company and your agency have put in place to know how your adspend is playing out.  

Oh, for the days of the Tupperware party.  

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM  

HBR – The Social Media Bubble: Opinion

Umair Haque, Director of Havas Media Lab, recently posted a thought piece in the Harvard Business Review .

In general, Haque hypothesizes that Social Media doesn’t really connect people but instead, creates the semblance of relationships. Haque states, Social Media is ” largely home to weak, artificial connections, what I call thin relationships.”  He goes on to say “Today, ‘social’ media is trading in low-quality connections — linkages that are unlikely to yield meaningful, lasting relationships.”  Here are my own observations relating to some of Haque’s supporting points.

Truth: If we take social media at face value, the number of friends in the world has gone up a hundredfold. But have we seen an accompanying rise in trust? I’d argue no.

Agreed. In fact the word ‘friend’ is used very loosely in the social media vernacular. To me, a friend is someone that I know and trust. Most of us have about 5 real friends in our lives whom we trust implicitly. The rest are aquaintances, people that we are tied to loosely via circumstance like work, associations, clubs or…Facebook and Twitter. What we have seen a rise in is conversation amongst relative strangers under the pretense of ‘friending’. Caveat Eggshell.

Disempowerment:  If social tools were creating real economic gains, we’d expect to see a substitution effect. They’d replace — disintermediate — yesterday’s gatekeepers. Yet, increasingly, they are empowering gatekeepers.

It’s been notable that service providers such as PR agencies, advertising agencies and media consultancies have been vying for ownership of social media within the advertiser domain re. client side of business. They advocate the social media imperative, are evangelical in their style of persuasion and purport to offer social media “ROI”. They fall short by ignoring the element of accountability – something ingrained in traditional media. There is however, substitution in the form of reallocating traditional media dollars to digital. In this regard though, the financial equation is incomplete: digital is cheaper but the material business benefits are elusive. Quantified returns, in management accounting terms, are a work in progress.

Value: The ultimate proof’s in the pudding. If the “relationships” created on today’s Internet were valuable, perhaps people (or advertisers) might pay for the opportunity to enjoy them. Yet, few, if any, do — anywhere, ever. .. I can swap bits with pseudo-strangers at any number of sites. “Friends” like that are a commodity — not a valuable, unique good.

This is a tough one. Social Media is increasingly seen as a near free channel or pipe to deliver content, customer service and promotional offers. It’s also cheap in the sense that it has the capacity to diminish the value of fact-based, expert content while simultaneously encouraging the rise of ill-founded, non fact-based crowdsourced opinion. In this context, success is all too often gauged in purely quantitative terms (# of fans or followers) rather than say, degree of loyalty/willingness to recommend. In a similar vein, it is problematic to prove that people are who they say they are in the world of social networks, as many use avatars to represent themselves. If something is a known unknown then how does one ascribe value? 

There also exists an element of social media that is redundant, maybe superfluous, in terms its effect (non-effect?) on consumers. For many brands, the franchise is well entrenched (Tide, McDonald’s, BMW, Wal-Mart and of course, Apple) and the principles of The Discipline of Market Leaders are in place. These same brands already have meaningful relationships and established trust with consumers pre-Internet. Social Media is not about to change this any time soon, though to some, it may appear that way.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM

(Cross-posted at Cloud Ave and reprinted by IBM Business Insight Blog)

Marketing Research Mindset: Stop Debating ‘Social’

Yes, look here for answers

Is it research or something else? Social media, Business Intelligence, Customer Relationship Management, Online Communities and Marketing Research (MR) – all are ways to listen and understand customers.

My guess is that MR is filled with the most angst amidst some sort of identity crisis in relation to social media.  Witness this recent piece in Research Magazine:

The survey of marketers, conducted for the IAB by research agency Opinion Matters, found that the most common use of social media was to drive awareness and consideration of a brand, as well as engagement and advocacy. 60% of the firms surveyed said they were using social media for research purposes, but when asked where social media fits in their organisation (selecting all answers that applied from a total of six), only 12% chose research, compared to 73% who chose marketing, 33% who chose PR/communications and 20% who chose ‘other’.

No wonder there is angst. MR isn’t really seen as delivering value when in comes to social media. If you get a migrane just thinking about social media, consider the following possible remedies:

1. Social Media won’t go away but respondents have: While people are giving up land lines and don’t like getting unsolicited mail, they’re opting to express opinion on the Internet in a pure, organic way. Partner with an online monitoring firm and create a new social science.

2. Stop hiring more MR professionals: Instead, hire people who understand the digital space. Marketing Technologists speak to ways in which applications enable the marketing process and the customer experience. Innovate.

3. Clients are buying-in to marketing research online (MROCs) and owned media platforms: In order to deliver incremental perceived value – business insights or new ideas – you must play in the right sandbox when it comes to customer listening.

4. Stop acting like an accounting function : It’s the job of the MR professional to guide the CMO and others, in a brand or customer management role, to see the way forward. Focus on what’s in the cloud and drive the next big idea. Act in real-time.

5. If you try to prove ROI you will die: Ask yourself, how many things does an enterprise do without having to justify with ROI? Do marketing, strategy, HR and finance have to deliver ROI to justify their existence? MR needs to focus on business benefits as the way of knitting together social media across the enterprise. Be the Voice of the Customer.

Leadership is the best way to overcome angst and clears the way for taking ownership. No one will fault you for that.

– Ted Morris, 4ScreensCRM