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Danny Flamberg
I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands
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If information and engagement are business goals, websites, the ultimate icons of the Internet age, are quickly becoming obsolete. Consumers now engage and interact with mobile apps, social networks, text messages, email and dynamically loaded loyalty cards much more than they do brand websites. In fact, for the vast majority of brands, consumers visit the site once; get the information they want, opt-in and never return. That’s why savvy marketers are looking carefully and skeptically at added investments in complex websites. Many are de-emphasizing the role of a website in a brand’s digital ecosystem preferring instead to use more agile and cheaper channels to maintain on-going relationships and generate sales. The rapid adoption of mobile and social media has changed the marketing calculus about the content and the role of branded websites. Once the cornerstone of a brand’s online identity, today the function of a website is just a small part of an overall brand experience. In the beginning there were web pages, a way for brands to stake a claim on the newly invented World Wide Web. Consumers expected every brand to have an 800 number and a web page. Next site builders embraced interactive technologies to engage customers. Flash, video, SFX, bells and whistles and keeping up with the Joneses was the norm. Having a cool website and getting on a Top 10 list mattered. After a technology shakeout, websites were focused achieving business results. ROI was king, or at least talked about as if it were king. Encyclopedic websites were built. Governance was split between marketing and IT. Brands consolidated assets. Metrics trumped show biz. After a period of corporate consolidation, individual brands felt oppressed broke out by creating mini-sites and syndicating to drive traffic and attract broader audiences. Video, photo carousels, animation and games were ubiquitous. Social sharing was introduced. And brands began to orchestrate messaging, traffic and content between brand sites and Facebook and place branded content on allied sites or in places frequented by most likely prospects or customers. (This is now called native advertising.) But many marketers never gave customers reasons to return to the site after the first visit or registration. Websites now are accessed primarily using smartphones and tablets. Websites compete with and/or compliment native apps for content and tools to spawn repeat customer engagement. Some sites are also interconnected with branded social network assets. Some are not. But websites are no longer a sole or even principle destination. Rather they are an element in an evolving brand ecosystem structured to engage customers over time and achieve measurable business goals. Marketers have to discern what customers want and how they want it and then decide what kind of experience they want to offer. The design and array of digital assets requires an understanding of customer needs and a data-driven customer engagement strategy. The current thinking is that a branded site should drive consumers to take a specific desired action(s). Design and content should be organized strictly to achieve that objective. Upgrading or building a website today can’t be done in a vacuum. It has to be part of a customer engagement plan that anticipates customer needs for information, validation, incentives and/or repeat purchases over time. Creating a website today requires a relationship context that integrates the attitudes and likely day-to-day behaviors of your brand’s best customers. Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
Facebook Exchange, FBX the ads in the News Feed -- the primo real estate on Facebook -- is a year old and vying to become an indispensible partner to direct and CRM marketers. The pitch directly addresses the needs and anxieties of brands that want consumers to take action on social networks. Facebook, in a new deck circulating to advertisers, argues that they can find, mirror and more accurately target audiences, simultaneously access desktop and mobile users on a broad range of devices, leverage search and display ads across the Internet and do better ROI metrics. There is nothing subtle in Facebook’s move to curate, qualify and market audience segments. Absent is the long-standing claim that Facebook is strictly about relationships, sharing, engagement and saving the world. Most of the magic is a three-stage data mining process. By taking data from brands and combining it with demographic, psychographic and behavioral data from third party sources like Epsilon, Acxiom and Datalogic, marketers can get a tighter bead on likely buyers. Then by matching combined brand and outside data with Facebook profiles, the platform can deliver a specific message to large numbers of individuals meeting very narrow criteria eliminating waste and optimizing the likelihood that consumers will opt-in, share, sign-up, download or buy something. Like traditional publishers or broadcasters, Facebook claims to offer seamless and measurable targeting, reach and delivery. Facebook claims a 50% accuracy advantage over the average online campaign. This is the Holy Grail for direct marketers; maximum response with minimal waste across channels at efficient costs. For brands without a direct marketing or CRM infrastructure, Facebook potentially is a plug-and-play solution since brands can potentially find and reach their best customers, find more prospects that look like best customers or create new target segments virtually on the fly. But while Facebook will deliver a branded message to targeted users and tell you what percent of your database are on Facebook, they won’t share the details or trade data with brands. With massive reach and strong frequency, based on the fact that people check their newsfeed as much as fourteen times each day, Facebook is looking to take serious market share away from display advertising, search and email marketing. The social network’s leading mobile posture is a second strong direct response argument. With zillions accessing Facebook everyday on smartphones and tablets, a brand can reach their customers and prospects and finesse all the costly, complicated and confusing device, rendering and carrier issues with one partner. Tight targeting and mobile access when combined with links to branded websites, pixel tracking for retargeting and internal databases, gives a brand continuous exposure to people who have shown any sign of interest. This is, depending on your perspective, is either super-targeting or super-stalking. Either way, research shows that it delivers more, faster response. It also explains how that pair of shoes you looked at on Zappos follow you around the Internet and appear on your Facebook page. Newsfeed or Timeline units, a 154x154 pixel image and several lines of copy, were created precisely to enable precision targeting and pixel tracking to enable retargeting on Facebook and across the web. Consumers can like, share and comment on FBX ads, so virility is baked in. My clients using these units are reporting strong cost effective results. And even though many have been extorted into buying ads since Facebook choked off access to the fans they accumulated by manipulating the Edgerank algorithm, the guys paying the bills now can find out how many fans, followers or likers are actually buying products. Facebook is aggressively addressing direct marketing fundamentals and focusing on critical ROI concerns. Many of their social network peers are following suit. It will be fascinating to see how and how quickly traditional direct response partners respond. Stay tuned. It’s about to get very interesting. Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
In a world filled with endless consumer choices, too many marketers still push out one-size-fits-all messages. Very few CRM cadences are self-directed by consumers, which might account for generally flat or low response and engagement rates. At a time when everybody is a gamer used to picking characters or avatars, setting game play levels and making choices of all kinds, marketers rarely give their customers and prospects the option to set preferences for content, channels or cadence. Too many acquisition, lead generation, usage stimulation, loyalty or adherence programs are serial fulfillment exercises rather than genuine expressions of customer relationships. They are one-way streets masquerading as two-way relationships. And while it’s much easier for marketers to decide what to say and when to carpet bomb their lists, it is counterproductive. The “R” in CRM needs to be more prominent in the thinking, programming and infrastructure of marketers. There is a reluctance to ask consumers for more information based on a generalized anxiety about privacy. But this is a fake-out. Greater data yields more personalized, relevant and useful content, which, in turn gives customers greater value and a stronger connection to the brand. Study after study has shown that when consumers perceive genuine value they are ready, willing and able to share personal information. This value exchange is the core of all CRM programs. Similarly, when consumers set preferences and brands execute on them, research suggests that engagement, purchases and customer satisfaction soar. The trick is incorporating preference as a highly desired element with a CRM architecture or environment. A brand without a preference center is partially faking CRM. Ideally customers should be steered to a preference center early in the relationship; when their interest and intentions are high. They should be asked for basic contact data and the requisite opt-ins and then be given some choices about what kind of information or incentives they want, how frequently they want them and which communication channel is best to reach them without annoying them. Setting up a preference center requires a modest amount of database preparation and an infrastructure to securely capture and transmit the data provided. In some cases, this data can be stored in ESP tools and used to inform triggers and business rules for email. You can’t really create a preference center unless you have a database architecture in place. The challenge is the investment. Too many clients see even modest infrastructure costs as “non productive” since there is no immediate ROI. That view is myopic. Giving customers choices and in so doing binding them to their favorite brands pays off again and again over time. When it comes to preference, brands need to step up to honor and accommodate customer preferences. Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
At this time of the year, retailers make technical and functionality investment decisions focused on Holiday 2014. The biggest issue is what to invest in mobile marketing. Fortunately retailers can rely on the 13th Annual Merchant Survey produced by my friend and colleague, Lauren Freedman at the e-tailing group, for insight and direction. Mobile users browse stores, open promotional emails, compare features, functions and prices, showroom, photograph goods and share products with friends. Mobile accounts for 20 percent of traffic for the majority of retailers surveyed. For one in five retailers, mobile traffic is 30 percent. (In contrast, the majority of responders peg social traffic at less than 2 percent.) According to the survey, 50% of those surveyed report that mobile consumers contribute at least 5 percent to their revenues and another 32 percent say mobile contributes at least 10 percent. Seventy-five percent of survey responders say mobile is “critical to the growth of our business.” But 39 percent admit “its hard to know where to invest relative to mobile initiatives.” And while its critical that retail sites need to render properly on smartphones and tablets, nobody really knows which added functionality would drive more profitable conversions and repeat purchases? Retail competition is fierce and conversion rates have remained stagnant at 2-3% over the last few years. Almost half of retailers are focused on improving their pages and brand experiences. Another third are amping up onsite merchandising, upgrading sites and instituting responsive design. One in three are spending more than $100,000 on mobile enhancements. My hunch is that the best investment is in messaging not necessarily functionality. For the foreseeable future mobile will primarily be a research tool not a buying mechanism. Most email is now read on mobile devices. Video is moving in the same direction. Mobile search is an increasingly important factor. This leads me to four new mobile retail messaging tactics. Frequency. Crafting a single impactful message and communicating it often yields greater awareness sooner. The same message, more times on more devices equals higher reach and more persuasion. Synchronize a persuasive offer and communicate it within a defined time window (think SuperBowl) to penetrate and persuade a target group faster than ever before. Sequencing. Parse a retail pitch. This applies the classic 1940s Burma Shave OOH approach to mobile. The additive value of sequential messages over a limited time period can hammer home a promotion or sale. Fractal Messaging. A variation on sequencing would be to acknowledge different facets of a brand’s appeal and expose different facets or offers at different times to different people using different devices. Product details and rich images go on tablets while sale pricing, sale dates and bonus offers go on smartphones, in SMS messages or are placed in online media, This assumes that consumer moods, mindsets and tasks are different by device. So while prospects may resent ads on their smartphone, they might be willing to watch pre-rolls or other video formats on a tablet or phablet. By understanding how consumers use devices both in terms of the mechanics (who, what and where) and their sensibilities (openness to being interrupted or interacted with) brands can optimize sales by aligning with consumers’ workflow and life style patterns. Orchestration. Assign specific marketing tasks to specific devices in the same way that Bach, Beethoven and Brahms assigned specific roles to specific instruments. One plays the base theme. Another adds the variations. TV, print or catalogs lay down the basic message, while tablet content amplifies or expands the message and smartphones become the channel for consumer reaction, interaction and response. mCommerce is still in its infancy. Beyond technical investments, it’s time to start creatively experimenting with mobile messaging. Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
Now that they’ve drawn a crowd and sold themselves to Yahoo, Tumblr is trying to figure out how to make a buck. They’ve marshaled traffic, usage and psycho-demographic stats and are trying to simultaneously associate themselves with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, to gain consideration and access to social ad budgets, while differentiating themselves from the competition to attract specific brands and buys. To do this, Tumblr raises a couple of new ideas about the use and value of social networks for brands. Play the Platform. Tumblr argues that they are a two-fer – an independent web platform featuring an easy to use CMS, which can fit seamlessly into a brands’ overall digital ecosystem, and a large and growing global social network. Creating a branded Tumblr, marketers can expand reach, add link juice and add to a robust content strategy by creating a digital brand asset. A blank canvas, a Tumblr blog can be anything, though the more successful ones are highly visual, featuring striking images, videos and gifs. There are no comment options, beyond reblogging, so sentiment tends to be more positive than on other social platforms. A branded Tumblr page is part of the Tumblr network and its emerging topical community subsets. This potentially yields some endorsement by association and the prospect of added viral distribution not to mention a future ad targeting option. Free Virility. In contrast to Facebook, who has choked off access to followers, Tumblr argues that reblogging is an engine of goodness for brands. Each individual blogger creates a Tumblr post, which is often curated and reblogged by others who reach large audiences where reblogging takes place again. They have created a waterfall chart to help marketers wrap their heads around this fundamental social media concept. The only missing part is hard data to prove it. One uniquely interesting aspect of Tumblr reblogging is a latency period. More than half of reblogs take place more than 15 days after an original post. This suggests either that usage is less frequent or intense or that users take their time and give more consideration to the memes they share. But in spite of these interesting sales pitches, buying Tumblr is a challenge. Blog content is highly visual and idiosyncratic. Users only see content from those they follow. To develop significant followings to get substantial reach and or frequency against desirable segments, brands will have to accumulate followers. Brands need to know why people use Tumblr and how either the people and their intentions, moods and behaviors differ from the other social networks. You can follow anyone without his or her blessing so the WOM value and personal endorsement aspect is likely to be weaker than on Facebook. Each user follows a different set of bloggers and nobody has crunched the numbers to determine what the patterns and affinities might be so aggregating audiences at scale is not really possible. Content categories aren’t marketing channels. So far, targeting options are limited to gender and geography; hardly sophisticated tools. For Tumblr attracts 12.8 million moms (referred to as Mumblrs) but there is no clear or easy path to reach them! Tumblr has a sizeable audience but they haven’t yet packaged it to sell to advertisers. Maybe this reflects tension between the original intention of founder David Carp and the aggressive plans of acquirer Marissa Mayer. But unless they get much more serious about slicing and dicing the audience and giving marketers a reason to buy, they will not be competitive. Continue reading
Posted Apr 23, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
Now that they’ve drawn a crowd and sold themselves to Yahoo, Tumblr is trying to figure out how to make a buck. They’ve marshaled traffic, usage and psycho-demographic stats and are trying to simultaneously associate themselves with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, to gain consideration and access to social ad budgets, while differentiating themselves from the competition to attract specific brands and buys. To do this, Tumblr raises a couple of new ideas about the use and value of social networks for brands. Play the Platform. Tumblr argues that they are a two-fer – an independent web platform featuring an easy to use CMS, which can fit seamlessly into a brands’ overall digital ecosystem, and a large and growing global social network. Creating a branded Tumblr, marketers can expand reach, add link juice and add to a robust content strategy by creating a digital brand asset. A blank canvas, a Tumblr blog can be anything, though the more successful ones are highly visual, featuring striking images, videos and gifs. There are no comment options, beyond reblogging, so sentiment tends to be more positive than on other social platforms. A branded Tumblr page is part of the Tumblr network and its emerging topical community subsets. This potentially yields some endorsement by association and the prospect of added viral distribution not to mention a future ad targeting option. Free Virility. In contrast to Facebook, who has choked off access to followers, Tumblr argues that reblogging is an engine of goodness for brands. Each individual blogger creates a Tumblr post, which is often curated and reblogged by others who reach large audiences where reblogging takes place again. They have created a waterfall chart to help marketers wrap their heads around this fundamental social media concept. The only missing part is hard data to prove it. One uniquely interesting aspect of Tumblr reblogging is a latency period. More than half of reblogs take place more than 15 days after an original post. This suggests either that usage is less frequent or intense or that users take their time and give more consideration to the memes they share. But in spite of these interesting sales pitches, buying Tumblr is a challenge. Blog content is highly visual and idiosyncratic. Users only see content from those they follow. To develop significant followings to get substantial reach and or frequency against desirable segments, brands will have to accumulate followers. Brands need to know why people use Tumblr and how either the people and their intentions, moods and behaviors differ from the other social networks. You can follow anyone without his or her blessing so the WOM value and personal endorsement aspect is likely to be weaker than on Facebook. Each user follows a different set of bloggers and nobody has crunched the numbers to determine what the patterns and affinities might be so aggregating audiences at scale is not really possible. Content categories aren’t marketing channels. So far, targeting options are limited to gender and geography; hardly sophisticated tools. For Tumblr attracts 12.8 million moms (referred to as Mumblrs) but there is no clear or easy path to reach them! Tumblr has a sizeable audience but they haven’t yet packaged it to sell to advertisers. Maybe this reflects tension between the original intention of founder David Carp and the aggressive plans of acquirer Marissa Mayer. But unless they get much more serious about slicing and dicing the audience and giving marketers a reason to buy, they will not be competitive. Continue reading
Posted Apr 23, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
Face it! Facebook has led marketers down the primrose path. They taught us about and addicted us to free earned media. They encouraged us to spend money to attract and engage millions of followers. They ran us through the “like” gates. And now they have tightly restricted access to the audiences we created and extorted us by creating a pay-for-play platform. By steadily manipulating the Edgerank algorithm, Facebook has systematically reduced access to the fan bases we built. The latest estimates are that less than 2% of a brand’s fans actually see brand posts. And many marketers assume that brand reach will soon be zero. Today we have to pay to reach the audiences we attracted to the Facebook platform. Ironically, Facebook has evolved into an old media model where editorial (posts) is clearly different and separated from reach (advertising). Savvy marketers are now asking tougher questions about metrics and ROI. If we have to pay for what we used to get for free, what is the business impact of Facebook advertising and how does it move product or build brand loyalty? Engagement, which has been the ill-defined, but widely accepted payoff for several years, is falling out of favor as a useful metric. But there are few hard numbers to justify sustaining investments. The answers are elusive and Facebook’s doubtful and self-serving “research” does little to convince skeptical CFOs. Surprisingly, brand marketers’ response has been muted. Few are willing to buck the 800-pound gorilla in our midst. Many are reluctant to tell their bosses that this once high-flying platform, filled with the promise of free viral reach and added engagement value, has radically changed. New and bigger budgets are required to make it useful. One school of thought is betting on creativity. They argue that if a brand can come up with really cool content -- the stuff that everyone wants to see or know about --that even with 2% reach, fans will spread the word among themselves. These marketers are doubling down on video, gifs and games. They are working overtime to devise memes with wings. A second school is playing ball with Facebook. These brands are investing ad dollars for both desktop and mobile units. They are using the 200+ targeting channels, comparing brand databases with Facebook’s, running contests and promotions and experimenting with different units and page placements, in an attempt to regain access to fans and expand their reach or frequency among Facebook’s billion users. There are many cases of successful lead generation and awareness campaigns, though the ROI varies widely. A third segment is abandoning Facebook in favor of other emerging social networks. Competing against Facebook’s muscular marketplace positioning, Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr and others have increased sales efforts, created new packages, expressed a willingness to customize units and experiment cooperatively with brands to redirect dollars that might otherwise have gone to Zuckerberg & Company. Now that the stakes have changed and the ante is higher, brands are asking tougher measurement questions, demanding a greater connection between social media activity and business results and further degrading “engagement” as an indicator of communication value. Continue reading
Posted Apr 18, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
The Chinese say women hold up half the sky. According to new research on smartphone use from Nielsen, ExactTarget, Pew and Simmons Connect, compiled into infographics by, women have a dominant hold on smartphone usage. Everyone knows that men and women think act and feel differently, but women have embraced smartphones as an all-encompassing Swiss Army Knife for life. Men use their phones selectively, like a tool, to accomplish specific tasks. Women are more likely than men to use their smartphones for messaging, talk, web surfing, social networking, games, app downloads and picture taking or sharing. Men and women use email about the same. Men dominate in watching videos, listening to music, reading newspapers and using the GPS app or device. Looking at mobile social media use, men focus on business and dating while women go for relationship building, sharing, entertainment and self-help. Not surprising gender differences affect consumer behavior. Men are 1.5 times more likely to scan coupons or QR codes. Men are less likely to ignore social media ads and prefer commercial messages with cars, sports, action and sexual themes. In contrast women ignore more social and mobile ads, even though they follow 4 times more brands than men. Women prefer ads with sentimental, family, real-life and pet themes. The clear implications for marketers are … Gender Matters. Consider whom you are addressing, both what they doing as they move through their day and how they generally think about mobility and social media. The old clichés and assumptions are no longer valid. Abandon them. Design offers and calls-to-action accordingly. One Size Doesn’t Fit All. If they think, act and use language differently, it only makes sense to create different content aimed at men and women. Target Behavior. Now that you know what they use phones for and the themes that resonate with men and women, time and target messages to intersect natural mobile or social behavior. Efficiently give me the information they’re after and make female-oriented content entertaining and shareable. Honor Half the Sky. Women have been early adopters and are aggressive users of mobile and social technologies. Don’t under-estimate them. Don’t forget their role as household CFO and principal buyer of almost every category of goods and services. Women frequently influence men. And interactions between the genders are often relevant in building brand awareness, consideration and preference. Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
Instagram, the photo and video-sharing app owned by Facebook, is the fastest growing social network with 35 million monthly smartphone users spending 257 minutes per month. Forty percent of their traffic is in the United States where 58 percent use the app every day. Seven in ten are women (18-44) with household incomes of $75,000 or more who are actively looking to be surprised, diverted and delighted. Instagram, according to research by L2 Think Tank, registers 15 times the engagement and double the engaged user base of its parent, Facebook. “Instagram resembles a modern day bazaar – one that I visit on my phone when I have a free moment.” Jenna Wortham wrote in The New York Times. “A huge part of the appeal is that the goods I’m perusing are sandwiched in my Instagram feed between my friends; selfies and pictures of snow covered spots where they’ve stopped during the day. Stumbling across an unexpected and gorgeous find … on a special app like Instagram brings with it the excitement of discovery not unlike the titillating thrill you get when coming across a rare find at a flea market.” Casual shoppers and a broad variety of brands have embraced this 100% mobile marketplace. A survey by Teen Vogue found that Instagram is the number one platform that inspires product purchases. Instagram, according to a recent Shopify study, generates the second highest order values among social networks and ranks fourth in sales conversion in spite of the fact that the platform has just created its first ad units and direct links to branded websites or eCommerce platforms are prohibited. So what do Calvin Klein, Ben & Jerry’s L’Oreal, Honda, Uhaul, Macy’s, Gap, Chanel, Michael Kors, Nordstrom, Target, Gucci, Victoria’s Secret, Harrods and Laboutin plus 93 percent of prestige brands know that you don’t? These 4 key tactics … Intercept Behavior. Women have led the smartphone revolution. They clutch their phones as virtual controllers for busy lives. Instagram meets them in the course of their normal daily behavior and offers diversion, surprise and entertainment in context. The app has become a guilty pleasure intertwined with friends, family and workflow. Since 30 percent of women access social networks by smartphone each day, Instagram is perceived as an authentic collection of ideas and images in real time curated by trusted sources. There might not be a better synthesis of targeting, content and channels. Sell by Showing. Photos and fifteen second videos are the coin of the realm. Instagram might be the absolute proof that a picture is worth a thousand words. Also given its global reach, pictures often communicate fundamentals without a need for translation. Both individuals and brands post. The average prestige brand posts 6 images a week and 72 percent post 15-second videos, usually one every two weeks. The photos get 1.5X the engagement. Producing high quality short video is a gating factor which should disappear over time. Facilitate Sharing. Comments, re-posts and sharing to other social networks, especially Facebook (9 out of 10 shares) and Twitter are common. Instagram, like Twitter, is becoming a real-time companion to off-line events. During New York Fashion Week 100,000 fashion-related images were posted to Instagram by 33,000 unique users while the top fashion brands averaged about 7 posts per day. #InstagramDirect connects individuals to each other to share posts. Consumers can opt-in to follow brands or celebrities and set push alerts about new content from favorite brands and friends. There seems to be a broad understanding that friends share interests, tastes, perspectives and Instagram imagery. Use Your Ecosystem. The smart guys import Instagram images and user-generated content into branded websites and Facebook pages. Instagram integration adds an element of real-time spontaneity that feels natural and comfortable to shoppers. Some brands have used widgets to drive conversions from user-generated photos. Brands like American Eagle Outfitters, Lancôme, Coach and West Elm solicit images of their products and then post them as a supplement to staged catalog shots. In one study images used this way increased conversion from 5-7 percent and boosted average order value by 2 percent. If you’ve got something to tell or sell women, don’t ignore Instagram. Continue reading
Posted Mar 31, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
E-mail is the strike force medium for online and offline retailers because 95% of online users get it and receive an average of 416 commercial messages per month. 91% check their e-mail at least once a day and 70% say they always open e-mails from their favorite companies and 84% say its their preferred channel for engaging with retailers. Don’t let the social/mobile crowd fool you. Social media gets the buzz, but email delivers the traffic. Nearly one in every three e-mails gets opened. More than half open on mobile devices and as much as a third of openers act on the offers. In general, for every dollar spent on e-mail marketing, retailers get $44.25 in return. The big tactical decisions are about frequency or cadence and offers. Some form of free shipping and a minimum of a 10 percent discount are table stakes. And at least weekly for most of the year, except for holidays seems to be the norm. Six e-mail marketing best practices separate the winners from the losers: Write Telegraphic Subject Lines. For one-third of recipients, the subject line is the only criteria for opening. Put the offer and the CTA in the SUBJ line but understand that less is better. Subject lines with fewer than 10 characters have a 58 percent open rate and better than a 2.5% CTR. Shorter is always better. If you can work in the customer’s name and/or location, you can spike open rates. Everybody immediately responds to his or her own name. Short & Sweet Content. Focus on the offer. Aim for 4 paragraphs maximum. Limit the possible CTAs. Click rate degrades with the number of links, so focus your customers on seeing a single powerful offer and direct them to click on a big colorful link or button or two. Avoid the urge to load up on logos and taglines. Present the product or service clearly. Find a stand-alone illustration or image to make your point and ask for the order. Like a letter, adding a personal signature, evidence of human interaction, can increase opens by 5 times and clicks by 3.5 times. Since everyone already knows the potent proven retail words your offer has to pay it off in a differentiating and motivating way to deliver a decent CTA or CTOA. Time Your Send. Most e-mail is opened during business hours (10a-4p) and the majority of response happens in the first hour after delivery. More than half of mobile e-mail is opened from 5p till 8a. Consider these cycles and what peole normally do during these time periods as you craft content and offers. Open rates peak mid week, on Tuesdays and Wednesday, though the highest click through rates are on Sunday. The most e-mail is sent on Wednesday so the burden to stand out midweek is greatest. Saturdays draw the lowest volume, maybe an opportunity to flank the competition. There is a lot of click through action early in the AM. That’s why so many retailers transmit overnight to catch consumers when they check their e-mail first thing in the morning. Open rates generally peak at 10am and then gently slope downward throughout the business day. Be Transparent on the FROM line. Twenty-four percent of recipients only open e-mail from names they recognize. Transparency works best. Use your brand name. The higher your brand awareness; the better your open rate. Optimize for Mobile. More than half of all e-mail is opened on mobile devices. Too many render badly and drive customers away. Design for smartphones with clear calls-to-action and big buttons for fat fingers. Aim for more elegant rendering on tablets, but expect buying actions to take place from home in the evenings. Keep Sending. Consumers want options and choices. They are not bothered by hundreds of e-mails in their inboxes because, for the most part, they’ve asked for them. The more e-mail they get, the more control they have. High e-mail volume generalkly doesn’t annoy opted-in customers and prospects. They won’t open or read everything you send. But they don’t want to miss out on a great deal. Consumers are expecting lots of offers and will eagerly sort them out and cull the ones that are most attractive. This is one instance where more is more. Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
By 2020, big data technology will turn every person into his/her own mobile health network. Each person will wear a device -- a ring, a bracelet, a Google Glass -- wirelessly connected to an app that will monitor and transmit vital signs and key indicators of every condition they have. Smarter and more complex fitness bands will marry up with the increasing sophistication of medical and wellness apps to create the ability to monitor and measure almost every significant indicator. Trailing results, plus medical records, DNA and up-to-the-minute stats, will be accessible to EMTs or in the ER, in the case of an accident or incident, and will be routinely trafficked to primary care providers. How we feel will be determined by a series of common, standardized data points instead of vague, indescribable feelings. This data stream, which will be encrypted and stored in the cloud, will be seamlessly and continuously connected to each person's eMR, primary care and specialist doctors, their payer and probably some government entity, which will aggregate and analyze mountains of data. Personal data will be transmitted on a routine schedule and instantly compared to established norms, standards of care and business rules in real time. When spikes or anomalies occur in the routine transmission of personal data, alerts will be sent to the patient, the doctor, the pharmacy, the caregivers or EMTs, if necessary. Many of the sub-components of this ecosystem exist or are in development. Drs. Robin Cook and Eric Topol, writing in The Wall Street Journal, argue that all the physiological data monitored in hospital intensive care units can today be recorded and continuously analyzed on smartphones. A variety of technologies under development will enable smartphones to produce and use all the studies currently done in a medical lab including chemistries, blood values and microbiological studies. And with slight variations apps will be able to carry out urinalysis, specific gravity pH and levels for glucose, protein, red and white blood cells, bilirubin and nitrates and determine if a woman is pregnant. Preventive or compliance behavior will be programmed in advance with "if this; do that" automated logic. For Drs. Cook and Topol, a smartphone will become an avatar physician that’s always with you and always on. Between now and then, software standards will have to be negotiated and interoperability protocols established. This will be a prolonged marketplace battle well worth fighting. We will all be connected to a national health grid that will be immediately accessible on many devices. Most people will be willing to trade a degree of privacy for a huge difference in health care. Over time the insights from this massive data mart will shape national health care policy and set new standards of care in each therapeutic category. This will be a messy, contentious, loud and intensely political exercise that will require a few iterations to get it right, given the array of vested and entrenched interests at the table. But, as a result, our ability to predict disease progress and develop more effective and cost efficient treatment algorithms will triple. And our ability to proactively intervene and to respond quickly to medical problems will take a quantum leap forward. Related articles [tt] WSJ: Cook and Topol: How Digital Medicine Will Soon Save Your Life Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
The stealth cyberwar between the US, Israel and Iran is child’s play compared to the techno-war brewing in virtually every major retail store. Since the physical act of shopping will never disappear, the savvy players are investing in technology to better engage audiences and steadily increase market share. Big chains are marrying up with technology providers to attract store traffic, serve up personalized offers or recommendations and reward repeat customers. Consumers’ embrace of mobile technology is driving a complete re-engineering of the retail experience. In re-thinking the store experience, retailers are zeroing-in on loyal customers and those with a high probability to become repeat buyers and vocal brand advocates. Initiatives have begun to reduce buying friction, enable personal cadences, make shopping a richer, more fun experience and reward repeat behavior. Driving Traffic Getting consumers into the store frequently has always been job number one. Technology investments seek to increase the frequency of planned visits and to motivate spur of the moment activity. Email, text and social media, segmented based on individual consumer behavior, have been principal drivers of regular visits and vital coupon delivery vehicles. Localized search, keyed by geo-fencing, is beginning to be widely deployed to prompt in-the-moment traffic. And Instagram is becoming a potent platform for Target, Nordstrom, Victoria’s Secret and Michael Kors to show their wares and stimulate customer desire. NAPA and retailers in many categories, including grocery, are testing reserve online/pick-up in store programs. This guarantees a store visit, sets a positive customer expectation and holds out the hope that the experience will spark impulse purchases. Experiments are being conducted which time outbound, personalized text messages and offers by day-part or by previous purchases. These can be extended to out-of-home media and digital LED displays, in-car screens and other devices like in the movie, Artificial Intelligence. In-Store Engagement Once customers arrive in the store, an array of technologies is being tested to meet and greet them, direct them to merchandise, keep them there longer and sell them stuff. Since 83 percent of smartphone users use their phones in stores, accessing these devices as a shopping companion is mandatory, not only to blunt showrooming but also to mirror consumer behavior. Foursquare and Facedeals distribute offers in real time as do QR codes on products, on signage or on LED displays. Video kiosks and triggered shelf-talkers engage the senses while RFID tags, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth signals can be used to zero-in on and trigger messaging aimed at active shoppers. Apple installed iBeacon in its iOS7 software to track movement through the aisles of all its US stores. The software will also enable triggered messages in scan-able or video formats to iPad and iPhone users. Two start-ups, Nomi and Swirl, tack Wi-Fi signals offering the ability to map in-store traffic patterns and push messages to a customer’s phone while they’re seeing and touching merchandise or deciding what to buy. Comparative pricing tools and reviews from experts or users can be served up in real-time. Using branded apps, offers and incentives can be linked to products under consideration. Best Buy, Macy’s, American Eagle, JC Penney, Crate & Barrel and Sports Authority have deployed Shopkick, an app, with 6 million users, to track and communicate with shoppers in the moment. It’s being used both to drive store visits and to engage active shoppers when they’re in stores. Kohl’s, in a five store experiment, was able to serve up offers on mobile phones based on products viewed, but not bought, on Online kiosks or salespeople with tablets, who can access customer records and personalize recommendations or make highly targeted offers in real-time, has shown promise in increasing sales and customer satisfaction. The technology can find and deliver messages to customers, but it won’t eliminate the burden of creating short, relevant, compelling and useful content. People on mobile devices are short on time and patience. If the message doesn’t hit the target, you risk alienating a strong prospective customer. Payment & Loyalty Sophisticated retailers are already pro-actively loading offers, coupon values and special rewards directly onto loyalty cards or apps. Starbucks, Duncan Donuts and Chipotle are leaders in this effort using a brand app supported by multiple marketing channels to stimulate visits and purchases or to bake-in instant rewards and freebies. Whole Foods is deploying Square at deli counters to expedite smaller payments and get customers in and out faster. As mobile payments become the norm, the sophistication of these tools will improve significantly. Purchase history data linked to scanner data using... Continue reading
Posted Feb 19, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
Content is the new black. Content is the new media. Content is everything. Content is king. Content is over-hyped. Many of my clients feel compelled to create or curate content as an adjunct to the goods or services they produce. The theory is that content is stickier. Content drives repetitive site visits and purchases. Content provides context. And content differentiates brands one from another. Distributed content gets more traffic than branded websites. By spreading content around the web or on social media, brands lure consumers with linked pathways back to your site. Jay Baer calls this the dandelion strategy. Seeds are spread far and wide and the website is the stalk bringing everything together. Pharmaceutical companies have embraced this strategy big time. Each one has a mountain of disease, condition awareness and product-related content in virtually every imaginable format. But nobody is sure if it pays off or pays out. The reality is that too much content is the same. Much of it is not new. And very little is own-able by brands. A look at SiteCatalyst or Google Analytics shows that compared to home pages, product descriptions and deal sections, very few consumers actually use the content that’s being created, syndicated or compiled on brand sites. And can you blame them? Does anyone really need another wellness tip, recipe, checklist, how-to video, home exercise regimen, infographic, or product diagram? How many links to the same memes, pictures, videos and articles does anyone really want? And does anyone really want this stuff from his or her peanut butter, prescription drug, toilet tissue, fast food joint or bank? The relentless creation and collection of gratuitous advice leaves most of us cold. Joe Queenan, writing in The Wall Street Journal, captured this sentiment when he wrote, “A major part of the Internet’s appeal is the immediate availability of useful advice on virtually any topic. If people have the right information in their hands, the Web’s evangelists proclaimed, they will make the right decisions. Things haven’t worked out the way they hoped. People still smoke. People still text while driving. People still vote Republican.” Creating or collecting content is comforting for brand managers even if their customers are ambivalent or disinterested. Content keeps the grubby business of selling at arm’s length and positions a brand, at least in the minds of marketers, as concerned, caring and credible. But gaining consumer credit requires realistic calculation to understand where a brand can participate in the conversation and what value a brand can realistically provide and own. Generally two criteria apply. Standing. Brands are sorted into discrete folders in our brains. How you are sorted determines how, when, and where you can enter into the conversation. An athletic wear brand can speak credibly about exercise and wellness or sports. A food brand can talk about nutrition. A fashion brand can assess red carpet creations. But brands need to stick closely to how consumers perceive them. Brands have less standing than friends, co-workers or family members. The level of credibility, awareness, interest and trust in a brand, determines the aperture you have for reaching target customers. Familiar brands have more standing than invisibles or newbies. Standing also defines the angle of attack. A complete stranger approaching customers with random content prompts immediate confusion or rejection. Getting good juicy gossip from a trusted friend is the opposite end of the spectrum. Plotting your standing will separate intrusive from credible and invited content. Posture. The approach to customers is a function of the state of the relationship. In some cases a message delivered by a credible third party has more impact than a direct approach. Posture affects the psychology of your positioning and shapes the tone, manner, language, imagery and attitude of the content you curate or create. Content can facilitate interactions and relationships. Context can attract new prospects or activate loyal customers. Content plays a role at the top of the funnel. But it’s not an automatic connection or a silver bullet. In many cases, creating or aggregating content doubles a brand’s traffic-driving burden and budget. Branded content must provide immediate value in utility, information or entertainment. The ultimate measurement is usage leading to a measurable preference or a countable action. Related articles Collaboration, Curation and Creation, a Way to ... Continue reading
Posted Feb 12, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
If I had a dollar every time a client asked about media mix or tried to define which channel accomplishes a particular marketing task or objective, I’d be as rich as Mark Zuckerberg. In spite of an explosion of channels, media and marketing strategies, there are no rules of thumb and there is no consensus on what does what. This gets confusing quickly when you consider the continuously evolving array of digital, social and mobile options. As a result, marketers chase this illusive beast in search of a framework for allocating time, effort and money and for measuring key performance indicators (KPIs). In theory, most channels can accomplish a variety of tasks from creating brand awareness, to generating leads, sales or buzz or reinforcing brand loyalty and advocacy. The tricky part is crafting and parsing the key message and then delivering it through multiple channels at the right time to the right people in the right way at the right price. Media mix modeling tends to focus on media efficiencies and getting the best prices. They are generally used as a planning and negotiation tools. I haven’t seen a model that can accurately predict consumer activity or that can produce a behavioral (or sales) forecast that can be measured. The challenge is to build a model that considers business goals and consumer behavior and then ranks or weights the relative impact of messages and media versus the relative investments during a fixed campaign time frame. In the old days, TV was the universal reach tool. Print extended reach, added frequency and vertically reinforced the message. Radio was the mobile reminder medium with a local personalized appeal that reached hard-to-find audiences, like teenagers. Out-of- Home was the LBS of its time. Direct mail got you one-to-one targeting and FSIs delivered coupons. Life was simple and satisfying. Now that’s all gone. Writing in The New York Times, David Carr says we live in “an age of individualized media cocoons … each of us is building our own little campfire on our phone, tablet and big screen at a time and place of our own choosing. “ Consumer media use, which used to be predictable by demographics, has gone ka-fluey! Finding and aggregating a sizable audience at a decent price at the right point in the customer journey now takes much more time and effort than ever before. Orchestrating messages and media to achieve widespread penetration and persuasion is still much more of an art than a science. The alchemy changes product by product and target audience by target audience. No wonder agencies, media firms and marketers are trying to isolate and package discrete audiences so that they can replicate or adjust the formula to achieve cost efficiencies and profit margins. Marketers are faced with the need to orchestrate campaigns where attitudes, behaviors and devices are dependent variables. Reach frequency and impact/activation are still the critical objectives. But like Mozart, marketers have to construct the symphony from the ground up. Most use search as a baseline and call on TV, web or print to express the melodic line. Then message variations and alternative channels (apps, online display, mobile and social media) have to be creatively integrated in time. And while I don’t have a simple one-size-fits-all solution, here’s what I’m learning along the way. TV/Cable/Video. These media are becoming almost indistinguishable from one another since consumers use them all and use them idiosyncratically. TV still can reach millions, especially live broadcast events like the Super Bowl, but finding the right mix of programming and time slots to resonate with a tight psycho-demographic and to leverage the multi-channel viewing/commenting/tweeting phenomenon is still a big challenge. Longer form video resonates with a range of audiences who view them at random times on a broad array of devices. This is where the potential for virility and massive earned media exists, if you can hit the right sensibility with the right meme at the right time. Organizing a “road block” to slam home a message or introduce a product or service is a very difficult task. TV and video messages are effective at driving web, #hashtag and 800 number traffic if the CTAs are prominent and the timing and frequency are right. Online Display. Banners are the default medium touted by publishers and widely ignored by consumers. Brands load up on these to fill TRP goals and to “go digital” without regard for their lack of impact and attention. Rich media, page takeovers and inventive combinations of... Continue reading
Posted Feb 5, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
The confluence of digital, mobile and social media with big data offers the possibility of addressing, targeting and engaging audiences and segments differently than ever before. Rather than try to psyche out prospects and target them by media use, careful analysis of consumer cohorts can suggest more organic, natural and genuine ways to reach and persuade prospects. The difference is that rather than guess what a target audience is thinking and doing, we can now track them and either document or reasonably infer attitudes, mechanics and behavior. This requires thinking about what people do, think or relate to and what devices they use throughout a day or a week or a month. By building sophisticated profiles and personas of discrete audiences, we can create more resonant messages and deliver them at times and on devices or social platforms that are integral to customers’ normal behavior. Advertising no longer has to be a disruptive intrusion. Ads can become a useful value-add that inspires purchase and brand loyalty. Consider the proverbial Soccer Mom. On a generic level, she’s 25-44, CFO of the household with a static and often stretched income. Chief decision-maker and principal shopper for a broad array of products and services, her smartphone is her life controller and her tablet is the source of “me time” entertainment, education and diversion. She probably works and is also the scheduler, driver and concierge for her kids. Her partner, her employer, her kids, her friends, neighbors, girlfriends and family plus every marketer wants her time, attention and budget. But there are many flavors of Soccer Mom. Geography, ethnicity, health and education are variables that affect her outlook, coping or management style and preferences. To persuade her, layer in her taste in music, movies, books, games, food, décor, fashion and hobbies. First time moms have more energy, anxiety and information-seeking needs than moms of multiple kids. Lean-in moms think and act differently than traditional moms or moms who are also care givers for elderly parents. Triathlete or yoga moms have different agendas and priorities, as do moms of kids with ADHD. Aggregating a wide range of data about moms, enables marketers to slice and dice the generic audience into discrete segments which can be addressed on their own terms in ways that authentically fit into their lifestyles and expectations. This engagement planning methodology blends traditional attitudinal market research with behavioral data to produce a richer, more insightful and practical picture of customers and prospects. Understanding how real people think and act in real time drives a different way to attack creative development and media planning. A data-rich multi-dimensional, channel neutral perspective is the next big thing for savvy marketers and advertisers. Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
In a nation that loves to eat out, restaurants ought to be CRM learning laboratories. Unfortunately they’re not. But Jim Daleen, CEO of Appsuite, hopes to change all that. Restaurateurs commonly skimp on marketing. They don’t think about connecting their brand to their customers. Many assume that the food and the ambiance will do it for them automatically, saving an investment in technology or marketing people. But this state of mind ignores the key psychological factor that underlies loyalty. People want to be known and recognized in their favorite restaurants. Personal customized service pays off whether it’s a free drink, a bonus dessert, an amuse bouche or just a bit of public schmoozing with the chef. A loyal restaurant customer will spend $10,000 over five years if they eat out once a week and spend $40. So if that’s the average lifetime value of a fan, it’s well worth managing the customer relationship. In constructing his app, Daleen focused on 3 critical building blocks of customer loyalty. Utility. His app enables patrons to book a table, either directly or through Open Table, order a take out meal, divert themselves during wait times with menus, games and fun food facts, check in on Foursquare or share the menu or their review on Yelp, Trip Advisor, Facebook or Twitter. The app synchs with common customer behavior. It provides a helpful service and is designed to be used in context. Useful value exchange is the foundation stone for building consumer loyalty. Connection. You can’t stimulate customer traffic and repeat purchases if you aren’t connected to your customer base. The app creates a virtual private network (VPN) between a restaurant and its patrons enabling personal, targeted pushed messages. Cueing best customers about specials, reminding them its osso bucco night or delivering a birthday, anniversary or Valentine’s Day offer creates momentum and reinforces the sensation of belonging or of being an insider that consumers treasure. Rewards & Incentives. The app has a built-in points system that connects to a restaurant’s POS system. Not only can restaurateurs track orders, food or wine preferences and dollar value, they can reward selected purchases, incent social sharing and enroll their best customers as brand advocates. Each restaurant can set up a cadence for rewards using business rules to deliver rewards, coupons or offers directly to patrons’ phones. Loyalty is a function of brand familiarity, utility, connection and rewards. Jim Daleen’s AppSuite leverages these fundamentals. So maybe soon restaurants will be at the leading edge of CRM practices. Related articles AppSuite, the Hospitality Technology Experts, Layout the Future of Customer Loyalty Continue reading
Posted Jan 27, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
At the dawn of a new year there’s lots of talk about new devices, new technologies, new tactics and new trends. But there’s not much talk about evolving customer expectations, which, to a large degree, determine how all these new things are perceived or received. Consumers hold fundamental attitudes about brands that don’t change much over time, even while the channels they use to interact evolve. Consumers have existing brand relationships and are generally willing to trade data for convenience, utility or deals. They expect the brands they care about to care back. Brand loyalists insist that the relationship must be two-way, respectful and interactive. Consumers have a point of view and expect to be heard -- explicitly when they choose to act and implicitly when they call, click, visit or buy. To meet and capitalize on these baseline expectations, focus on these 3 fundamental expectations. Always be Available. Sam Walton was right. Brands need to be there whenever and however customers want to buy. This means having a 24/7 presence in the channels or on the devices your customers use most. And while not every channel or medium makes sense for every brand, being available, offering several contact options, making it easy to click, download, print, chat or buy are table stakes. Understanding what each segment needs and providing an 800# or other retro, but highly effective tools, is part and parcel of this expectation. Enable Preference Setting. Customers want it their way. A nation of gamers is used to setting the level and choosing from an array of options. Brands need to abandon the one-size-fits-all super cost efficient model in favor of giving customers the option to specify the content they want, the format they want it in and the delivery channel and frequency they prefer. All the research shows that brands that deliver against variable customer preferences drive significant spikes in customer satisfaction, incremental sales and brand loyalty. Once set, customers expect brands to adhere to preferences and use them to personalize relevant messages. Your best customers, like your best friends, assume that the relationship is dynamic and cumulative over time. They expect brands to pay attention and to use cues from the conversation or their actions to advance intimacy. They expect that purchase and activity history will inform branded communications and become filters to curate the messages and offers they receive. This assumption makes re-targeting tolerable and even appreciated. But the flipside is equally true. Sending irrelevant, untimely or out-of-context messages will sour things quickly. Listen & Respond. Loyal customers pay attention to and care about favorite brands the way family members care about each other. They have opinions about brand posture, products, services, prices, competitors and people. And they aren’t bashful about expressing them to the brand directly and by broadcasting them in social media. Consumers expect brands to celebrate and shout out positive feedback and to jump on complaints and customer service issues quickly and efficiently. Everyone is a critic or a consumer advocate in two clicks. Understanding consumers’ need to have a say is as important as providing them with the best possible product set. So, before you get carried away with the latest social or mobile trend or ad unit, recalibrate your marketing plan to align with these fundamental expectations. The investment will pay off in spades. Continue reading
Posted Jan 11, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
A new year means new budgets, new priorities, new alignments and new worries. Here are four critical issues my clients are working on for 2014. Leveraging Loyalty. People with strong connections to favorite brands buy more, buy more often and influence others to buy. Identifying, engaging and motivating these people to serve as vocal advocates are high on every brand’s wish list. Incenting loyal customers to talk up a brand, especially in social media, is an incredibly efficient way to go to market. A strong base of loyalists gives brands added flexibility in allocating trade and media resources. The challenge is that loyalty is a fleeting psychological state not just a points, rewards or coupon scheme. The heartiest brand advocate can be eliminated with a single bad experience or an incredible price offer. Today’s tout can be tomorrow’s critic with one click. Consumers are fickle and are constantly being offered new and different deals in the hope to enroll them as loyal customers. The archetypical programs, like air miles, have been consistently devalued and complicated. Getting loyalty right is a matter of understanding the customer mindset, in the moment and over time, and mapping an appropriate series of stimuli and responses to intersect customer behavior and attitudes. Ideally brands can enhance existing consumer behavior by focusing on the most profitable prospects by combining triggered surprise and delight experiences with escalating incentives that can be tracked and quantified. The ultimate solution is a combination of customer intimacy and smart segmentation, regular genuine two-way conversation and feedback and a data infrastructure for continuous measurement and improvement. This sounds much easier than it is to execute well. Making Sense of Measurement. Brands have gone statistics crazy. Everybody counts everything. Each silo reports numbers weekly, monthly and quarterly. Each agency produces a colorful graphic dashboard. Marketers have mountains of data that they can’t make sense of. Brands are missing the big picture and lack actionable intelligence. The search is on for standardized key performance indicators (KPIs). Generally there are two critical metrics questions. Are we meeting our business/profitability goals or forecasts? And are we using our resources as efficiently as possible? Getting the answers requires brands to break down silos and share sensitive business data with key partners. Centralizing analysis of disparate data with one team, preferably a team without media buying responsibilities, provides dispassionate insights. Developing a reporting cadence that is long enough to see developing trends and short enough to respond to marketplace or competitive developments is critical. Synching Social Media. The role, value and ROI of social networks have been a mystery since they came on the scene. Now that many brands have considerable followings and social networks are morphing from purely word-of-mouth to paid advertising vehicles, marketers are eager to understand how the channels fit together and how they map to and impact consumer buying cycles. Brands are asking tactical questions. Is Facebook an awareness or lead generation tool? Will carefully crafted or sponsored celebrity tweets impact the top or the bottom of the sales funnel. Can Pinterest drive brand differentiation and preference or accelerate the buying process? Should brands run simultaneous or sequential email, Facebook ads and broadcast or cable spots to introduce a new product? Independent data is hard to come by, though online retailers know that multi-channel buyers are their best customers. Media mix models rely on assumptions and very fuzzy math when it comes to social networks. Social network sales reps are eager to find numbers or conduct research to justify buys. Trial-and-error is the current state of the art. Maximizing Mobility. Mobile users, the majority of our population, expect to access brands on many devices whenever and wherever the mood strikes. Consumers expect content and sites, no matter what device or form factor is used, to be easy to see or read and easy to interact with. Unique patterns of behavior by segment, device, task and time-of-day are emerging. Brands must be aware of and respond to these trends and produce content that meets consumer functionality and graphic expectations. That means scan-able and snack-able content, rendered quickly and clearly with easy-to-use buttons and links that require the minimum number of clicks. Similarly mobile advertising, while still in the early stages, is much more dependent on mood, timing and device than its digital and traditional counterparts. Understanding mobile usage by brand and by audience is a key research need. Continue reading
Posted Jan 6, 2014 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
It’s the end of the year and every pundit, yours truly included, has an open opportunity to predict the future. So here’s my best guess at four critical factors that will be driving innovations, insights and interactions for brands, advertisers and marketers in 2014. Mobile Matters Most. A majority of searches, email opens and Internet access either is, or will soon, be via mobile devices. On-the-go is the new normal. Brands need to create assets that are easily rendered, clear and easy to use on smartphones, phablets and tablets. Consumers have zero tolerance for broken images or links or microscopic unreadable copy. UX design of brand assets for mobile devices is mandatory. So is design that synchs with all the mobile operating systems. Different devices are used for different tasks. Tablets are dominant for shopping and entertainment, often used at home on the couch while channel surfing or multi-tasking. It will become increasingly important to develop variations of campaigns aimed at different devices and different mindsets, since each segment uses devices with different intentions, at different times and with different agility. Hand-eye coordination is a big differentiator. Teenagers and old ladies won’t share the same expectations or the same content. Follow-Me Media. We now have the technology to track behavior across channels. We know when you open and click on an email and this data triggers the banners you see as you surf the web or scroll through your Facebook timeline. This works in reverse and in several other novel variations, which will get increasingly granular, personal and sophisticated. Some consumers find this intrusive and creepy. But as a marketing tool this version of pixel tracking allows us to efficiently follow up on the slightest expression of interest. It also allows products you looked at or clicked on to follow you around until you take a desired action. For the most part the high conversion rates that result from this re-targeting outweigh the small numbers of opt-outs. Social Goes DM. Social networks are artificially limiting viral reach in favor of pay-for-play. Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and everybody else are splitting platform functionality between editorial posts and paid advertising. Increasingly, the networks are manipulating the algorithms to favor paid advertising and monetize their huge audiences. They are becoming hardcore direct marketers. Social networks are developing and evolving ad units and targeting channels designed expressly to collect opt-ins, generate leads and eventually sell products and services directly. They are positioning themselves against online publishers and are becoming savvy database marketers and eager collaborators with high spending brands. They have a direct financial interest, large segment-able audiences and considerable technical resources to easily trump sites selling both classic banners and rich media units. Expect lots of content, cadence and contextual experimentation and significant shifts in spending from online display ads to social network ads. This will dramatically alter editorial social strategies for building audiences, generating likes and using content to engage followers and fans. Brands will have to finesse network greed to reach and interact with audiences they’ve already paid to aggregate. Native reach or virility for posts and tweets will fall significantly. Engagement Gets Real. Bombarded by commercial messages, busy multi-tasking, anxious about money and either empowered or distracted by technology, consumers are skeptical, demanding and not easily manipulated. Changing behavior is almost impossible. So brands and marketers are working harder to develop segments, understand natural behaviors and find credible ways to intersect and intercept customers and prospects doing what they normally do. This requires a keen understanding of how brands are perceived and what standing brands have to enter the conversation. What we’ve learned about gaming, channel selection, devices and preferences is being fit into patterns of creature behavior and attitudes. Moms, caregivers, gamers or college students have distinct routines, behavior patterns and common perspectives, which can be identified and mapped to communications goals and activities. This emerging science of engagement strategy is being married to traditional insights about brand awareness, positioning and preference. The creative executions or campaigns that result will be measured and monitored with an eye toward validating the assumptions or models and/or optimizing consumer interaction and response. Grasping the motivations, the mental and the mechanical aspects of consumer behavior will separate the successful brands from the also-rans. Continue reading
Posted Dec 16, 2013 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
Women buy everything. They are the ultimate predictors of commercial success for most brands. The recent SheSpeaks/LippeTaylor Holiday Shopping Index offers us some insights into consumers’ confidence levels and holiday shopping plans. Among the 3000 American women surveyed the economic outlook is mixed. Forty percent feel confident or somewhat confident in their families’ financial situation and forty-three percent don’t, up nineteen points from last year. This reflects the haves versus the have-nots we are hearing about daily. Ninety one percent of those responding will spend the same or less than last year. About half (48%) will spend less on holiday gifts while another forty-three percent will spend the same as last year. So its no surprise that retail is running below forecast regardless of a shorter holiday season. Most consumers will shop both online and offline. Six out of ten will use a shopping app. The most popular apps will be those offering coupons, retail store apps and comparative shopping tools. Finding value, getting the most for the money and racking up loyalty points or scoring deals is clearly on women’s minds. Facebook, Amazon Wish Lists and Pinterest will be useful shopping resources. One in five shoppers will seek out flash sale sites. Women are generally concerned about the quality of gifts received. Tchotchkes and knick-knacks are the absolute worst. Extended family members generally give the worst gifts, which explains why 25% of those surveyed admit to re-gifting. If you are shopping for women clothing, personal technology, beauty products and gift cards are at the top of their wish lists. Though making the right brand, size or quality decision can be tricky. If in doubt, give a gift card because nothing says, “I love you” better than cash or cash equivalents. While not surprising, these results suggest that the economy is still much shakier than we’ve been thinking. The impetus for brands and marketers is to focus on customer experience to establish value and incent sales Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2013 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
The holiday email frenzy is in full swing as Black Friday offers clog everyone’s inbox.Email is becoming increasingly formulaic as marketers test, learn and apply lessons learned from responders. This is troubling to some creative types who don’t want to be confined by research or constrained by conventions developed by left-brain analytical wonks. But the reason email is so widely accepted, used and effective is because we have shared learnings collectively and continuously found new creative ways to illustrate our offers and craft our language. Here are seven new findings from Marketo, MailChimp, Pamorama, MarketingSherpa and the Center for Media Research who looked at billions of emails to help make holiday email more effective at engaging and converting customers. 1. Visuals matter. 65 percent of people are visual learners so communicating with images is critical. People scan email. They don’t read it. This explains the explosion of infographics. Maybe this is why video on landing pages increases conversion by 86%. Email should be visually stimulating and telegraphic. 2. Add social sharing buttons. They increase click-thru rates by 158%. People mix and match their media and share things broadly. If you make sharing easy, consumers will reward you with pass-along impressions. 3. Personalization counts. But surprisingly the use of both first and last name is 3.5 times more effective in driving open rates than first name only and twice as effective as using just the surname. Psychologically we are less casual than we think we are. People bridle at brands or strangers addressing them in too familiar a way. 4. “Freebie” tops “free” in subject lines for prompting more opens. The difference in value perception drives more than 10X more opens. Free is abused, overused and burned out in medical, retail and travel sectors. 5. Urgency matters but threats of loss don’t fly. Words like urgent, breaking, important and alert resulted in open rates way above normal. Invitations and announcements (and all the variations of these words) still trigger curiosity opens. But consumers hate being told they are missing something or it’s their last chance. These messages yield widespread ambivalence and opt-outs. 6. Thanking drives extraordinary response. Asking them to sign –up has the opposite effect. Aggressive opt-in requests are counterproductive. Similarly asking for donations and charitable actions fall on deaf ears. Aggressive fundraising language is a turn off. Email marketing is a hard working tool for all marketers. Almost half of consumers cite email as their preferred form of communication with brands. Applying lessons from on-going research insures that consumers will continue to rely on email for ideas, offers and purchases. 7. Forget Weekends. Email response is the least on Sunday and Saturday. Consumers aren’t glued to email on weekends. They actually do real stuff. Midweek --Tuesday and Wednesday – are your best bet for optimizing opens and clicks. The jury is out on the best time of day, though there are several vocal advocates for 6am to set the day’s agenda. Almost half of consumers cite email as their preferred communications mode with brands. Applying the lessons from our collective research will maintain and expand that preference. Continue reading
Posted Nov 26, 2013 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
Engagement has become a term that means everything and nothing. Too often it’s used offensively, defensively or indiscriminately to thrust or parry arguments about strategy, technology, media or creative. Engagement is the desired human interaction that results from marketing activity. It’s a feeling, a thought or possibly an action that a person takes in anticipation of or in response to messaging or functionality. Engagement planning starts with the desired response in mind and then maps customer attitudes and behaviors to find relevant and appropriate inflection points to begin the conversation. Engagement planning doesn’t start with tactics or channels. It starts with an understanding of what real people are likely to feel, think or do in response to an artificial stimulus. In order to enter the conversation and frame up an initial message, marketers need to consider these five factors. Creature Cycles. We are creatures of habit. We do things in predictable ways. Standard behavior patterns include where we go, how we get there, what we expect, what we do and in what sequence we approach tasks. Most of us prioritize tasks and people in repeatable ways. Understanding internal drivers and external influences affecting target audiences allow us to find openings for marketing. The goal is to find ways to intersect the lives and life patterns of customers and prospects that synch up with what they do, want, need or expect. The first step in planning engagement is to figure out how to be relevant and useful. Standing. Openness to people and ideas is a function of familiarity and standing. If I know and respect you I’m much more open to you than if you are a complete stranger. Brands are sorted into discrete folders in our brains. You have to know how you are sorted and what standing you have to enter into the conversation. An athletic wear brand can probably speak credibly about exercise and wellness, less so about politics or cultural issues. Brands have less standing than friends, co-workers or family members. The level of credibility, awareness, interest and trust in a brand, basically how brands are sorted, determines the aperture you have for reaching target customers. Engagement planning has to begin with an assessment of your standing which might lead to the decision to borrow standing from those with better connections or connotations. (This is the origin of influencer and member-get-member marketing.) High awareness brands have more standing than invisibles or newbies. Standing defines the angle of attack. A complete stranger approaching customers using personal information or outsized claims prompts immediate revulsion and rejection. Getting good juicy gossip from a trusted friend is the opposite end of the spectrum. Plotting your standing will separate intrusive from invited messages. Posture. There are many ways to approach customers. Usually the approach is a function of the state of the relationship. In some cases a message delivered by a credible third party has more impact than a direct approach. In the case of brand loyalists, whispering insider or advanced information in their ears builds demand, satisfaction and loyalty faster. And for those actively shopping, eye-to-eye, direct offers can drive faster conversion. Posture affects the psychology of your positioning and shapes the tone, manner, language and attitude of creative. Timing. Timing is everything. Texting a busy Mom at 7 am while she’s trying to get her kids up, dressed, fed and out the door is a non-starter. Brands need to understand the mindset and the mechanics of customers’ lives. As mobile becomes the ubiquitous on-the-go channel of choice, timing, utility and relevance become critical success factors. Marketers must get much more intimate with the routes and routines of target audiences. UXD. Any desired action must be fast, easy to do, intuitive and simple to understand. Account for distractions, fat fingers and multi-tasking. Messages must drive to simple desired actions. Labels on buttons and CTAs must be clear and telegraphic. Buttons have to be big and colored. Copy has to be scan-able and snack-able. Increase the font size. Don’t skimp on white space. Pressure test every sequence. Invest heavily in connecting all the data pipes on the back end. If you get everything else right but blow the user experience design, you lose the ballgame. Engagement is about genuine human connection. Channels, media, content and technology are facilitators. The ultimate measurement is a thought, a feeling or an action. Related articles Customer engagement in social networks isn't enough Continue reading
Posted Nov 21, 2013 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
The pace of automation, interconnections and change in digital media buying is staggering. And while there’s still considerable blabbing, handwringing, stalling and excuse making about programmatic buying, reality is way ahead of the rhetoric even if media firms and their clients aren’t leading the charge. The days of armies of young media planners and buyers wielding spreadsheets are being replaced by a business rules that instruct computers to buy and optimize in real time. Think about it. Americans are spending much more time online than on TV, yet most of the ad dollars flow to TV. Similarly people are using mobile media extensively yet there’s just a trickle of brands experimenting with mobile advertising. The likely reason is the continuing need for efficient reach, measured in gross tonnage of eyeballs, mixed with 6 ounces of conventional wisdom and 2 tablespoons of inertia. As social and mobile media ascend to dominance, advertisers will be looking for transparency (who saw their ads) and performance (who clicked, signed up or bought) according to Sephi Shapira, CEO of Massive Impact. These rough equivalents of general and direct marketing will become increasingly important as smartphones and tablets merge into Phablets, which in Q2 2013 have 25MM units in market. Ultimately everything on the phone/phablet will talk to each other and be available to marketers to enable ad serving. Consumers will be targeted by device, by apps installed, by the games they play, by names in their phone book, by browser or even by the pictures they take. And while this has a 1984 feel to it, the concentration and mining of data will make messages more relevant to each individual. To accommodate these needs real-time bidding (RTB) is accelerating and becoming more sophisticated. In terms of inventory control and access, auction style bidding puts each unit and each potential customer up for bid. Prices are determined moment by moment in relentless auctions managed by demand side platforms (DSPs). In terms of targeting or retargeting, by using contextual data rather than demographics as the principal targeting criteria, brands can track what consumers do and where they go in order to direct the messages served to them. Ads can be directed by device, by location, and by collaborative filters that, like Amazon, infer what people want based on what they’ve done or what their friends do. “For a generation that live their lives entirely online, there’s no such thing as TMI,” in Sephi’s opinion. “And while this may feel creepy to some, younger consumers appreciate the behind-the-scenes filtering that delivers information and offers about things they actually like and care about.” Facebook, on the strength of FBX units, has gone from zero to sixty in record time transforming both the timeline and the right column ads into direct response and pay for performance vehicles. With the number of Facebook users accessing the platform on mobile devices now approaching 50%, real time mobile ads are likely to play an increasing role for brands. Ninety percent of the automated inventory is now being sold on a cost per action basis. Publishers display messages as often as necessary to drive a guaranteed number of actions. Brands pay only for performance; less for a click and more for a sale. But with guaranteed performance and predictable costs, there’s very little risk. Automated performance based ads, which can course correct on their own like heat-seeking missiles, are transforming eCRM which enables repeat sales, upsells and cross selling. Data swapping is a refinement on its way to the US, says Shapira. In Europe and Asia it’s not uncommon for a telco to share data with an insurance company in order to mutually enhance databases and improve segmentation, targeting and conversion. Sephi’s message to brands is “Don’t miss the revolution. Social and mobile platforms, games, apps and real time bidding are emerging tools that savvy marketers are embracing and mastering to gain first-mover competitive advantages. If you are buying banners and hoping for the best, you’re not really in the game.” Related articles Why Real-Time Bidding Is Going To Completely Change The Equation For Mobile Advertising By 2017, it projects that programmatic buying (Real-time bidding) will account for 87% of display, 69% of video and 88% of mobile advertising buys. (U.S.) Continue reading
Posted Oct 26, 2013 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
Generally I have little patience for pay walls. In the case of the Wall Street Journal, I’m an aggrieved subscriber so this will be a rant. I wanted to read and print a story online. I logged in and engaged with a Live Chat operator named “Jefferson” who was polite but robotic. Immediately upon clicking the chat button I was accosted by an extensive form and a warning that the queue was 4 minutes long. This disembowels live chat as an instant engagement or gratification tool. If you have to wait four minutes and endure an interrogation just to get access, your customers begin their interaction by being annoyed and angry. Then Jefferson tells me hold on while he verifies my entry. So much for the prime marketing directive -- lavish love on your paying customers. When he returns having verified me, he asks for my user name; as if I haven’t already forked over enough information that he should have known from my log-in. Since I don’t remember it, he tells me. But I still can’t read or print the story so it was an exercise in frustration. Then Jefferson runs out of gas. He can’t explain why I can’t get what I paid for and he’s pretty much done with me. I walk away doubly pissed; I’ve been dissed and disowned by a publication I read everyday and a website that could care less. Now maybe Rupert Murdock doesn’t care about his customers. But in an age of dying newspapers you might think that the brain trust running the Journal would pay more attention to the impact of their technology investment rather than employ tools and people who only serve to alienate their customer base. Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2013 at Manhattan Marketing Maven
The introduction of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) is a marketing case study in what not to do. Health exchanges are a new fundamentally different and untried way for consumers to approach healthcare, especially for those millions without it. Established insurance brands compete with lesser known brands and start-ups in a free-for-all retail arena that is driven primarily by monthly costs. Communications have to take a retail direct marketing approach rather than a wonky policy-making tone and manner. Governments and insurers need to become 24/7 retailers. And the websites ought to scale and work properly. This unique marketing opportunity is especially challenging because nobody really understands what Obamacare is or how it will work. And political voices on the left and the right are dedicated to keeping it that way. Surveys of healthy millennials, the most desirable and necessary customers, indicate many see no need to insure themselves. To compete in this marketplace, consider these seven tactics: Brand Identity Rules. If they’ve heard of you, you have a fighting chance. Awareness and preference are top priorities. Even well established insurers, used to selling through employers, will be below the radar. Establishing a clear brand voice and positioning is critical to retail success. We just might be on the cusp of a new round of spokespeople on the order and magnitude of Flo, The Gecko or the AFLAC duck. Though early efforts in several states seem to be very fluffy and short on details. Voice, tone, attitude and manner count. The classic insurance industry posture; we-know-what’s-best-for-you will not fly. Two-Way Conversations. Establishing a direct-to-consumer brand requires engaging your target customers in a meaningful conversation. Your best prospects don’t just buy a product; they buy into the company providing it. Aligning brand values and sentiments with best prospects is critical. Establishing a position, as a knowledgeable friend and adviser without preaching or scaring prospects matters. Giving consumers opportunities to ask and to tell will separate the winners from the also-rans. Name It. Keep it simple and intuitive. Bundling plans with snappy, telegraphic names will assist consumers. A “Young Family Plan” instantly communicates targeting, intention and value. Anticipate likely consumer segments (e.g. singles, partners, new families, growing families) and construct affordable packages with fewer rather than more choices to resonate with millennial consumers. Talk Price. Millennials are unemployed, underemployed and strapped. Every thing they do is run through an affordability filter. The driving marketplace variables will be the what’s-in-it-for-me compared to the monthly price. Consumers will separate “must-have” from “nice-to-haves” then decide how the price will impact their monthly budgets. Don’t be bashful about communicating price and value. Don’t hesitate to offer different payment schemes. Even though its mandatory, if the fine is cheaper than the fees, there is no incentive to buy. Smart players will sell-in very affordable plans and then up-sell over time. Be Present. Millennials are on the move and highly social. Presenting your brand in social and mobile media is table stakes. Understanding which devices and forums serve which marketing objectives is important. Insurers need the ability to target, segment and engage millennials in multiple channels at any time of the day or night. Nobody will fill out an application on a smartphone in the back of a cab. But they will fill out the form on a tablet or on Facebook while they are searching and researching the competition and consulting friends. Concentrate on Channels. Speak with one voice across channels. Your website, TV and radio spots or print ads, 800#, Facebook presence, e-mail and postal mail must look and feel similar. Leverage the inherent qualities of each channel for maximum customer engagement. Expect consumers to use multiple channels to discover, research and assess offerings before and after buying. Use Technology as a Utility. Make it easy to print out, email and share content. Don’t fear comparative shopping. Anticipate the conversations and frequently asked questions that will come up in the news media, in online communities, on blogs, in search or live chat and in-person between friends and family members. Develop content for those situations and deploy content and PR assets accordingly. Think about ways to syndicate or seed branded content in places where your best prospects regularly go. Related articles Millennials Need Your Healthcare Organization 5 Tips for Marketing to Millennials from a Millennial Continue reading
Posted Oct 9, 2013 at Manhattan Marketing Maven