I recently gave a presentation to the Digital Analytics Association Symposium on the evolution of Machine Learning and how it will transform the work that digital analysts due in the near future. I’m extremely interested in how machine learning and predictive analytics can improve digital marketing performance through personalization while moving us closer to the original digital marketing vision of right message to the right person at the right time.
Trends in Ad Tech from Silicon Valley
I just posted this article on the Hacker Agency website here, but wanted to share on my site as well.
HackerAgency and FCB executives from all over the world recently returned from four days of meetings with the biggest digital media technology companies in Silicon Valley: Google/YouTube, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat and Facebook/Instagram. We were treated to a first-class education which included a deep dive into consumer trends, technology shifts and a preview of the next wave of advertising opportunities across these communication platforms.
I’m going to race through the major things we learned and discussed. I hope to go deeper soon.
First, major consumer trends:
- Every one of the organizations we met with has a major focus on video as THE communication format of the near future. And it’s all about mobile.
- Two-thirds of the world is still not on the Internet. Google and Facebook have programs dedicated to putting the Internet into the hands of those without access.
- In the developing world, technology has skipped computers and has moved straight to mobile. However, most traffic is on a 2G-level network on a feature phone, so text is still king in these markets.
Second, technology shifts:
- Personal assistant plus voice input (in addition to keyboard) is getting better all the time. Siri, Alexa, OK Google and Cortana are listening and responding. We’re at the beginning of interacting with artificial intelligence on a daily basis.
- We’re seeing more focus on better user experiences. All the companies we visited are thinking about how to create more engaging, richer, digital ad experiences for better performance and higher monetization.
- People are talking about the integration of analytics across customer touch points. Everyone realizes that one touch does not drive a behavior change, so a massive amount of work is going into understanding multi-touch marketing attribution across channels.
- We all know mobile pages load too slowly on cellular networks, so tech giants are supporting the open source Accelerated Mobile Pages
Third, new creative opportunities:
- Changes to something as familiar as Google search results are always big news. No ads on the right rail for Google will have a big impact on CPCs, impression share and quality score.
- Deep linking into mobile apps is critical for mobile app promotion and a better user experience.
- Conversational video ads on Twitter rolled out earlier in the year. They include a call to action with customizable hashtags to encourage customer engagement.
- Cinematic pins on Pinterest allow brands to target specific user types (foodies, travelers, etc.) and use motion while the user scrolls but stop when the user stops.
- SnapChat’s ads are an overlay over images. They have released an on-demand platform so you can create your own overlays and target individuals within a specific geography (down to 5,000 square feet) for a specific number of days.
- Facebook Live streams to your network and competes with Periscope.
- Facebook Canvas provides a deeper rich media experience on Facebook. You can use a combination of videos and still images to tell a story—and call-to-action buttons are available, too.
- 360 Degree Video on Facebook lets you showcase your story in an immersive way when the user controls what they look at within the video.
We were very fortunate to get learning sessions with the largest tech advertising players in Silicon Valley, and we look forward to executing many of these new creative ideas with our clients.
Why Smart Data is So Much Better than Big Data
I recently published this article on MarketingProfs.com here. Enjoy!
I’m officially sick of the term “Big Data”. Marketers have access to lots of data, got it. Big Data in and of itself doesn’t sell more products/services or make high value prospects aware of your brand. Big Data is merely the pool in which we swim to target and generate results. Smart data is the spear gun – this is where we need to focus.
As direct response marketers, we think of data in terms of insight to make better decisions that drives to an action. Smart data breaks into the following categories:
1) Creative Optimization – Every one of our creative concepts comes from an insight from customer research and/or campaign data. Based on some form of insight around what a particular target audience is doing, thinking, feeling, responding to, NOT responding to or is concerned about – we build a creative approach to elicit a response.
We start many of our creative exercises with the search for a “wow, I can’t believe that” type number. For example, one brand we worked with targeted to children, an inspiration came when we learned that 97% of kids play videogames regularly, but only 33% of kids get regular exercise. A body at rest tends to stay at rest, but a body in motion tends to stay in motion. That meant they needed to inspire kids to turn off the games, get up and get going.
The stats that inspired this brand’s communication have nothing to do with Big Data – just smart data.
2) Campaign Optimization – This is where the market dollars meet the proverbial road. Using specific data to plan a campaign, target a specific audience, optimize media against what is working/not-working and testing variants like message/offer/call-to-action/creative theme/etc. is extremely data centric and requires a smart approach.
For example, it’s possible to optimize a DRTV campaign on the fly. During an 8-week flight, we’ll see which markets convert at a higher rate during the initial weeks and focus our media spend there. We can also use response data in our digital buys to leverage the ad serving technology to optimize campaigns in real time. Pre-planning the use of data and optimization is critical in campaign optimization.
3) Conversion Optimization – Conversion optimization is a unique data set in and of itself. Sources of traffic are an input but the data focus here is getting the customer to take the next logical step using micro actions, calls to action, call center optimization, website optimization. There is a heavy reliance on split testing and multi-variant testing that requires smart test planning and execution.
In a mobile marketing campaign, for example, does a click-to-call convert at a higher rate than a get-more-info button? Should the button be red or orange? Which headline is converting better on a desktop vs tablet vs mobile device?
4) Campaign Reporting – Success (or not) of campaigns and programs can be shown in reports that are as detailed as needed for analysis or rolled-up into top level metrics for a helpful overview. Smart reporting of data helps tell the story of progress, what the ROI of the campaigns are and what the marketing dollars of the organization are contributing to key performance indicators (e.g., sales!) and whether these numbers are improving or sinking.
Having a history of results can help you avoid mistakes like reading the data too soon. If a campaign hasn’t had a chance to mature, you may pull the plug too early.
5) Attribution Analysis – Attribution analysis is a difficult thing to do well when you start layering in multiple campaign sources, offline and online, multiple sales channels and different length of buy cycle. We separate out campaign analysis from attribution analysis because they serve two different purposes:
- Campaign analysis and optimization is more tactical. It answers the question: How can I get better results out of the marketing dollars I’m spending on this campaign/channel?
- Attribution is more of a budgeting and allocation process. It helps to answer the question – based on best available data – where should I be allocating MORE or LESS marketing dollars over the next cycle?
6) Executive Reporting – Selecting the right metrics to surface to Directors, VPs and C level types is a skill unto itself. How this data is presented, how often it gets updated, what charts/graphs/visualizations are used and, especially, what story the data is telling is extremely important for communicating progress of your programs as well as outlining opportunities for what’s next.
This kind of reporting is not something you set and forget. It needs to be carefully crafted to avoid any kind of miscommunication. In fact, I recommend you set a regular appointment and present the data in person, so you can tell the story that you want to tell and personally address questions, concerns or issues that come up.
7) Privacy and Compliance – as an ISO27001-certified company, we rely on systems we put in place to process and handle data to comply with the strict requirements for remaining certified. This includes how we separate client data, keep healthcare Information, Personally Identifiable Information and digital behavior information separate from each other.
I’ll take quality data over quantity of data any day of the week. Understanding where the data is coming from, how it’s stored, what it tells you will help tremendously in how you use it to narrow down to the bits that allows smarter business decisions based on the data.
Six Big Take A Ways from the NetFinance Conference
I recently posted this re-cap from the #NetFinance conference in Miami on how Digital is Rocking the Financial Services world. Let me know what you think!
We just returned from wonderfully warm Miami and the Net.Finance conference – a gathering of 500 banking, financial services, credit union and technology vendors discussing the challenges of understanding and leveraging digital in one of the oldest industries known to mankind.
In listening to the dozens of presentations and having some great conversations with folks in the industry, I came away with the following major themes:
1) Established companies require visionary and bold leadership to make bets on integrating digital into their organization. Decades of relying solely on traditional marketing tactics, local business relationships and physical bank branches result in an entrenched “prove it to me before I try it” mentality. I spoke to people who expended a lot of effort just to get a website built and have presidents who believe mobile is “not quite there yet.” I also spoke to leaders who embrace digital as a way to understand the customer better.
It’s 2014. It’s time to get in front of the digital wave. Data leads to customer insights. Customer insights lead to ideas for communicating with customers. Relevant communication leads to loyalty. It’s not that hard to comprehend.
2) Incrementalism vs revolution. Incrementalists try to integrate digital in a way that enhances the branch experience while piling on technology to improve the customer experience IF they have forward thinking leadership (see point one). Revolutionaries are banks like Simple and Moven with digital as the ONLY option. These types of new banks are clearly aiming at the mobile-centric Millenials and tech-forward Gen X and Y’s with a completely new way of providing financial services.
We need to find a way for incrementalists to be more revolutionary. I get that you can’t erase the past, get rid of all your current customers and start over – but to keep patching things here and there with a bit of digital won’t work forever.
3) Legal and compliance is a drag on innovation. Any organization needs to be concerned about legal exposure and industries like financial services and insurance have a higher burden than ever, after the financial crisis of 2008.
However, companies that are proactive about working with legal and compliancy teams in a cooperative environment are able to stay within the law and innovate. I spoke to one person who has an agreement with their legal/compliance team on social media communication that has clear outlines on what can/can’t be said in different situations (standard social governance best practice) but ALSO has a two-hour SLA on turnaround time for unforeseen issues. Internal partnerships can solve problems.
4) It’s a service, not a product business. The financial industry thinks in terms of products which drives siloes within an organization. The rise of social media and the shifting of power to the consumer have brought brand communication and interaction back to the forefront of the customer engagement.
Collaboration is absolutely essential. Consumers expect you to be consistent in your communications. Tear down those walls!
5) Everyone struggles with data. Whether you are trying to connect marketing engagements across devices, harness the unbelievable amount of data available or figure out what the right KPIs are to put in a dashboard to your CMO – data is hard. Big, small, smart – whatever. I heard a lot of different models on how to think about data and I met some vendors with ways to harness data, but unless you’re a pretty data/tech savvy person, it’s going to go over your head. I feel sorry for the smaller organizations that have a digital vision but not the funds or personnel to dig into the data issues.
Not to sell ourselves too hard here, but you can buy expertise. We work as partners with our clients. And our counsel and strategy more than pays for itself.
6) The importance of good design and UI can’t be overstated. Consumers expect their interactions with brands to look good, be intuitive and just work. It is just as important in the banking and financial services business as it is in the telecom or entertainment business.
Again, if you don’t have in-house expertise, get a marketing partner. Make sure that your partner understands both design and strategy, though. A beautiful mobile site that doesn’t sell or a pretty app that no one wants is a waste of your resources.
Presenting a unified customer experience across all touch points is hard work, but pays off handsomely with increased loyalty, greater share of wallet and more advocates promoting your brand. Building an environment of collaboration and innovation – starting with leadership – is critical in making this happen.
The financial services sector has similar challenges to everyone else with an industry history longer than 10 years. Digital is here, social is changing the nature of customer interaction and mobile is driving vast behavior change in the millennial and Gen X-Y demographics. The opportunities are huge and the companies that put customer centricity and innovation at the front of the conversation will be the ones who survive.