Predictions: from trash to treasure


Usually, year end “what’s next in marketing” predictions are a bunch of BS. Last November, I was asked to contribute thoughts to a roundup of The best ads of 2015. Here’s what I wrote:

“My favorite advertisement of 2015 was the New York Times declaring that it’s not dead yet. Its promotion with Google Cardboard, MINI, and GE to launch the NYT virtual reality application was a pioneering step forward for a brand built in a different era. Enough with emoji, femvertising, and consumer generated everything. NYT VR is an idea that moves people forward in a medium built for now.

Unfortunately, my thoughts didn’t make it past the cutting room floor, perhaps because I didn’t choose a 30-second spot. However, The New York Times just won a Cannes Lions Grand Prix award in the Mobile category for its VR efforts. The entire marketing world should’ve seen this coming.

Marketers and their agencies need to start thinking differently about a lot of issues — including diversity, renumeration, and what’s “best” — before the answers become too obvious to miss. There’s always next year, right?

The Next Decade of Social Media

On Stage at Cannes Lions

Last week, I shared some thoughts on the next decade of social media at the 2015 Cannes Lions festival. The key points are highlighted in this Guardian article:

  1. Gone
  2. Shoppable
  3. Snackable
  4. Automated
  5. Connective
  6. Filtered
  7. Integrated
  8. Chinese
  9. Subcutaneous
  10. Empowering

More coverage of the talk is available in these write-ups:

More images from my week in Cannes:

Endgame: Social Business Platforms

What U Choose Is What U Get

The news started trickling out late last week that Google is freezing support for social media management solution Wildfire in order to integrate more closely with DoubleClick. The company’s official statement says that they “won’t be building new features or signing up new customers” and current customers and competitors know what this means — there are suddenly dozens of brands and agencies looking for alternative social business platforms.

What U Choose Is What U Get - same goes for social business platforms

As an analyst at Constellation Research, I’m ramping up my marketing technology coverage and see a familiar pattern emerging as the social business software market matures. We’ve evolved well beyond the early days of the The Stack first identified by Jeremiah Owyang and now point solutions — which received all the early attention — are yielding to platforms.

My early take is that a “big three” have a headstart as the leading social business platforms:

  • Adobe (Marketing Cloud),
  • Oracle (Social Cloud), and
  • Salesforce (Marketing Cloud).

Each of the “big three” platforms acquired a standalone Social Media Management System (SMMS): Context Optional (now Adobe), Vitrue (now Oracle), and Buddy Media (now Salesforce), and Google + Wildfire, integrating with other social technologies to offer a multi-faceted value proposition. But buyer beware: websites and logos are easy to create; integrating multiple solutions to deliver a fully functioning unified platform takes a lot of time and effort.

Remaining standalone SMMS players have rebranded the space as Social Relationship Platforms (SRP) and include Spredfast, Hootsuite, Expion, and Sprinklr. Some have started to expand capabilities (e.g. Sprinklr has added listening and Expion has added advocacy) and some clients still want point solutions, but it’s clear that these players need to get big fast or find their way to an exit before they end up like Syncapse. It appears that they may be heading in that direction: as Forrester’s Nate Elliott recently found out, most SRP clients aren’t willing to recommend their vendor to a colleague.

In fact, I see SRPs on a path similar to brand monitoring providers. Their solutions gained a lot of attention in 2006 and I wrote the first Forrester Wave on these vendors. Here’s the current status of those original leaders:

  • Nielsen Buzzmetrics: went private, JV with McKinsey, shut down.
  • TNS Cymfony: acquired by Visible Technologies
  • Umbria: acquired by J.D. Power
  • Biz360: acquired by Attensity
  • Factiva: integrated into Dow Jones
  • Brandimensions: pivoted into anti-fraud
  • MotiveQuest: still standalone (!)

Even after rebranding as “listening platforms,” the market made clear that listening is a feature, not a product. Increasingly, publishing / social media management / social relationship management is turning out to also be a feature, not a product.

My take: the big three have the early lead in the competition to own the social business platform market, but we are in the early innings of the game. Standalone vendors will add features as rapidly as possible in order to stay competitive, and some categories originally thought to be independently viable — like enterprise social networks — will turn out to be nothing more than bundled feature sets as well.

I’ll write more to define social business platforms in upcoming weeks, including user case studies, vendor profiles, and technology evaluations. Stay tuned.



Should brands jump into Jelly?

More jellyfish


Jelly has officially launched. The Q&A app has drawn attention from early adopters and experimenters, most likely due to the affiliation of Twitter co-founder Biz Stone. At this point, I estimate that only about one in every ten questions I see on the site are from someone genuinely asking for assistance (e.g. I’m traveling to Boston next month, what’s a good non-seafood restaurant downtown?), while most posters are testing (e.g. asking “who is this” while posting a picture of a colleague) or trying to be funny (e.g. “what is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow”).

Some brands have been experimenting within the community as well, which makes a lot of sense. Searching for brand-relevant content in social media can be described as looking for a needle in a Mt. Everest-sized big data haystack; Q&A sites with a clear taxonomy can provide a direct path to discovering unmet consumer needs. Moreover, expert and endorsed opinions carry weight; authoritative answers are highly valuable. We’ve already seen this type of interaction on Twitter — think Best Buy’s Twelpforce or Intuit’s TeamTurboTax answering general questions about consumer electronics or income tax asked publicly but not mentioning any brand in particular.

Given that brands have become familiar with the rules of consumer engagement on social networks, I’d expect that they’d put their years of lessons learned into play when experimenting with a new site like Jelly. But after a couple days, it’s clear that old habits die hard:

Meijer on Jelly

It appears that some brands can’t resist the urge to push messaging at consumers, rather than building credibility by listening to conversations and providing value to others BEFORE promoting their own wares, if ever.

Let’s face it: the Klout-bait tactic of asking slightly relevant and totally mundane questions generates meaningless “engagement.” (For examples click here; for an example on Jelly, read this.) This is a cheap trick that should be banned by smart marketers — who should focus their energy on creating content that helps drive business results.

I certainly commend the early adopter brands (and their agencies) for their courage to experiment: General Electric, Kenneth Cole, Livestrong, CNBC, Meijer, Travelocity, Marriott, Life Is Good, Tom’s Shoes, and Molson have all been noticed by users. But brands must remember that they’re held to a higher standard of participation, even though a human on payroll writes the copy, takes the pictures, and hits the post button.

Jelly’s functionality will certainly evolve in the months ahead and we will likely see features already common on other social networks, such as:

  • cross-posting to social media accounts on other platforms (think Instagram),
  • user mentions and notifications (think Twitter),
  • ability to filter questions and answers seen by user lists (think Facebook),
  • user ratings and badges (think Yelp),
  • topic segmentation (think Quora), and
  • most importantly for brands: ability to search for keywords, phrases, and hashtags (think Twitter).

Naturally, as Jelly appears to be a mobile-first service, its ability to deliver location- and/or time-based opportunities for brands could be a strong differentiator. For example:

  • Any retailer concerned about showrooming could geofence its stores and monitor questions being asked to drive conversion (e.g. Target brick&mortar vs. Amazon ecommerce) 
  • Guerrilla marketers could monitor specific areas during events and answer questions to drive awareness and consideration (e.g. competing against the official sponsors of the Olympics, Super Bowl, World Cup)
  • News organizations could create flash polls during the midterm elections to gauge real-time voter sentiment (e.g. opinions in red vs. blue states by county)

Brands with the bandwidth and budget should certainly get involved with Jelly — in a way that integrates with social, digital, and overall marketing strategy. Companies shouldn’t forget the lessons learned from past efforts when experimenting, which will help guide how to use new functionality — whether in Jelly, Snapchat, WeChat, Line, or whatever comes next. Many brands will draw criticism for using yet another service to create corporate noise, but the best brands will create signal in innovative ways that build business.



Is it time to pull the plug on RTM? #EmmysRTM #RTM

Some watchers like Karen Geier (above) predicted that RTM would end up like a character in a DirecTV commercial. Others like the anonymous “RTM Sucks” were posting real-time criticism:



On the other hand, one of the most visible proponents of RTM last night was David Armano, whose Edelman team was working with Ogilvy & Mather to participate on behalf of Glade, both before and during the show using the hashtag #bestfeelings.

So, did #EmmysRTM work?

Digiday would vote no, reporting that “Brands Awkwardly Glom Onto Emmys.” AdAge concurs, telling us “It’s About Time to Get Real about Real-Time Marketing.” But whether you love or hate RTM, let’s look at some cursory data from a random sample of tweets:

  • Glade posted this tweet and received 8 retweets, 7 favorites, and 1 response. Looking at a random past tweet, they received 1 retweet, 0 favorites, and 5 responses.
  • Target Style posted this tweet and received 85 retweets, 169 favorites, and 3 responses. A random past tweet shows 61 retweets, 53 favorites, and 10 responses.
  • Cinnabon posted this tweet and received 169 retweets, 94 favorites, and 10 responses. A random past tweet shows 47 retweets, 38 favorites, and 5 responses. And I just got a clogged artery from researching these numbers.

So what, if anything, does this experience mean for RTM? Not the end — but there are some lessons that brands can take away.

  1. Winning with real-time requires real-time creativity. Cinnabon (!) had one of the most successful posts, outperforming most of the templated, pre-prepared brand content. No graphic, just a well-timed quip.
  2. You have limited resources; make them count. The lack of brands participating in #EmmysRTM isn’t surprising; it’s the least watched of the awards shows. Brands are better off participating in events that have critical mass. The downside is that more noise means less chance for your signal to break through.
  3. Integration is the name of the game. As Digiday points out, some brand participation was quite awkward. Others, like Target Style, fit naturally. An almanac RTM effort should fit into the rest of your efforts, just like well-balanced asset allocation across an investment portfolio.



Real-Time Marketing — Panel Q&A

A thrilling time is in your immediate future.

I’ll be moderating a panel discussion called The Realities of Realtime Marketing next week at the Social Shake-Up Conference in Atlanta.

My panelists will be Erika Brookes of Oracle, Pablo Henderson of W Hotels, and Ragy Thomas of Sprinklr. Here’s the high level list of questions I’ll be asking.

  1. How do you define “real-time marketing” (RTM)?
  2. Could you please explain how RTM works?
  3. What is the most common misconception about RTM? 
  4. Is RTM specific to social media? How does RTM integrate with digital and offline efforts? 
  5. What are some great examples of successful RTM?
  6. How does RTM work behind the firewall? Technology, process, organization, budget, staffing, culture…what considerations are most important?
  7. What is the one thing that brands should avoid when getting started with RTM?
  8. What is the one thing that brands must do when getting started with RTM?
  9. What about ROI? Has RTM shown signs of being a better investment than traditional approaches?
  10. Do you have any predictions on RTM headlines over the next couple of quarters? Will there be a consumer backlash? More brand #fails like Kenneth Cole (intentional or not)? A new slow-time marketing movement?
  11. Anything else?

What else would you want to hear about when it comes to real-time marketing? Any specifics? Please leave your thoughts in the comments.



Is social media free?

Let’s start with Facebook and free. From one perspective, this is true – anyone can start a brand page at no cost. However, building a successful page requires investment in media, social graph activation, and integration with large-scale marketing campaigns to offer custom experiences for fans and prospects. The world is learning more this week about the amount being spent on the Facebook advertising ecosystem – over $3 billion annually. That’s far from free – in fact, P&G’s remarks justify these investments.

What about brands that aren’t pouring money into the ecosystem? At minimum, companies need individuals to manage and moderate conversations. Although communities operating at scale may have members who engage each other with little company involvement, they aren’t free. Consider Wikipedia, a community that serves hundreds of millions of visitors every month – it takes technology and people to keep the site going – supported by donations. A company like Red Bull doesn’t get to over 26 million fans without engaging – which requires FTE/personnel expense.

P&G certainly didn’t pay for every one of the “1.8 billion in free impressions generated by the Old Spice campaign”…at least not directly. This is absolutely a success story and Dion Hinchcliffe and I talk about it in our forthcoming book, Social Business by Design. It’s important to keep in mind that this is an example of successful “big seed” marketing – plenty of money was poured into the initial mass media campaign and even more was spent to keep The Man Your Man Could Smell Like relevant with real-time videos. Free? No way – W+K grew 22% in 2011.

Not too long ago, I had a client who had a problem. He was the head of digital and emerging media for a consumer products brand. Recently, the CEO’s college-age children had come home for Thanksgiving break and showed the CEO this new thing called YouTube, where companies like Coca-Cola were having great success with reposting their TV commercials. As a result, the CEO decided to slash the digital and social media budgets; my client was laid off soon thereafter. Today, they are lagging far behind their industry competition and I have never seen anyone mention their brands or campaigns in social media.

The Elephant

Social media marketing success comes at a cost. Executives must take a social business perspective instead, considering external and internal factors as well as designing for intended and emergent outcomes. Without a holistic perspective, businesses end up operating like blind men around an elephant and a lineup of digital tombstones in online brand graveyards

Disclosure: my company Dachis Group operates one of the world’s largest Facebook Preferred Developer Consultant groups. P&G is a client and our recent work includes the People’s Choice Awards and Thank You, Mom. Red Bull is also a client and we launched their Facebook presence.

Marketing : IT :: Dogs : Cats

“Big data, cheap processing, and social media, are changing the advertising and marketing landscape. IT has been quietly hammering away on advanced analytics systems and platforms to aggregate and filter data, while sites like Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter can provide exactly the detailed demographic data that marketers say they need. Put it all together and you have technology that can spit out almost personalized advertising on one side and deliver quantitative measurements to gauge the effect every little marketing decision has on the bottom line.”

Read more and comment at GigaOm: In a data driven world, marketing and IT must come together

Three slides of social media history

Sharing a few slides here from my SXSW session earlier this year. I feel like an internet historian of sorts, since I started tracking social media examples back in 2005 and then published a huge list in 2008.

These are three examples that show some business results and are often mentioned. If you’re not familiar with them…now you are.