Quick take on what’s hot in digital right now

There’s a lot of noise in the marketing world, with industry players from all angles talking about what’s now and what’s next. What that in mind, I have some thoughts on the hottest topics that will be big bets for the near future:

    • AI

Once the stuff of science fiction, now part of the real world. Lots of commercial potential here, but how can this be best unlocked for consumers (and brands)? Current pathways to market are through tech companies, e.g. Amazon Alexa skills like Duplo stories or a Facebook chatbot. The real fun begins when digital is baked inside — which is a tough decision for companies to make, jumping off of a profitable s-curve into an unknown future. Tesla’s autopilot and Nest’s connected home give us hints, but for now we’ll just need to be satisfied with the A.I. we see in Westworld and hope that’s not what the world will become.

    • Voice

The evolution of human-computer interaction continues, from punch cards to keyboards, from mouse to touchscreen, and now from tactile to audio. The flip side of voice is that the microphones are always on, creating privacy concerns…but will consumers sell out their rights for convenience? Regardless of the outcome, it’s up to brands to do the right thing as this space evolves. Next step? Brain-to-computer connections. Yes, just like The Matrix.

    • Video

Moore’s law may not hold true like it used to and feature sets within mobile devices certainly seem to be plateauing. However, wireless bandwidth still has plenty of room for improvement (as does last mile connectivity), so video will continue to increase in importance as infrastructure improves. What’s critically important now is content and editorial — with unyielding watch-time algorithms, brands must capture attention as quickly as possible and hold attention like an eight second championship bull ride.

    • Personal data

GDPR is a huge current issue for brands and consumers are taking notice of the privacy policy updates they’re receiving from companies they forgot about years ago. In contrast example, the Cambridge Analytica situation highlights what can be done with personal data. Meanwhile, many marketers still struggle to attribute their efforts to sales. If a data-wielding company can influence the course of history, why can’t big budget brands figure it out?

    • Types of Reality

Virtual, augmented, and mixed reality are all taking shape as affordable hardware finds its way to market. Most content focuses on education and entertainment; once connectivity use cases become more prevalent, we will find ourselves increasingly living and working in a virtual world. Ready player one?

Our operating environment is constantly changing; however, the pace of change seems to be slowing down — at least that’s my perspective from returning to the client-side and seeing opportunities from this side of the table over the past couple of years. Most initiatives that were recently considered innovative, particularly social media marketing, have moved into the mainstream. Today, the foundations are being established for a new wave of enterprise-shifting digital trends that require significant assets to create and capture value.

O2O is an opportunity to outperform

O2O has been receiving increased attention along with the rise of e-commerce. But many tactics are merely incremental variations on old offline concepts. Making O2O work with a modern approach requires understanding three key concepts.

The rise of e-commerce…and the problem it creates

2014 was a record year for ecommerce revenue. Sources estimate that US holiday season shoppers spent over $50 billion online, while sales in the UK exceeded £100 billion for the full year and totaled almost $450 billion in China for 2014. There’s no doubt that a percentage of this growth comes at the expense of offline stores and brands with multiple channels are struggling to decide how to support all outlets.

I'Park Mall

Enter O2O: “online-to-offline commerce.”

Since the rise of e-commerce in the 1990s, retailers have experimented with ways to connect dot-com to legacy offline stores. In those days, brands would occasionally offer web-only coupons that could be printed out and redeemed in-store. Twenty years after Amazon.com first went live, the most effective tactic for driving online eyeballs to offline stores is still the coupon, albeit evolved via Groupon and LivingSocial. Other contemporary O2O tactics are also derivative from the days before e-commerce existed, like publishing weekly sales circulars online as PDFs or highlighting a brand’s latest TV commercials on its website. It’s time for these tactics to evolve.

Retailers have been the earliest to embrace O2O, but digital disruption has impacted companies of all kinds, from advertising to venture capital. Uber and Lyft have changed the way people (and regulators) think about hiring cars. AirBnB and HomeAway have changed behaviors around renting a room for the night. Nest and SmartThings have changed how people interact with their homes. Warby Parker has changed how people shop for eyewear. Kickstarter and Indiegogo have changed how business ventures obtain funding. The list goes on and on.


Risk adverse companies will take small, incremental, and defensive steps to integrate digital methods into their business models. These firms, many of them industry incumbents, will slowly fade away. Brands that survive and thrive will embrace three key principles of O2O:

1. O2O applies to three primary venues: retail, home, and office

Korea is one of the most wired countries on the planet and ground zero for O2O innovation.

In June 2014, Starbucks launched its Siren Order app in Korea, bridging the gap between office and retail by enabling customers to order and pay in advance. After a successful rollout, the app was rebranded “Mobile Order & Pay” for launch in the U.S. in December.

Starbucks Siren Order

Also in December, Burberry opened a “Burberry Beauty Box” store in Seoul, including an RFID-enabled “Digital Lip & Nail Bar” to help customers match products to their skin tone.

Burberry Beauty Box Seoul via Wardrobe Trends Fashion

Beyond retail and office, the “Internet of Things” has captured mainstream awareness and companies including SmartThings/Samsung, Nest/Google, and Quirky/GE are enabling digitally connected home environments.

Internet of Everything

2. O2O works best in both directions

O2O is most commonly an abbreviation for “online-to-offline” and the reverse should also be true. Circuit City, Borders, and Blockbuster have all disappeared after being unable to implement effective offline-to-online strategies. Today’s operating environment contains increasingly powerful personal computing devices, widespread broadband connectivity, and changes in consumer attitudes towards sharing and engagement.

Nordstrom Pinterest via Business Insider

Nordstrom takes advantage of these trends by investing in technology to enable sales associates to deliver more effective customer service, integrating in-store merchandising with social media content, and offering free wifi to improve in-store customer experience. Success – and perhaps survival – depends on merging channel service levels to deliver customer experiences that meet and exceed expectations.

3. O2O is a business strategy

Making O2O work effectively requires commitment and coordination across internal departments approaching programs as part of strategy, not as seasonal campaigns. A single department might champion O2O initiatives, but success requires collaboration from IT, supply chain, marketing, and customer service. The unifying focus for these efforts should be how to deliver the best user experience optimized for customer segments, supported by process improvements and technology infrastructure. Solid use cases are required prior to implementing O2O strategy.


For example, Samsung created a B2B product called CenterStage, displaying appliances in life-size 4K UHD at retailers including Best Buy, Dixons, and Boulanger, reducing inventory carrying cost and floor space typically required by traditional white goods displays.

Strategies can benefit brands in industries far beyond retail

Over the course of 2015, the lines between online and offline will continue to blur. As revenue from online retail continues to grow, brands must be careful to not get distracted by the larger opportunity. Brands that build their business models around an O2O approach will create consumer value in the three key venues of shop, home and office. These brands will be the best prepared to increase market share while defending existing business from new digitally disruptive entrants.

The “Big Six” digital marketing trends

That there are six key digital marketing trends that all brands must master in today’s operating environment.

I’ve been getting up to speed with Cheil’s global digital capabilities, visiting with our teams in Korea, the US, China, the UK, and India. In speaking with our professionals around the world, my beliefs are further confirmed that there are six key digital marketing trends that all brands must master in today’s operating environment:

  1. Brands are back in the driver’s seat.
    I’ve always believed that this notion was a bit sensationalist but today, organic reach has plummeted and brands with big budgets are the highest priority for sites with investors in mind.
  2. Everything is shoppable.
    From Instagram to Pinterest to Twitter to Facebook to YouTube, all sites are adding functionality to shortcut the path to purchase.
  3. Show me, don’t tell me.
    We have seen the shift from blogs to Twitter to emoji. People prefer snackable pictures to the fine dining of text.
  4. Data drives mass personalization.
    Curation and customization can happen today at a fraction of the cost to serve, but yesterday’s service models must evolve.
  5. The Internet of Everything.
    Just now beginning to become commercialized and show its true potential in the Age of Context.
  6. The sharing economy.
    Old business models and human behaviors are new again, but this time brands are powering their collaborative economy efforts with new technology.

While the impact of these digital marketing trends may differ by country and industry, they are all relevant now. The Big Six are here today and will absolutely evolve tomorrow. Smart marketers will get to the front of the curve and have a front-seat view as new trends emerge.

What’s in a name? #gTLD

What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;

– Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

With the rollout of new gTLDs, it’s just a matter of time until the .com addresses we have grown familiar with over the past 15 – 20 years start to disappear. Here are the domains that are available today and coming soon, via IANA.

Major brands and organizations have already lawyered up and brands like Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Oakley, USPS, Google, Amazon, and others are battling it out in the courts over new domains. I spoke with DomainSkate last week and their blog is a good resource; the company estimates that over 1,400 new domains will become available in 2014.

As if digital marketing didn’t change fast enough — here’s one more issue that marketers need to add to the to-do list; file under brand + SEO.

IBM bankrolls a new $100M #CX unit. Will it work?

Yesterday, IBM announced expansion plans for its Interactive Experience professional services practice. The numbers align a bit too perfectly: 10 new labs, $100M investment, and 1,000 new roles.

Yesterday, IBM announced expansion plans for its Interactive Experience professional services practice. The numbers align a bit too perfectly: 10 new labs, $100M investment, and 1,000 new roles.


While the numbers sound great, here’s what matters:

  • Access to technology. Brands need to connect with customers along all points of the buying/loyalty loop, same as it ever was. But today, engagement is impossibly inefficient without the help of technology. On the front lines, high tech enables high touch experiences. We could always assume that IBM services had access to the firm’s leading-edge research and this announcement includes specifics regarding influence analysis, intelligent customer profiles, and customer identity resolution, in addition to behavioral pricing, life event detection, and psycholinguistics analytics.
  • Global scale. In addition to four Experience Labs in North America, IBM adds 10 locations that provide presence on all continents with the exception of Africa and Antarctica. This allows the firm to match the operating needs of multinational clients, in addition to collecting local insights that can be transferred to broader programs. For example, consider the social media ecosystem in China, which has influenced the roadmaps of Silicon Valley-based platforms (and vice versa).
  • Ability to sign talent. Finding great talent that can pair campaign creativity with quantitative analysis is difficult, and constrained supply drives higher prices. IBM can afford to poach talent from other firms, as evidenced by its hires from Accenture, Wunderman, SapientNitro, DigitasLBi, CapGemini, and Ogilvy. IBM is the professional services equivalent of the New York Yankees.

But I wouldn’t consider the game over yet by any means. In fact, some of these strengths come with significant challenges:

  • Legacy branding. International Business Machines has a world renown legacy in enterprise hardware and the current software organization is also well-known. These groups capture the public’s attention with innovations like Watson and support of the US Open, which can lead to consulting business. However, internal corporate relationships could lead buyers to lean towards other firms that may not carry a perception of bias towards proprietary technology solutions.
  • You don’t have to be the biggest to be the best. Consider the change that technology has driven in the agency landscape; the traditional agencies with roots in the mad men era have been increasingly displaced by smaller shops that are nimble and can react to shifts in current culture. IBM claims to be a “new breed of service provider” but it must be careful that the positioning doesn’t become a Napoleonic mistake of creating competition on too many fronts. Moreover, IBM needs to operationalize knowledge from its global network without letting its sheer size get in the way of learning.
  • Fast enough? IBM isn’t alone in seeing the marketing opportunity around digital customer experience. Two years ago, Deloitte acquired Ubermind to create Deloitte Digital. Last year, Accenture acquired Fjord and formed Accenture Interactive. Good help is hard to find in this market, which is why SIs are buying digital shops to get in the game quickly. IBM has been hiring talent from the right places, but this one-at-a-time approach may not be a fast enough ramp, leaving money on the table for competitors.

IBM sees the market opportunity in customer experience and appears committed to winning in the market. There are a couple of elements in this announcement that take me back to 2008 as I launched my last company — “a new service provider that’s agency + consultancy” and a multi-million dollar funding commitment — and the emerging opportunity seems to be wide open. If nothing else, IBM is signalling to potential clients and hires that they’re open for business as the “social business” era fades into the next generation of digital transformation.

Why you should care about the rise of broadband

Thinking that faster speeds are the equivalent of faster horses is myopic and an attempt to preserve the status quo.

This is one of my favorite business charts.


Home broadband vs. dial-up, 2000-2013. Source: Pew Internet & American Life Project


As home internet has gotten faster, we have seen new business opportunities emerge. For example:

In 2000-2001, Quokka Sports tried to build a business of streaming sports like sailing online. In 2013, users could watch the America’s Cup and one of the greatest comebacks in sports history live, online, for free.

Traditional network programming has been living uneasily for the past decade as networked homes have spawned multi-channel viewing, while attempts at disruption have emerged from Apple and Google (hardware) and Netflix and YouTube (content).

The networked home is gaining traction; security systems have long been wired into phone lines, but with broadband we are seeing intelligent devices like thermostats, cameras, and door locks as well.

In 2006, right at the tipping point of dial-up vs. broadband, I heard a network television executive remark at an industry conference:

“With more broadband, people will get done with what they need to do online faster, then get back to watching TV. There are only a limited number of things a person can search for.”

In hindsight it’s clear that this person’s remarks were self-serving, maybe even intended as self-preservation. Laugh now, then consider this remark about gigabit-speed Google Fiber:

“What they’re doing is not any different than an overbuilder,” [Time Warner Cable chairman and CEO] Britt said on a conference call with analysts to discuss first quarter results Thursday. “And we’ve had overbuilders for the last several decades in the business.” 

Thinking that faster speeds are the equivalent of faster horses is myopic and an attempt to preserve the status quo.

Now, think about what we are seeing in the mobile world as devices get more powerful and networks get faster. The innovations we’ve seen in that space have only just begun. Brands would be wise to optimize for the present, but be prepared for the business models of the future arriving via faster connection speeds.



Review: The Connected Company by @davegray

One common approach to dissecting social business into its key components is separating people, process, and technology. You can find plenty of discussion out there about technology – just read TechCrunch every day. There have been a couple of good social business books written about people, like Open Leadership and Empowered. In The Connected Company, Dave Gray has written a book that brings it all together with an engaging and lucid right-brain perspective.

Customers are connecting. Are you?

Now, don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a book about finding and channeling your inner spirit animal or if your brand was at a party what type of guest would it be. This is a thoroughly researched and highly considered guidebook for designing organizations and making change management work. Dave’s section headers tell the story:

  1. Why change? Customers are adopting disruptive technologies faster than companies can adapt.
  2. What is a connected company? A company that operates not as a machine but as a learning organism, purposefully interacting with its environment and continuously improving, based on experiments and feedback.
  3. How does a connected company work? It learns and adapts by distributing control to the points of interaction with customers, where semi-autonomous pods pursue a common purpose supported by platforms that help them organize and coordinate their activities.
  4. How do you lead a connected company? Leaders must create an environment of clarity, trust, and shared purpose, while management focuses on designing and tuning the system that supports learning and performance.
  5. How do you get there from here? Any enterprise involves risk and connected companies are no exception. But in times of change and uncertainty, the ability to learn and adapt faster than competitors gives connected companies an edge.

Service orientation

One of my favorite sections of the book is a short section in Chapter Twelve (“Wrangling Complexity”) that describes how service orientation evolved in the programming community and its three key components. Then Dave uses that to explain why companies like Netflix and Whole Foods are successful. These explanations are present throughout the book to help explain why and how companies need to change.

Some things don't change

The things that customers care about won’t change. However, the way that companies organize and operate must change in order to survive. Dave says, “If you want to become a connected company, there’s no reason you can’t start today.” A great first step would be to order a copy of The Connected Company.

RFPs and strategic thinking

RFPs can be used as an effective tool to assist purchasing decisions. They help buyers compare offerings along similar criteria in order to highlight differences and facilitate evaluations. RFPs can play an important role in executing on the strategic planning process – business goals are assessed, capabilities and gaps defined, then companies act to close the gaps by building or buying. These are key activities that must be completed before issuing a RFP.

A RFP is not a shortcut for the strategic planning process. If you don’t have these answers, soliciting 50-page documents from service providers won’t solve this problem for you. Like strategy, RFPs shouldn’t be identical, even when companies in the same industry seek to purchase similar services. This may sound quite obvious, but you might be surprised at the lack of strategic thinking that goes into many social media RFPs today.

Business works best when designed around specific parameters of a market situation. For example, I’d advise against taking another company’s social media participation policy and adopting it wholesale. Or seeing a Facebook sweepstakes idea and running the exact same program, even if you’re in a different industry and geography. Or using a photo of your customer service team as your Twitter avatar because your industry competitors are using that approach. You may be thinking, “of course not.” So then why copy-and-paste a RFP without customizing for your own needs?

Buyers of social media services have benefited from the work of Maggie Fox‘s Social Media Group and creation of a Social Media RFP template. Unfortunately, too many lazy buyers have misused this source material; in the words of SMG themselves:

the Social Media RFP template is too long, has too many questions, and many clients and purchasing departments are simply cutting and pasting the content with little or no thought about their actual needs.

If you think the term “lazy” seems harsh, then why would smart companies be asking for credentials in podcasting, del.icio.us, and virtual worlds? Last time I checked, Second Life wasn’t high on any marketer’s list of priority platforms. Taking this kitchen sink approach is a disservice to both buyer and seller.

I’ve always been an advocate of creating solutions when uncovering issues – stay tuned. In the meantime, I’m interested in hearing about your experiences with social media RFPs from either side of the table.

Caveat emptor? Caveat venditor.



Groundswell and social business: moving towards maturity

Current state.

Yesterday I covered general updates to Groundswell and specifics around Twitter. The other major update to Groundswell focuses on attaining social maturity and provides a model where companies can self-identify and determine what’s needed to progress further.

Most companies are clustered around the middle of the bell curve when it comes to maturity, with the ultimate goal of becoming a social business. Forrester calls this the empowering stage. I’ve been discussing social business recently with Social Media Club San Francisco, at BlogWorld Expo New York, and in the original concept of social business design. With an understanding of the end goal, it’s important to focus on getting there, which is where most of my company’s work focuses today.

Here’s what I asked Josh about his findings on social maturity.

Most companies have gotten started with listening and talking, but the minority have moved on to more complex – and seemingly more valuable – objectives. What specific factors hold companies back from maturing?

Listening is effortless and low risk. Talking is an obvious extension of other forms of marketing. But energizing requires real thought about what customers want and who they are. Supporting means a commitment to care about and respond to customers. And embracing means admitting your customers sometimes have better ideas than you do. Those last three objectives cross organizational boundaries in sales, marketing, customer service, and product development. And crucially, they mean messy contact with the actual annoying humans that are your customers. You can do listening and talking without getting your hands dirty – the other objectives aren’t quite so comfortable.

Some social objectives are more popular than others

Which industries exhibit advanced maturity and which are laggards? Is there a difference in B2C vs. B2B?

We’ve seen a lot of maturity in retail, probably because they started with a lot of comfort with ratings and reviews on their sites. Marketing-driven and fan-centric industries like consumer packaged goods and media are also very advanced. Regulated industries like pharmaceuticals and financial services are typically less mature, just since they can’t get a lot of applications off the ground without talking to lawyers a lot.

B2B businesses have a great opportunity, because their customers form natural communities. Some tech vendors, like IBM and Cisco, are pretty far along. Most of the big consulting firms are good at internal social applications, since sharing knowledge is so much a part of what they do. But in general, B2B  companies are far less adventurous, and it’s a shame.

After the Groundswell.

Charlene and Josh collaborated on the original Groundswell and each wrote followup books. Charlene wrote Open Leadership. Josh wrote Empowered; here’s what I asked him about the sequel.

You wrote a book after Groundswell, Empowered. How do those work together?

Once we wrote Groundswell and I started traveling around to companies, it became clear that knowing what to do was only half the problem. How to get ideas past management was the other. Empowered is a book about how to manage your company in the age of the empowered customer – the problem that arises as a result of all those social customers. I find it interesting that Charlene Li, on her own, also wrote an excellent management book called Open Leadership about many of the same challenges.

Who’s the better co-author: Charlene or Ted?

That’s like asking which of my children I like better. Charlene has such an incredible instinct about social technology, and that, combined with her infinite degree of patience, made her a real pleasure to work with. Ted’s knowledge of how IT and management worked and the scintillating collection of ideas he brought to the project made for one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had. Both were highly creative, flexible, and understood well what I brought to the team. A collaboration on a book is like a marriage – you have to respect the other person, and you have to tolerate their quirks and hope they tolerate yours as you work closely together on something that matters. Both of my coauthors gave me that kind of intimate sharing of ideas, and I respect and love them both (equally!).

What do you know now that you wish was in the original version of Groundswell?

Much of that is in Empowered, the stuff about management. I wish we had more about Twitter (which is why we added that in the new edition). I really wish we had a lot more international examples, but as I learned in Empowered, it’s very, very hard to source those, especially ones from Asia.


Many thanks to Josh for sharing these insights. For updates on Groundswell and Empowered, visit Forrester’s blog.

The Groundswell rises again

The update.

Forrester Research releases an update today to Groundswell, which continues to serve many marketers as a how-to guide for thinking through social business. Groundswell is now available in paperback and contains two new chapters: “tapping the groundswell with twitter” and “attaining social maturity.”

Josh Bernoff

I was an analyst at Forrester when the book was originally published; since then, I’ve been thinking about social business from a different point of view. A few years have passed and we’ve all seen the “social” industry evolve, so to find out more about the updates, I asked Groundswell co-author, mentor, and former colleague Josh Bernoff some questions about the updates.

Q: Business books run the risk of becoming outdated before they get from concept to print. Yet Groundswell has retained its relevance after three years in print. Why?

Charlene and I worried a lot about the longevity of the book when we were writing it. As a result, we concentrated on the themes a lot more – like focusing on objectives, and starting with relationships – and not so much on the specific technology details which change so quickly. (This is how any good marketer ought to think, anyway.) This is one reason Groundswell is still relevant three years later while a book on, say, MySpace, seems very dated. The other reason is we concentrated on stories about consumers and businesspeople, and stories don’t become obsolete the way technology advice does.

Q: What is the best story you’ve heard of Groundswell’s impact on a company or business professional?

I am still hearing, years later, about people who had this “aha!” moment on reading the book and finally got some traction with their management to start developing social applications. I knew we had a hit on our hands when I ran my first workshop with a major financial services company and saw how, with a little encouragement and a framework, they did so well at coming up with imaginative applications. But my favorite is still probably AFLAC, because the CIO Gerald Shields brought us in, we ran a workshop, and they came up with ideas like a independent sales rep community and a community for payroll administrators. What I loved about that engagement was, they brought us in again several months later and pitched me with their ideas – and I’d seen how well they had developed them.

I have to give honorable mention to the work with did with Wal-Mart, because I got to see the most senior executives from the world’s biggest company (including a table full of lawyers) grapple with the ideas.

The paperback edition of Groundswell is available today, with two new chapters on Twitter strategy and “social maturity.” How did you select these two topics for greater exploration?

It was easy. These were the two types of questions we got most frequently. Twitter was brand new when Groundswell came out, so we didn’t talk about it much beyond predicting that it would be successful (got that right!). And the question of how companies develop as they approach social became a lot more visible as we got further into the corporate embrace of social applications. This happened just as my colleague Sean Corcoran wrote a great report on the topic, so I adapted that for the Social Maturity chapter.

Regarding Twitter.

The new chapter on “tapping the groundswell with twitter” provides a straightforward outline on how to use the service and great advice in line with Twitter’s own recommendations for business. The opportunity is obvious when you see the statistics: Twitter users are highly active and influential.

The Social Technographics Profile of tweeters


Among the best practice examples Bernoff provides, three stand out to me based on challenges I see my clients facing today:

  • AT&T: using Twitter in a regulated industry as a very large (266,590 employees) organization
  • McDonalds: solving for corporate vs. local engagement
  • TurboTax: dealing with highly time-intensive issues. (Dachis Group helped establish this program; for more details, read this case study.)

My questions for Josh regarding new new Twitter chapter:

You mention ways that Twitter can be used for Groundswell objectives – listening, talking, energizing, supporting, and embracing. All of these are useful to companies, but they don’t make Twitter any money. How does use of Twitter’s advertising options (promoted tweets, accounts, and trends) fit in to the framework, if at all?

I find it interesting that a successful Twitter ad has to be inherently shareable, so Twitter advertising strategy ends up as an extension of Twitter marketing strategy in general. It’s part of the intersection between advertising and social, which works best when the advertising is something people want to share (like the Evian Babies video).

In 140 characters or less, can you explain the value of tapping the Groundswell with Twitter? (and perhaps why Twitter wasn’t Facebook or FourSquare instead?)

People use Twitter for everything, because it’s so lightweight. They want to talk to you. Listen! Respond! (It’s easier than Facebook.)


Tomorrow, I’ll focus on the new social maturity framework and what’s after Groundswell.