Category Archives: Client questions answered

GDPR, the best thing since spliced breadcrumb trails

Every site is ‘thanking us for our data choices’ but are we really taking the time to understand what our choices are? We all have a data footprint but to what extent we may not be entirely aware.

Since the beginning of the transactional web these footprints have been collected, stored, connected and maybe now and again actually used. I say now and again, because most businesses I come across haven’t really worked out the value of data to inform anything beyond their CRM program. It’s often left to one side when it comes to shaping a business model, design approach or even NPD. More often, instead the point of view comes from inside the boardroom or with an eye to the competition and what they’re doing.

But that time has passed, relevance centred businesses are servicing an ‘Age of You’ – the internet era that goes beyond eco-systems and leverages insight to inform purchase journeys and their wider experiences around a users actual needs and desires.

In this web 4.0 world where the IoT is starting to pivot around the individual not the brand, GDPR has come into force in order to harmonise data laws whilst protecting consumers who don’t quite know what the data cost of all this connectivity is. And it’s putting emphasis on businesses to be held more accountable. HOORAY.

The age of ‘my data, my internet’ is on the horizon and the exponential rate that technology will advance this far outpaces nearly every legacy data lakes in place today. So what to do? Now that is a question I’m getting asked in an equally exponentially increasing rate.

I have some simple starting questions that have helped me shape some of the data strategies I’ve been working on with clients embracing GDPR as a chance to positively shake themselves up (Chapeaux). These are just starting points and they will open up more questions but I have found if you keep coming back to them every time you disappear down rabbit hole, they help.

First things first, there are three main types of data:

1st party; the stuff you collect directly and that you ask for the permissions to own

2nd party; essentially someone else’s 1st that they share with you (normally advertisers and publishers)

3rd party; the kind of stuff you can buy from anywhere and is generally diluted and generalised (i.e. not very useful to anyone so I’m not going to cover this)

Your starting point is likely to be a ton of archaic stuff that’s been collected for years, decades even, and not really modernised. Or if it has been modernised it will have been done so through a brand or business lens therefore adding to it’s linearity.

You don’t need to chuck it all out though, where there is data there is insight you just need to know how to mine for it, so my first question: What can this existing pile of data tell you?

There will be many assumptions, heed caution. If you don’t believe the assumptions (and trust your gut on this one) get a data wizard (some call them scientists) to mine it for you. They will be able to develop a question set with you then deploy speedy algorithms and methodologies to offer up a different set of useful insights.

Once you know what your data knows, you’ll have some gaps against your objectives which leads to the next bit…

It’s likely you’re working for or with a brand or business who think they need to own all the data. You don’t. In fact it’s quite greedy to assume you should. I’m not saying a big bank of addresses is all redundant (do not underestimate the power of email) BUT 2nd party data can be a super useful shortcut to getting to know the answers to the gaps that the data you already have doesn’t give you right now.

Google for example, know quite a bit about most audiences you are likely to be trying to reach and engage. “Google conquered the advertising world with nothing more than applied mathematics. It didn’t pretend to know anything about the culture and conventions of advertising — it just assumed that better data, with better analytical tools, would win the day.”

And Google was right.

I didn’t say that by the way, Wired’s Chris Anderson did a little while back. I totally agree – as does most of the internet.

So, question number two: Who are your trusted 2nd party data partners?

Your lead agencies should have a good view on this, but you will too. Within your organisation you will have worked with media and publishing partners on initiatives and activations, plus a whole host of other partnerships will have proved useful along the way. Look at what’s worked and bring them into the fold then widen your horizons to the likes of Google. Once you a clear view you can work out how you’ll use each one to plug your 1st party gaps. Make two tidy lists; one for 1st party and one for 2nd party, then put them to one side for now.

The next bit is more tricky, and that’s working out a data roadmap to get you over your immediate hurdles and propel you into a consumer centric model so you can effectively operate in the ‘Age of You’. So, question number three: How are you going to map and further extend your two data sets to give you the answers you need, now and for tomorrow?

Using data to; inform the creative process, brand storytelling or simply just for personalised targeting and messaging requires using data to generate a contextual, or even better, an emotional connection. But there is a line, and this is where GDPR is reinforcing the interests of consumers. Balancing the digital data economy, with commercial opportunities and consumer rights is a minefield unless you truly start thinking consumer first. Your data map should flip every question you’ve asked yourself as a business or brand thus far to be just this, so instead of ‘data will help us do X and Y’ instead ask yourself ‘by knowing this piece of information about our consumer we can help them do X and Y’.

Once you’ve built out your consumer maps based on what (1st and 2nd party data points) you need to know in order to deliver on their needs and desires, you’ll be in a good place to start mapping your own goals to them, but another watch out – never reverse them or you’ll be right back to where you started in no time.

The GDPR applies to all businesses that are established in the EU, regardless of whether the data processing takes place in the EU or not. And if you think you have a loop hole, even non-EU established businesses will be subject to GDPR if your business speaks to consumers in the EU. You can’t stick your head in the sand over this one and the world isn’t go to wait for you to figure it out, so best to get cracking.

Bottom line? You need to know what your data knows, work out what you don’t understand and shift to a consumer first approach.

GDPR data post

Image found on Google courtesy of gigaom – thank you

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3 Steps to adopting AI

I’ve being asked for my view on AI a lot this year, more so than last. It would appear the industry has caught up with the ‘hype’ being a reality.

I’m not getting the slightly twitchy ’Is it going to steal my job?’ anymore though, now the questions are; Is this something I need to be bothered about?, Can I afford it?, Where do I start?

All good questions. If you’re a brand or business looking to get ahead, simply keep up, or maybe even catch up, you can’t afford not to be thinking about this and getting a beta into place. If you don’t your competition will, and then you will be sat watching them eat your share of market or voice, or both. Either way, I can’t imagine that’s something you’re keen to see happen.

Roughly a third of the brands I work across either have a version of an AI (artificial Intelligence) ready IA (Intelligent Assistant) or have jumped straight into an AI trial or beta. Every single one of them has seen positive results. Every single one of them is now developing a roadmap with us to put in place milestones to be better, faster and more informed on a real time basis.

The shape of these solutions vary from bettering service response levels to informing fashion design and everything in-between. But the steps to get there are the same, and here they are;

Work out what the problem is you want to solve

Ok, obvious right? But actually I highlight this because I recommend you don’t ‘do a chatbot’ because your competitor did.

Is there a challenge that advertising or marketing isn’t fixing for you right now? Do you have a human centered design idea that you can’t quite get to grips with? Do you have micro communities you don’t understand or can’t reach in meaningful ways?

All of these are problems AI can help you with, quickly and effectively. So consider where you might want to turbo charge a solution and put a brief together around that.  Be clear about your brief as well, if you’re vague about what you want to achieve it’s tricky to train an AI to think comprehensively, it in turn will be vague.

Review and understand ALL of your relevant data

AI is only ever as good as the data you feed it; the more data you have, the more connections can be compiled and the faster it will evaluate and learn. It’s not magic, it’s algorithm on speed. 

Define the goals you want to achieve in order to reach the objective in your brief, or work with an AI data partner to do this (most good agencies should have someone who can help you get started and then find the right partner for you, the answer isn’t always ‘Watson’ btw). You will likely have a mass of data you understand and a bank of data you’ve never really thought about, once you have it all in one place you need to work out where the gaps are and fill them in.

This up front bit seems tedious, that’s because it is. But don’t cut corners as you’ll only pay for it further down the line. The better the data set, the more robust your AI solution will be and the quicker you will see results.

Choose your AI partner

What you want your AI to do will depend on what supplier or partner you choose. There are many solutions already available at both scale up and enterprise level to choose from. They offer everything from; language skills, analytics, tech stacks that speed up services, listening, finding ‘moments of serendipity’ through to predictive analytics and forecasting.

A read of IBM Watson and AWS are good places to start if you want to dig more into what’s on offer, but also check out the likes of DigitalGenius and DeepMind for something smaller or a bit more creative.

Of course you may be looking to create something truly bespoke in which case you may have to hire a bunch of experts to create your algorithm from scratch, or seek a start up willing to work with you and co-create. There are an abundance of really cool start ups just about to break on to the scene so this is a truly valid and cost effective approach, don’t rule it out.

That’s it. From here, you should be in safe hands. You know what you want, you have the data in play to get it and a partner who knows what to do with the data to get what you want.

My parting piece of advice is to remember that AI / ML (Machine Learning) are solutions that learn and develop, think of it as a child going from kindergarten to PHD level but in weeks rather than years. There may be a few mistakes along the way but be patient and think big, because with direction and correction the results are nothing short of impressive.

And it’s not just customer service stuff either…

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Marchesa and Watson’s cognitive dress – read more here

P.S. Here’s a mini wiki;

IA; Generally speaking an Intelligent Assistant is a pre-structured agent used to deliver automated responses but does not include self correction or ‘learning’, therefore is not always classed as AI. It’s often the step before AI and used to validate the quality of data. That said some do include NLP (Natural Language Processing) and are connected to the IoT (Internet of Things) so the line is often blurred.

NLP; Natural language Processing is a computer science that uses AI and handles human speech between computers and humans.

AI; Artificial Intelligence is an intelligent or cognitive behavior exhibited by machines, sometimes also referred to as problem solving or learning.

ML; Machine Learning is a sub-field of AI that includes programming computers to deepen the learning process.

P.P.S. If you find AI interesting generally you might want to check out my other blog, co-written with @kayperbeats – it’s a bit more off the wall but it’s insightful none-the-less.

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New ads on the block

Though the penetration of ad-blockers has slowed since the initial surge it’s by no means showing signs of stopping and certainly not of declining.

Ad-blocking has firmly established a threatening presence as the reckoning force that threatens the ongoing revenue streams for content creators and advertisers. In 2015 they ensured a global loss of £14.1bn in ad revenue and that figure is predicted to double in 2016.

I blogged about Native ads in March which are becoming stronger and more relevant in the main, but what I’m really liking is the determination across the creative industry to rise to the challenge and simply create better ads. Because why not?

Last year D&AD created ‘Ad Filter’, an extension that works across Chrome and Firefox replacing crappy boring ads with engaging brilliant ones. Olivier Apers, executive creative director of design agency BETC Paris, which collaborated on the filter said ‘We wanted to demonstrate that people don’t hate advertising, they just hate bad advertising,’ – so true. 

Good advertising is about integrating with what our audiences are doing, that isn’t going to change, perhaps the introduction of this will remind bad advertisers to stop blanket broadcasting.

If the industry as a collective can lift the bar on creative then we’ll earn the upwards curve on trust back, meaning advertisers will protect their income and users will stop inadvertently putting their favorite sites out of business.

Time to roll our sleeves up. 

Bicep Appreciation

Image shamelessly lifted from the Marines Bicep Appreciation Pinterest Page

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Does your Ad Add?

Because if it doesn’t, then it’s just pollution.

Brands broadcasting their message online; from TV ads whacked on YouTube to tiny irritating banner messages (that are frankly a bit like an annoying buzzy mosquito), have been the advertising stance for too long.

Before you ask, yes, I hate banners. (Oh c’mon, when did you last click on one??).

Give me a brand genuinely willing to listen to their consumer, rather than trying to out shout their competition in a vanity exercise, any day of the year.

It’s refreshing when you finally get to ‘engage’ with someone in their moment of need online and help address that ‘Oh Crap, I just need to cook something quick, scrummy, yet healthy for the kids’ moment, or the ‘Bugger, my skin is rivalling a prune this morning’ moment… or the ‘What the hell is twerking??’ moment (yep, I’m in Google’s annual report for this one).

Taking that first step to move beyond an arbitrary KPI that doesn’t prove a thing, to owning a moment that lasts beyond the search result is the single bravest decision any brand can make.

So as a brand, are you ready? Not sure? Then simply ask yourself; as an individual, if you were a brand, what would you want people to say about you if you weren’t around to broadcast yourself?

The power of impression influences the conversation. Conversation is a two way thing. Oh, and it often happens ‘offline’.

Add, don’t Ad.

Think consumer first.

A Cool Add

This is a cool Add

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What’s after WhatsApp

Now that Facebook has zucked up WhatsApp into their empire, many users of the service are looking to an alternative, it’s a question that came up again today in a meeting with a client so here’s a quick overview of some other cool services that can give you just as much, if not more;

1. Viber: Currently in use in 193 countries (so pretty much worldwide), this is similar to WhatsApp to adopt as it uses your mobile numbers to identify who from your contact list is a user. Once connected via the App you instantly message and away you go, plus you can also call your users so long as you’re connected to the Internet. In addition there are fun sticker packs and you can send doodles and short voice snippets, great meeting distractions!

2. LINE: Similar again but it registers your number to it’s database, so worth considering if you don’t like that. Otherwise much like Viber too in that if you’re connected you can also make calls to other LINE users and it gives you fun stickers and emoticons. There are over 300m users and it’s fast expanding into Europe with Spain being a top adopting country.

3. Skype: More popular for video calls, this service has been around for a while but let’s not forget that you can still use it simply for messaging too. The only added layer of intricacy is that you need to approve uses before you can start chatting, for me though, that’s a bonus!

4. Kik Messenger: Big at the moment in the US and Canada, and specifically with teens. You need to register with your email address, choose a unique name (much like Skype) but once up and running the app is a super simple messaging service, there are no calling capabilities but it’s growing fast with over 100m users already and funding secured to expand, so it’s one to watch.

5. KAKAO: This app is another up and coming that allows you to either message directly, or within groups, similar to WhatsApp, it’s totally free and despite the common misconception its’ only available in Asia, it is free to the whole world, yippee.

icons 2.001

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The future’s cloudy

I’ve been asked a few times recently what this is, in simple terms, so here goes:

Cloud storage basically lets you create documents and save to a central location which, you can access from all of your devices; laptops, tablets, mobiles etc.

This means you can view or edit your files on the hop, wherever you want without having to sync or transfer explicitly from one device to the other. Your work is effectively floating, like a cloud, waiting to be rinsed for information.

So, if you’re running to a meeting and you’ve picked up your personal mobile, not your work mobile (not that I ever do that of course) it means you can save your graces and find the file regardless.

Phew!

Want to know more? I thought this post was insightful too.

 

 

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What’s the solution to e-privacy?

This is a question my clients are asking me a lot at the moment.

I would imagine that by now you’ve heard about the new EU e-privacy directive which enforces websites to seek consent from visitors before allowing cookies to tag a visit. (If you’re not sure what cookies are or what they do, I recommend you read this article from the iab which tells you everything you need to know. It’s aimed at consumers, but as a business you should understand what your visitors need to know anyway).

The short answer is that it’s not a quick fix, you can’t just turn a few things off and bung in a few extra bits of info.

As a website owner you’ll need to sit down and map out a structured step by step solution that does two things:

Firstly, you need to educate the consumer. Outlined in the directive is the initiative to develop a simple language that can be adopted across multiple sites that communicates to the user what cookies do.

Secondly you need to couple your mapped process with technical solutions that will enable your site to comply with the new rules. This should work without disrupting the user experience too much and without turning your site into a mess.

To do this you need to fully understand what the directive means to you as a company individually. This means a review of your current site architecture in line with an audit of the cookies you have in place at the moment.

Map this against how you should be communicating with users and make sure that at each point where you need to seek positive consent, as a business you clearly provide the relevant information they need to make an informed decision.

Cookies will help you understand a consumer’s online habits and preferences so it’s a key insight. Get this wrong and it could be of massive detriment to the way that the internet is understood in marketing and you will lose that insight.

So : Be clear. Be honest. Be quick – the deadline for implementation will be upon us soon.

 

This is not the kind  of cookie you should be worried about

This is not the kind of cookie you should be worried about

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What makes a good launch strategy?

Products flop all the time, fact.

Ok, maybe a negative start to a blog post but mulling over the recent failure that was Google Wave and deciding the over demonstrated, under communicated approach to launch it didn’t help, I decided to consider what makes a product launch successful.

One of the most common mal-practices is not targeting the right consumers. By not focusing on who you’re trying to engage specifically and aiming at a generic platform you weaken your strategy. So rule number one is (hopefully not surprisingly) understand your core market.

I’m assuming at this stage your product is tailored specifically to your core market and that you have based it upon insights and research from the start (if you haven’t, maybe consider this more before going any further).

So next up, what is the USP for your product? How will buying this product improve your consumers’ life? How can you emotionally connect with your consumer to inspire them to buy this product?

The answers to these questions will form your message; it’s likely you’ve thought of this as you develop the product but, tip number three is really about keeping the message consistent.

Every ad you serve, page you create, email you send, needs to deliver this message. Keep it clear, concise and constant.

So you’ve got that bit nailed, next you need to think about when, where and how you’re going to wow your audience with this amazing unique message. Where are your audience and how can you get the message to them (note I haven’t said how you can get them to the message). Map out your landscape and look at the best touch points to deliver your message.

And remember, once you have launched the product into market, there is no turning back so make sure you get it right or you’ll join the Coors bottled water, Cocaine energy drink and Bic underwear failures pile.

Who? What? I hear you say… my point exactly.

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W3C explained

One of the most common discussions when talking with a client about the delivery of a site or web application is whether or not ‘it’s to standard’ but what does this actually mean?

The W3C or World Wide Web Consortium (3 W’s and a ‘C’ for consortium) is the main international standards organisation for the World Wide Web. The organisation is headed up by none other than Sir Tim Berners-Lee and consists of a number of some 350 odd members who continuously develop the standards for the web.

So what does that mean? Well, by having a regulatory body for web standards it ensures that all developers around the world web use a compliant standard coding style and that means that you won’t get errors which in short (and this is the bit the client will like) that means it will save time and money.

Now if you want to sound extra clever you can explain to Mr Client that validated webpage’s are accessible, browser compatible, error free, fast loading, and properly indexed in the search engines. This is good because your target audience and Google will like you.

If you don’t tick the above boxes by not having validated webpage’s the opposite will happen and no-one will like your site. So that’s what it all means, simple really.

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Know your audience, know your keywords.

Or ‘secret’ words as one particular client of mine likes to call them, but honestly, there’s no black magic or secret formula involved, if you know your audience you should know your keywords.

A Keyword is simply a word that users commonly use when searching on the internet for particular information. If you get into the mindset of your users and understand the keywords they use when searching, then you can increase your keyword density (number of times a keyword is used on your site) to boost your natural rankings within search engines.

This is part of the Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) process which is fundamental to the visibility of your site against competing sites online. By knowing your target audience and optimising for their journey and not yours you will be favoured by the search engines and therefore they will recommend your site above others.

Get the basics right first. Make sure you have correctly identified your target market, understand the language they are using and try where you can to include these keywords in your site. You will of course still have to use the language that you need to sell your product or services so make sure that you don’t lose the relevance to your site along the way. The key is balance.

Get the balance right though and you will generate a higher volume of quality visitors to your site which in turn will help your conversion rates and boost your business.

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