Category Archives: strategy

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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Behaving Badly

As a transformation strategist one of the biggest challenges I come across every week is getting planners and brand managers to shift from thinking like a brand to thinking like their intended audience. Too many briefs I see only have demographic customer profiles, which fall short when you’re planning for a digitally connected world.

To shift from broadcast to joined up storytelling, just knowing characteristics like; gender, age, marital status, geographic location, socio-economic status and so on simply isn’t enough and to make assumptions is lazy and will frankly lower your ROI.

I’m encouraging inclusion of behavioral insights, or customer modeling as it’s also known, into all the briefs and plans we’re creating with clients and here’s why:

1. Nearly every digital marketing touch-point is intended to invoke an action
2. An action is more likely to be taken if encouraged in a relevant way at the right time in a customer journey
3. A customer journey is made up of a customer behaving in a certain way
4. These behaviors are encouraged by a certain mindset at each touch-point
5. These mindsets are triggered by insights both implicit and explicit
6. Understanding what those insights are better enable us to invoke the intended action

Simple really.

Demographic profiling gives you just enough to paint picture of a typical persona in a hypothetical group of people. Behavioral profiling will give you a much higher chance of success because it’s a stronger predictor of what your relationship can be because it’s action orientated.

If you want to know more, I recommend this book; Misbehaving, written by Richard H.Thaler who pretty much invented the field of behavioral economics. It’s insightful and tells a great story. Not surprising when you think about it.

 

the-brain-009

Photograph: Kiyoshi Takahase Segundo/Alamy/Alamy

 

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getting native ads right

There are so many ways websites can generate revenue through ads, personally, like many people I find 99% of them irritating, but as an advertiser I also know the importance they have for businesses selling and buying the spaces. 

With the rise of ad-blockers the focus on making creative work harder and better has never been more prevalent and one of the biggest digital marketing trends continuing this year are custom-made native ads, designed to appear as part of a website’s standard content.

Beyond just the aesthetics, native ads are also created to integrate seamlessly into the functionality of the site, which means they impact the customer journey, particularly if the buyer is taking over a lot of space. This can have a negative effect especially if the branding isn’t clear, which is often the case as they normally contain content relevant to the site rather than an explicit ad message. 

Native ads aren’t necessarily immune to ad blockers, the execution of them varies greatly but fundamentally they are not published as the site’s editorial so the tech is still ad serving. You only have to block ads on Forbes to see this happening, and those native ads are created for Forbes.

So how do you create a good native ad?

First and foremost, think about the behavior you’re targeting on the site through the content you choose rather than the demographic. For example, if it’s an automotive site, create refreshing content relevant to the cars or consideration process of buying a car, not the ‘ABC1’ you might be hoping will see it and be distracted by your set of golf clubs because you’ve assumed as a demographic that’s what he wants to see instead.

Secondly, don’t be deceptive in the customer journey. Native ads are generally accepted more than traditional ads because they are more trusted, this is because of the relevancy not just at first view level but of the journey in totality. Don’t abuse this, keep your click destination as relevant as the core content. 

Finally, keep it considered and polished. Native ads aren’t a home for any old crap, brand metrics show that they are considered to be more premium from discovery through to purchase. Stay true to the above  points and you will see a greater halo effect on your brand without having to be shouty about your brand presence. 

Simple really; know what your audience want to see, make it worth them seeing and follow that thought through to purchase. 

Stick to these principles and avoid the display pondweed caught in the ad blocker net.

Don’t be this guy…Polar-Bear-in-Fishing-Net-MAIN

image found on the daily mail. thank you

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Content meets Commerce

I was presenting to the CEO of a leading global brand a couple of weeks ago, and was once again starkly reminded of just how divided so many businesses are from the advances in today’s (and tomorrow’s) technology.

One moment we were talking about the fact they still don’t have a cross platform infrastructure allowing them to take content to wherever their consumers are, and the next we were talking about closing the gap and speeding ahead with a technology solution based around Artificial Intelligence. A conversation which leaped around the room; rest assured the irony was not lost on me.

Sat at the table were two generations in ages, yet about six in technological terms.

The fact still remains though, that beyond theory and strategy, businesses across the world are still divided by their operational set up; one half mainly serving commerce and the other, marketing to consumers, and it is in this divide that nearly every client I speak to, struggles to truly step ahead. With one team tracking sales and demand, the other tracking website visits and consumer comments, it’s not surprising really.

To succeed as a brand and truly deliver a holistic experience touching every point of the digital journey a consumer goes on, can no longer be about great content on one side, and a commerce platform on the other… brands must provide the glue in the middle.

I believe this ‘glue’ lies within three key initiatives:

  1. Board members steering the middle management teams
  2. The commerce and marketing sides of the business coming together to provide a service that meets in the middle
  3. Content that differentiates and adds value

I also believe the biggest failure of brands being able to do this, stems from a lack of collaborative belief and belief in collaboration.

In other news, these guys produce super cool content… and this is a cool picture.

Cool Content

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Beware the fold

Belief: The page fold is an impenetrable force that blocks the user from moving down the page.

Truth: Less than 3% of users have been unable to reach the content they want easily because of the fold.*

 

The ‘fold’, for those of you wondering what on earth I’m mildly ranting about, is a term that we digital marketers refer to as the bit of the webpage that sits on your screen before you have to scroll.

I have spent years selling solutions to clients that emphasise how critical it is to make sure your key CTA is above the fold, don’t go below the fold NO! Danger zone, make sure you clearly explain to the user that they have to click if they want to move or scroll down… don’t leave it to them to work it out!

Well, you’ll be glad to hear, technology has moved on considerably in the last few years. Phew. Now though, it would seem that we aforementioned digital marketers have done such a good job of explaining the fold to our clients, that we now have the huge task to explain that the fold no longer really matters.

 

Why?

Because; we have stacks of user testing that tells us that they don’t mind scrolling. JGI, you’ll see.

Because; long pages often give us the info we want without clicking through to seven different areas of the site.

Because; eye tracking software tells us that the eye runs in an ‘F’ formation quickly first and then guess what? Yep, down the page.

Because; users are used to keeping a mouse over the scroll bar and, wait for it, they know the size of the scroll bar is indicative to how long the page will be.

Because; actually users want to be encouraged by the fact that content is clustered in ways relevant to them and, finally…

Because; we have so many beautiful and rich ways of displaying content now, that it’s less about getting them straight to the CTA that the business cares about, and more about giving them the information they want in an easily digestible way to enable them to make the right decision.

It’s not about the linear journey anymore; click homepage, see CTA for more info, click through to product overview page, click for more info, click through to product detail page… (you get the idea).

And if you still don’t believe me, look at these guys bold enough to laugh in the face of the fold:

VW: http://beetle.com/ (love this site)

Nike: http://www.nikebetterworld.com/

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/

NY Times Magazine: http://www.nytimes.com

Now go and be scroll free and happy…

This image is from a book by Scott McCloud, I recommend his stuff, check it out here.

*Source: Independent eye tracker survey across a sample of 800 people of varied skill sets. 

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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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How many screens do you have at your fingertips?

We’re all used to watching TV with our laptops out and smart phone to hand yes? We’ve all seen the ads that prompt you to befriend a brand on Facebook. Classic multi-screen marketing; one to grab your attention, one to do the thing it’s asking you to and a third to share the fact you’re doing it.

It’s an advertising tactic that’s steadily grown over the last few years and with consumer figures doubling across Europe in the last year to reach 19 million it’s a theory that’s proving to work.

But the really clever stuff is achieved when brands recognise how people really want to interact with them.

When multiscreen marketing is executed to coherently synchronise across screens simultaneously, you’re closer to achieving what the user wants.

Brands need to design content that actively shifts from one screen to another in line with user engagement. More and more people are interacting now with what is known as an ‘ecosystem of screens’. It’s no longer clever to design digital platforms that only offer the desired service on one, they need to connect, and so we need to design systems that service multiple devices, seamlessly.

Because consumers now increasingly engage with media at different touch points, in different places and on different platforms, multi-screen advertising provides brands with a solution that will allow you to reach your audience wherever they are.

With traditional broadcast being challenged and often neglected by consumers with the power of choice at their fingertips, it’s essential that brands realise this is a strategy for improving reach, frequency and effectiveness.

Go forth and multiply cross screen brands…

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Facebook and the Future

Facebook were in our basement the other night talking about what the future looks like for social. It was a really interesting talk with one subject in particular catching my attention.

More and more we hear about the influence fans of brands have on their friends but, increasingly so it’s more about friends of fans. These guys have for more influence as it’s perceived as unbiased, if, the message gets that far.

As it stands 90% of fan pages on Facebook have fewer than 100 fans. Mainly because the page isn’t backed by media so there’s nothing driving traffic (I’ve certainly had my share of clients who assume that just by sticking a brand page up, the world will ‘like’ them and share the love).

Shock, horror and revelation! This is not so.

Whilst the media buying and planning lot of you out there will know that’s old news, the exciting revelation is that bridging the gap between media spend v social currency seems to be closing, and it’s doing so in the guise of Polling Ads.

You still buy the initial space either on a CPC or CPM basis but the reach they can achieve improves the potential ROI several times over.

Facebook claim that current case studies have shown: 160% uplift in brand recall, 200% uplift in message awareness of the ad and a whopping 400% uplift in purchase intent.

That, coupled with the current predicted reach for potential customers falling in at around more than 500 million and as we all know, still being able to profile your audience by; location, age and interests really leads to a  no brainer.

I have a few clients trying this already and the rewards have been notable for them: extended reach, higher awareness, growing loyalty and a marked improvement of their brands resonating online.

My advice – get all over it!

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Social Commerce

First came the Social Network (thank you Mr Zuckerberg) which, connects over half a billion users. Now the big chiefs of the online world are all competing to be the first to properly monetise these social platforms and evolve them into revenue streams.

Currently there are strong influencing factors online that persuade us to purchase (or not). Take Amazon as an example, long have they recognised the successes in recommending products based on your purchase history, viewing activity and the trends of like minded shoppers. It wasn’t long before this simple model was adapted and adopted by many other commerce platforms and now we’re seeing this evolve to include more personal input; take Google’s search tool launched last year, this pulls through recommendations and reviews from your friends and family around the term you’re searching for. Admittedly it didn’t spread like wild fire but the theory is strong.

If you’re looking to buy a film and Amazon or Google tell you via Facebook that your friends think it’s ace, you’re more likely to buy it right? In fact, according to last years Econsultancy survey 90 per cent of purchases have some level of influence from the social arena.

The bit that seems to have everyone up in arms is the public display of your spending habits. Tools such as Blippy publish your transactions in real time encouraging those in your social circle to view and comment. The question is: Is this an honest and open way of sharing your trends, habits and interests or, is it really just a way of bragging about how you splash your cash? Is it about status or is it about making informed decisions in the impulsive world of online commerce and then seeking the reassurance you’ve made the right choice?

Do you really want people to know you get your knickers from M&S and not Agent Provocateur?

Either way, 2011 is marked to be the year that bucks the Social Commerce trend so, if you’re serious about your business stop waiting in the wings and get yourself a strategy… Fast!

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Video Marketing (VSEO)

Online Video Marketing has vastly become the coolest and most engaging way to effectively expose relevant content to your audience online.

Everyone’s heard of YouTube and we’ve known for a while it’s the second biggest search engine in the world so with video sites continually growing in popularity there can’t be much more  to convince you about, is there?

The main stumbling block for big brands and businesses is ownership. The bottom line is though, you no longer own your brand, your consumers do (I talk about it more in my post on ‘The value of digital to brands today’). So whether you have your own slickly executed high-end film cuts or a D.I.Y example, it’s your first step to engaging and informing your audience further.

So what makes a good video?

The success to any video lies within whether it is unique, funny, engaging and thought-provoking enough for everyone to pass on and therefore make it viral, more commonly known online now as ‘creating buzz’. Sounds simple when I put it like that but in short; make sure your concept is a good one, that it sits with your target audience and is executed in the relevant way; ‘Guerilla marketing’ if you want to coin a phrase from none other than Jay Conrad Levinson.

And once you’ve created an amazing video, where should you put it?

Video advertising can come in an array of formats; In-Video, In-Stream, Click to Play, Around Video and Video Search and there are more and more channels within which you can seed video content, the most popular of which I mentioned above; YouTube. If you’re a brand it’s worth setting up (or asking your agency to set up for you) a customised YouTube channel, this way you’re closer to your audience and have ample opportunities to engage.

So what are you waiting for, get shooting and get seeding!

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