This category contains 20 posts

Instagram: Does It Matter That It Will Make Money on Your Pics?


The new face of evil?

Instagram announced the company will soon begin using your content to sell targeted advertising products to the highest bidder. Does this bother you? Should it matter?

This new policy was announced in the firm’s recently published new Terms of Use, which go into effect on Jan. 16, 2013. The language that most irritates users states: “You agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you.”

This recent announcement has created a virtual firestorm, with bloggers and pundits rising up in unison to trash the company. A recent article on Mashable accused Instagram of “signing your life away,” and even the hacker group Anonymous joined the fray, calling for a general boycott of the service unless the new terms are revised.

I don’t know about you, but I love Instagram. I downloaded the app more than a year ago (the service has been around for just over two years) and use it all the time. If I’m walking around the city and see something interesting, I snap a quick pic and upload it to the service, sharing it with my community. I guess deep down I always thought it would be cool to be a photographer, but never made the time to follow up on it, buy the equipment learn the art behind the art, so to speak.

Prior to the digital revolution, let’s face it, photography looked anything but easy or convenient. I recall friends who were photographers spending hours in darkrooms, not to mention plunking down thousands of dollars on expensive film, chemicals and other equipment. The rise of the camera-enabled smartphone changed all of that. Armed with a smartphone a fraction the size of camera from 20 years ago, any aspiring photographer could take amazingly high-quality pictures. With smartphone adoption rates in the US now more than 50 percent, a whopping total of 119.3 million people are now potentially part of the club.


Player haters?

For many professionals in photo industry, Instagram has been an annoyance from the start. A popular article appearing in the Guardian earlier this year accused the service of debasing photography, suggesting that its bevy of filters are in fact the antithesis of creativity, and make all pictures look more or less the same.  Personally, I thought this criticism was a bit unfair and smacked of professional snobbery. I wasn’t alone. A great article by Chas Edwards that appeared on Ad Age quipped that this predictable rant was what happens when members of a professional community are displeased because amateurs get a chance to compete.

So getting back to Instagram’s new terms, what they reveal is that Instagram is developing a revenue model, nothing more. This shouldn’t be too shocking to most readers. Let’s face it, it was inevitable that Facebook was going to want to monetize on its $1 billion investment at some point. While on one hand, I understand people are annoyed with the abruptness of this change, but on the other I think it’s much ado about nothing.

The evil genius behind the new TOS

The evil genius behind the new TOS

Now I’m sure many users who have been using the service for as long as a couple years probably feel like this is a bait and switch. But, don’t forget that they’ve been using the service for free all this time, while Instagram (and now for Facebook) has plunked down money to pay for developers to write code, servers to host their product, and so on. In order to pay for these costs, the firm needs to develop a revenue model.

So as a business, what is its options? Well, I see three possibilities. The first option is to charge the users for accessing the service. On the face of it, that’s a non-starter. Charging for access is the very antithesis of social media, so no way it’s going to fly. Could you imagine the ensuing firestorm if Instagram had announced a monthly fee for accessing the service? Not in a million years.

Another option would have been to create some kind of image selling service à la iStock Photo or Getty Images. In theory this sounds reasonable, but that would have required developing a an entirely new front-end Web presence to sell the photos, not to mention tons of marketing, lots of time to organize and classify the content, working out how the royalties would work, and so on. In other words, it would have been like starting a new business. After acquiring Instagram for $1 billion, do you think Facebook wants to tool around trying to experiment with a new business for this firm? No way.

The third option is selling targeted advertising, which is frankly a no brainer. Why is that? For starters, the model has already been proven by Facebook, which has made an art form out of monetizing on user generated content and lots of eyeballs. During Q3 2012, Facebook reported $1.3 billion in earnings, up 32 percent from the same period last year. Furthermore, seeing as Facebook is the parent company, it has a prebuilt and tested advertising infrastructure, not to mention trained and effective sales staff, ready to bring the product to market.

The way I see it, this option was a foregone conclusion the moment the ink was dry on the deal with Facebook earlier in the year. It was only a matter of time. So, still unhappy with Instagram’s decision? All I can say is if it bothers you so much, you should have left back in September when the service was officially acquired.

If you have any comments you’d like to share, please let me know in your comments.



The Marketer’s Code of Conduct for Disasters

I live in New York City so, as you can imagine, the past week has been anything but normal. Fortunately, I live in a part of the city that was relatively unaffected by Hurricane Sandy, suffering only some knocked down trees and no cable or Internet for a couple days. Compared to many other in the city and surrounding region who are still facing no heat, a lack of electricity and unsafe drinking water—not to mention unspeakable damage from the storm surge—I feel extremely lucky.

I’m also a big runner. To my disappointment, the City of New York decided to cancel this year’s NYC Marathon. No, I wasn’t going to be running in the race this year—I didn’t run enough local races to qualify automatically and didn’t win the race lottery. But I do know that the race provides nearly half of the New York Road Runner’s annual budget and generates millions of dollars in charitable donations ($30.8 million this year). Plus, for a city still recuperating from the storm, the event would have generated boatloads of business for companies large and small across the city. One study by the consulting firm AECOM estimated this number to be in the neighborhood of $340 million a year.

Although he wanted to let the race go on, Mayor Bloomberg caved in to public pressure and pulled the plug just two days before big day. A major reason for his decision was the large public outcry that took place in the days following the storm. News coverage and the social networks were buzzing about the race, the tone overwhelmingly in favor of canceling it. I even received emails from friends excoriating the mayor and asking me to sign an online petition to cancel it. I checked the poll a couple days ago and saw that more than 15,000 people had already signed it.

On Facebook, I got involved in some conversations and asked some people why they felt the way they did, and did my best to change their minds. I easily debunked the argument that resources that could be used for recovery would somehow be diverted, because NYRR and the sponsors were going to foot the entire bill for the race, including paying for generators and security. I also explained how much money the race generates for charities and businesses in the city, to no avail. I even brought up the amazing role baseball played in the healing process for the city following 9/11 … All I got back was the snarky reply: “That was after 9/11!”

What it came down to for many was the issue of respect. “How can the city run a race when bodies are still being pulled from Staten Island?” one friend wrote me. For many New Yorkers, the thought of us dedicating any resources to something as trivial as a race during such tough times was simply beyond the pale. Now I may not agree with this rationale, but I suppose the people have spoken and the mayor has listened. No race this year.

But the issue of respect made me think about our role as marketers. What effect should tragedies and national disasters have on the way we ply our trade? Following a tragedy, is it safe—or even right—to market at all? Moreover, is there an appropriate waiting period—a specific amount of time we need to let pass—before we can again try to convince people to drink the Kool-Aid, so to speak?

I’m not sure if you saw the coverage, but a handful of firms were absolutely blasted for trying to profit from the storm. In case you missed it, there was a great post on Business Insider titled “The 9 Biggest Brand Fails Exploiting Hurricane Sandy” that gives some great examples. This one by Urban Outfitters is a personal fave: “This storm blows (but free shipping doesn’t)!” How crass can you get, right? People are cowering in their homes in fear and you’re trying to shill your products with an unfunny pun? I’m all for edgy marketing, but give me a break—all the jokers in these examples more than deserved all the bad press they received.

But tasteless ads aside, obviously there’s a right way to do things. So with that being said, I’ve done my best to come up with a Marketers Code of Conduct for use following an event like Hurricane Sandy.

  • Don’t ever try to profit off of the tragedy
  • Go the extra mile to be sensitive regarding people’s feelings
  • Save the jokes for after it’s over
  • Don’t mix commerce with condolences
  • Use your network and marketing skills for good, not to push your products
  • If you decide to help, don’t use it to toot your own horn
  • If you screw up, apologize at once

I think that list is a pretty good place to start. If you have any other ideas or items you’d like to add to the list, please let me know.

Finally, I’m curious to see what others think about Bloomberg’s decision to cancel this year’s NYC Marathon. To get your feedback, I’ve created a LinkedIn poll. Please click on this link to vote today: 


‘SoMoBiDa’ Isn’t a Song: Like It or Not, the Confluence of Social, Mobile and Big Data Is the Future of Marketing

Are you familiar with the word “SoMoBiDa”? SoMoBiDa is an abbreviation for Social, Mobile and Big Data—a combination of the three great trends in today’s marketing world. In a practical sense, what does SoMoBiDa mean for marketers?

Social—it’s become cliché to say it, but social media has changed the way in which brands engage and interact with their customers. On one hand, social media has given marketers an incredible platform for disseminating content to the masses, and at an incredibly low cost. Social has given marketers the ability not only monitor what customers are saying and feeling about the firm and its products (social listening or monitoring), but it’s opened the door to actual two-way conversations with clients (social engagement).

Listening to, responding to and engaging with users on Social is a challenge that marketers will be forced to meet with increasing effectiveness in coming years. Recently, a host of new solutions has sprung up to help with the task. Using a Social CRM tool, for example, marketers can match Social Insight against existing customer and prospect data, creating a powerful marketing tool for acquisition, retention or customer service.

Similarly to campaign management, marketers are already starting to experiment with ways to automate some of their organization’s Social Engagement. In fact, some believe that a large portion of Social Engagements can be automated, and new tools have sprung up to fill the need. When it comes to the tone or content of the social conversation, however, many firms have discovered that Social Media is a double-edged sword where control of the conversation has shifted to the crowd—truly a frightening concept to any marketer! Ultimately, marketers who ignore Social do so at their own peril.

Mobile—if marketing is about sending the right message to the right people at the right place at the right time … Well then mobile is the right place. And marketers need to be there. More than simply a “channel” in the conventional sense, mobile is more like a way of life. This is because the mobile device has become hardwired into the way we go about our lives. How do you feel when you accidentally leave home without your phone, or when your phone dies and you have no way to charge it? Not good, right? Can you sit down for an entire meal without picking up your phone at least once to check your email, see what’s trending on Twitter or find out you’re your finds are doing or saying on Facebook?

Mobile presents marketers with an “always on” touchpoint with customers and prospects, giving marketers potential 24/7 access to them, the ability to monitor what they do and where they are, and so on. Now of course being an “always on” channel is both a blessing and a curse. Because the smartphone is used all day long for a variety of reasons, users are understandably hypersensitive with regard to uninvited or unwanted intrusions.

Big Data—“Yeah, yeah. Enough about Big Data, already,” you’re probably saying. At this point, I think it’s safe to say we’re all familiar with this über-meme on a high level. What it means for marketers, however, is another story. Try asking most marketers what benefit Big Data will have for their organizations and their heads will probably start to spin. The trouble with explaining the benefits of Big Data is that Big Data is the activity of analyzing and deriving insight from the mountains of unstructured data that are accumulating within and across today’s enterprise firm, on servers and in stacks, on PCs, in spreadsheets, on the Web and in the Cloud. Fact is, Big Data can tell us anything, or nothing—you just won’t know until you gotten down into the weeds and done the dirty work.

In a great recent post by Sandro Catanzaro titled “Taming the Wild West: 7 Trends Uncovered With Big Data,” the author identifies seven super-practical and highly impactful insights firms have gleaned with Big Data. Among the discoveries that Catanzaro highlights are a retailer who realizes that consumers browse higher-end lines before purchasing one tier down. Another was a discovery by a credit card company that consumers in urban areas viewing an ad for a new credit card on Tuesday are more likely to sign up on Sunday night. Catanzaro gives us seven real-world examples uncovered using the latest tools. These are just seven examples—the potential list is truly endless.

Beyond a sum of its parts, SoMoBiDa refers to the confluence of these three great forces and the immense power this combination unleashes for marketers. Standing alone, any one of these trends signals a momentous shift in the way we do business. When they’re combined together they can become truly transformative.

Let’s look at an example in which a potential customer walks into a retail location and looks at some merchandise. While doing so, let’s say he or she scans a QR Code above the device and learns more about the product using an in-store app. Because it is the first week of the month, using Big Data the marketer knows that this is when most big-ticket purchases are made, right after payday for most consumers. As a result, a special time-sensitive offer pops up in the in-store app asking the user to share the offer with his/her network. The customer then tweets about the product.

Using a Social CRM tool, the firm is able match the social engagement to the CRM database, which has been beefed with Big Data custom attribution modeling leveraging past purchase info combined demographic and psychographic data to identify this Twitter user as a repeat customer with a high lifetime value, who usually buys online from someone a couple days after an in-store visit. Using location services, the firm is able to discern at which location the customer is shopping. To help close the deal, the in-store sales staff is immediately sent over to assist the prospect, armed with complete customer order history and personal information on a tablet. Pretty awesome, huh?

Now of course this is just one example for one type of business. Nor am I claiming to have all the answers now—it’s way too early in the game and no one does yet. But just think for a moment of the power that marketers will have in their hands if they do SoMoBiDa right and incorporate it into their business model? If you project several years in the future, companies that get it right will be the ones that succeed. Those that don’t … well, they probably won’t be around.

Okay, looks like over my word count limit again and I’m out of space for this post. Got any observations or SoMoBiDa ideas for your company or products? If so, I’d love to hear about them in your comments.

4 Attribution Models in the Age of Big Data

Attribution: Holy Grail

For marketers, attribution is the Holy Grail. For those unfamiliar with the term, attribution means determining what marketing channel or budget was responsible for generating a particular action. Without proper attribution, it’s pretty darn difficult to perform any kind of meaningful ROI calculations on your marketing spend. In fact, I wrote another post about attribution earlier this year or so ago titled “The ‘A’ Word—Learn It, Love It, Live It!,” which pointed out that in today’s marketing world, attribution isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

Now it’s no secret that attribution analysis is rather difficult to perform in an age of proliferating media, multichannel customers and, drum roll … Big Data. Think about it, how do you gauge which marketing channel was responsible for generating a sale when a customer was sent and read an email, received a direct mail piece and visited a microsite, Googled the company name and found the homepage, but clicked on a sponsored link leading to a landing page, went to and Liked a Facebook page, became a follower on Twitter, tweeted about it to his friends … and ultimately made a purchase using an App on an iPhone. Which channel gets credit? Email, direct mail, organic SEO, mobile, social? All of them? None of them? Some of them? It’s enough to make your head spin.

Now enter Big Data. In this column, I’ve written extensively about the challenge to marketers posed by Big Data. I know, it’s the meme du jour … seems like you read about it everywhere you go these days. Basically, Big Data is the massive accumulation of information that’s taking place across organizations as they market and engage with their customers and prospects across an ever-expanding proliferation of channels.

As usual, Big Data is the elephant in the room

As customers and prospects interact with firms across different channels, the data continue to pile up. It’s this deluge of information and how to make sense out of it that is being referred to as Big Data. But, as I’ve written before, Big Data is really the problem—not the solution, per se. The fact that organizations are collecting all of this information is great. It’s what they are doing (or not doing, as you’re about to see) with it that’s most important.

I recently read a study done by the Columbia Business School and the American Marketing Association titled “Marketing ROI in the Era of Big Data.” The study was a survey of 253 corporate marketing decision-makers, director-level and above, at large companies. The results were striking.

They found that 91 percent of senior corporate marketers believe that successful brands use customer data to drive marketing decisions. OK, fair enough … couldn’t agree more. But, among those who are collecting data, a measly 39 percent admit they’re actually unable to turn this information into actionable insight. Pretty surprising, huh?

That’s not all. A whopping 65 percent of marketers admitted that comparing the effectiveness of marketing across different digital media is “a major challenge” for their business. An astounding 57 percent of marketers are not basing their marketing budgets on any ROI analysis whatsoever. And to add insult to injury, 22 percent are using brand awareness as their sole measure to evaluate their marketing spend. That’s right, as their sole measure. A direct marketer by trade, I almost spit out my coffee when I read that last stat.

No ROI is like flying blind

But the shocking thing is based on my experience, I do not find this to be out of the ordinary. In fact, I met with one client recently and was shocked to learn that the client had basically thrown in the towel when it come to defining attribution, and had created hyper-simplistic ROI analysis by using a control customer group to whom the client didn’t market at all, and compared how much this group bought against the rest. Sounds pretty wonky, right? The crazy part is that even the simplistic model is astronomically better than the 57 percent who don’t even bother with ROI in the first place.

So, what are some solutions to the attribution conundrum? Well, there are several popular models that marketers are experimenting with, and each one of course has its plusses and minuses.

1. First-click attribution—credits the channel where a customer first engaged with the firm. On the plus side, this model actually attempts to discern where the customer journey actually began. The downside is that in today’s environment where marketing is often run in silos, it can be challenging to track customer engagement in a multichannel manner.

2. Last-click attribution—credits the channel where the last action took place (i.e., where the conversion occurred). On the plus side, this model is super easy to track. The downside is that it only measures the channel that’s best at generating the sale itself, and completely disregards how the prospect was initially brought into the fold.

3. Equal-weighting attribution—tracks all of the touchpoints where the customer engaged with the firm, and gives them all equal weight in terms of generating the conversion. The advantage of this model is that it takes a holistic view of the customer-vendor relationship. At the same time, this model overlooks the disproportionate role one channel may play over another.

4. Custom-credit attribution—a hybrid model created by the marketer based on its marketing strategy, customer base, and so on. If done right, a custom model can be highly effective, as it’s designed based on facts on the ground. The only downside is, well, you’ve got to create and test it—which is often easier said than done!

Okay, guess I’m out of room for this post, so I’ll end it here. In any event, I’d love to hear about what if any attribution model you’re been using, how it has worked out, and so on. Let me know in your comments.

— Rio

Numbers Don’t Lie: Gen X, Can You Handle the Truth?

If you’re Gen X, that means you were born in the ’70s, grew up in the ’80s and came of age in the ’90s, or something like that. You grew up listening to music like Van Halen, Run DMC, The Smiths and Nirvana. You went to school, and probably began working sometime during the second Clinton Administration, beginning to pay off your student loans. It was an exciting time to enter the labor force, just as the digital revolution was beginning to take hold.

Like many others in my generation, I entered the labor force in the mid-’90s. My first job was with a marketing firm. I was hired by a Baby Boomer, a nice woman named Stephanie about 20 years my senior. Marketing at the time was still pretty old school, but it was there where I was given my first work PC, set up with my first email address, and taught to surf this new thing called the World Wide Web using what was then the state-of-the-art browser called Netscape.

If you’re a Gex Xer, chances are since you’ve been in the workforce, for better or for worse you’ve lived in the shadow of the Baby Boomers. They’re the ones who have hired you, fired you … and most certainly always held the best jobs. The more I think about the marketing world, the more I realize that there’s an important undercurrent here, one that will have a tremendous impact on Gen X, and quite possibly Gen Y, as well.

You see, last time I talked about a transition that’s taking place in the marketing world, as an older generation of brand stewards gives way to a new generation of digital marketers. I explained this trend was set to accelerate in coming years due to the rapidly changing nature of marketing itself, which is becoming more data driven, technology focused and operational in nature. In case you missed it, you can read about this topic in “3 Ways Rank-and-File Marketers Matter to the C-Suite in a Brave New Marketing World.”

In the marketing world (not in tech, but most definitely in the rest of corporate America), most high-level roles are still staffed by Boomers. What I find very interesting is that for the most part, the vast majority of Baby Boomers (with some notable exceptions, of course) are not especially digital people. Many have learned to live and work in the digital world and quite well, but when I see my dad fumble around on his feature phone I most definitely can see a huge gap.

So the transition I mentioned above will essentially be a passing of the baton, as the Boomers recede from the picture and are replaced by the next generation of marketers. Now here’s where it gets really interesting. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, a Baby Boomer is someone who was born between 1946 and 1964. Ranging in age from 48 to 66, Baby Boomers aren’t getting any younger. Generation X spans the years 1965 to 1983, more or less, while Gen Y is from 1985 to 2003. Now let’s take a look at the size of these three generations:

  • Baby Boomers: 79 million
  • Gen X: 41 million
  • Gen Y: 85 million

Slackers no longer?

What this means is that in the marketing world if you’re a Gen Xer, your time to lead is coming. If you look at the numbers above, you can see there will there be a huge leadership void that will need to be filled as the Boomers retire during the next few years … as a small generation replaces a huge one. The economic crisis during the past for years may have postponed their retirement. But any way you slice it, the Baby Boomers will soon begin retiring more or less en masse during the next few years. When they go, they will leave huge leadership vacuum behind.

But that’s not all. In today’s marketing world, playing a leadership role will require both digital and managerial experience. This means that if you’re a Gen Xer with digital marketing and managerial experience, you’re literally going to be worth your weight in gold in coming years as the generational transition accelerates.

Don’t believe me? Just wait and see. And if you’re not ready to rise to the occasion, guess what? There are 85 million hungry and talented digital natives in Gen Y itching to move up ahead and take your place. If anything, they are the most digital generation yet. At this point, they’re still young and have yet to acquire the years of on-the-job experience it takes to succeed in a high-level marketing job. But give them some time and that will certainly change.

So, Gen X, are you up for the job? To quote Jack Nicholson is the classic 1992 movie A Few Good Men, “Can you handle the truth?” If not, Gen Y will be there waiting in the wings, happy to swoop in and take your place.

Any questions or feedback, as usual I’d love to hear it.


3 Ways Rank-and-File Marketers Matter to the C-Suite in a Brave New Marketing World

A couple weeks ago in my post titled “Wanted: Data-Driven, Digital CMOs,” I wrote about the enormous pressure CMOs are finding themselves under as the world digitizes, requiring a new type of leader, one  who understands and feels comfortable in the digital space. The result of this changing dynamic has been a dramatic shortening of your average CMO’s tenure.

I’m not the first to observe this trend—it’s been covered in many places over the past few months, including this great article from Fast Company. In response to this post, however, many colleagues have asked me “What does this mean for the rank-and-file marketer?” I thought this was an excellent question; one I’ve not seen discussed elsewhere.

What does it mean for HIM?

By any standard, it’s certainly not an easy time to be a marketer. Over the past decade, nearly everything we know has changed, as new technologies have arrived in a dizzying fashion, upending the established order. The result for most firms has ranged from confusion to clarity, from paralysis to paroxysm—very frequently all at the same time! Working in an environment like this is definitely no picnic, as firms flail around like a hurt animal trying to figure out what to do, reducing head count, hiring, outsourcing, in-sourcing, you name it.

It may not be an easy time to be a marketer, but I think it’s a good time. The reason why is that marketing has evolved in four very important ways:

1. Marketing has become data driven—in the digital age, information is power. Contemporary marketing requires learning about who your customers are, what they look like, what attributes and affinities they share, and so on. Success means becoming fluent in the new language of the digital age—understanding what terms like “impressions,” “clicks,” “likes” and “followers” mean. But that’s not all: Success requires a deep understanding of and familiarity with campaign analytics, what they mean and signify, and how to interpret and improve upon them.

Dave, I’m afraid I can’t let you do that.

2. Marketing is technology-focused—it’s no secret that a large portion of marketers’ budgets are now being allocated to digital. Anyone who’s worked in the digital marketing arena knows that success in the space means understanding the new technology ecosystem. The other major technology trend is the fragmentation of the IT infrastructure as the SaaS/Cloud model gains traction. In this new service model, it’s marketing that’s mostly responsible for buying, using and maintaining these new tools.

3. Marketing is highly operational in nature—unlike the brand strategists of yesteryear, today’s marketing department is almost entirely focused on operations, with a heavy emphasis being placed on creating, testing and launching, tracking and optimizing numerous marketing campaigns across various channels using different tools.

In this new environment, the DNA of the rank-and-file marketer has changed radically, morphing from that of a brand steward into, well, something else entirely. Any way you look at it, today’s marketers are highly trained and qualified specialists, possessing a wide range of skills and knowledge, which can take months, if not years, to master.

Moreover, success in any given marketing role requires a deep understanding of various marketing program details, familiarity with firm’s marketing technology, systems and tools, not to mention the prevailing corporate culture. All in all, it’s a tall order.

Over the years, I’ve consulted with dozens of large firms, and I can tell you firsthand that most marketing leadership stakeholders are not digital people. In other words, the only people in the firm who really “get” what the firm’s marketing department is actually doing are the marketers themselves. Interesting, huh?

Raise the roof! It’s a great time to be a marketer.

So what does this all mean? Well, in coming years I foresee a shift in the balance of power as the old generation of marketers gives way to a new generation of younger digital specialists. Now, of course, one generation passing the mantle to the next is the natural order of things. But, based on what’s going on, I see this trend accelerating dramatically in coming months and years, as those who don’t get it are replaced by those who do.

If you’re a marketer, all if this is undoubtedly good news, meaning you’re not only much more important than you think, but your trip up the proverbial corporate ladder is that much shorter. So go forth, young man (or woman), it’s a brave new world!

Any questions or feedback? As usual, I’d love to hear it.


#NBCFail: What Happens When an Industry Faces Digital Disruption

Like most Americans, I’ve spent a lot of time watching the Olympics over the past couple weeks. Probably way more than I should. To be totally honest, I haven’t been the biggest fan of NBC’s coverage, and on this I’m definitely not alone. Look, for example, at the #NBCFail Twitter campaign that erupted online over the past couple weeks. Led mostly by bloggers and new media pundits, the campaign has relentlessly lambasted NBC for its poor coverage.

A major criticism by the #NBCFail folks has centered on topics ranging from showing only American competitors, to endless and annoying human interest stories, from snarky banter with condescending hosts, to strangely jingoistic flag-waving commentary. I must say I agree that it’s generally been an unpleasant experience. But beyond poor coverage itself, NBC has also been taking a ton of flack for its new media ‘strategy’ – if you can call it that – that includes no live streaming content on the Web. They have an App with some live coverage, but it’s only available to those with an active paid cable subscription that includes NBC already.

Now of course many in the industry have rushed to NBC’s defense. In his recent article in Ad Age ‘The Truth About #NBCFail,’ Simon Dumenco states quite correctly that “NBC is not a charity.” He then goes on to explain that NBC paid about $1.2 billion for the rights to broadcast the games. That’s a lot of greenbacks. Dumenco’s point is that because NBC is not listed as a 501c3 (non-profit) organization, it has every right to run in the Olympics in a manner it sees fit in order to recoup and hopefully make a profit on its hefty investment. Fair enough.

While on one hand I tend to agree with some of the points made by Dumenco and other critics of #NBCFail, on the other I really do feel that NBC has completely bungled its new media strategy. Like it or not, NBC must accept the fact that their monopoly on broadcast content has been disrupted by the emergence of new technologies, most notably the Internet and the DVR. Instead of creating a business model that leverages and monetizes on this new reality, they’ve instead tried to ram an old business model down the throats of consumers across the US, essentially missing the forest for the trees. As a result, they’ve pissed off millions of people, devaluing their brand in the process.

This is eerily reminiscent of what happened to the recording industry a little over a decade ago. Remember Tower Records? Sam Goody? Virgin Megastores? All gone. And I could continue and list off dozens. Well, guess what happened? The world changed and the recording industry lost its monopoly on distribution of its primary product. What was their master plan? Suing Napster. And all that accomplished was putting off the inevitable by a couple years at most. Today, all the old players are gone and iTunes is the world’s largest retailer of music worldwide, and has been since 2009. The craziest part is that it was only launched by Apple in 2001. It happened so fast.

Well, why was Apple, a company with no experience selling music, able to swoop in and within a few years totally dominate a legacy industry, displacing existing firms? Two words: Disruption and Innovation. Disruption caused by the emergence of new technology – namely, the Internet as a means of Distribution – enabling firms with the best new ideas to unleash Innovation on an industry ripe for transformation.

NBC’s Motto?

NBC and the other legacy broadcast networks are now facing similar dilemma. With the emergence of the Internet as a viable distribution channel for broadcast media, their monopoly is over. Don’t like NBC’s coverage? Well, all you need to do is locate a proxy and you can watch awesome uninterrupted streaming coverage on BBC, or China’s national network CCTV, among many others. And if this ignominy weren’t enough, Digital Video Recording (DVR) boxes in most homes mean that almost no one is watching commercials anymore. Sure, NBC can crow about its impressive ratings while it blacks out live coverage and force millions of people to watch their broadcast in primetime. But how many of these people are tape delaying coverage by an hour and skipping the ads? Way more than they want the advertisers to think.

What this all means is that the landscape has radically changed for the networks, though they don’t seem to realize it. How long is it before most advertisers conclude that the 30-second commercial is functionally obsolete? My guess is it can’t be too long. And when they do, guess what will happen? No more 30-second ads. That will mean a HUGE revenue stream dries up for the networks as the advertisers pull their campaigns en masse. In my estimation, because the networks seem completely unprepared this shock will be even more devastating than the loss of classified ad revenues was for newspapers.

The only solution for networks, of course, is instead of fighting change and pissing off your customers with inane blackouts and insulting restrictions that don’t work, to be the harbinger of transformation and change instead of the victim. Can they do it? It’s certainly possible. Take, for example, this past year’s absolutely brilliant Final 4 strategy by CBS/NCAA. While the tournament was broadcast on regular TV by CBS without blackouts of restrictions, there was also an amazing App you could buy that offered uninterrupted access to all the games. Sure the App needed to be purchased – but the user experience was so awesome I sure didn’t mind ponying up a few bucks to install it on my iPad.

Experience after experience has shown in an effort to prevent cannibalization of their existing business model, legacy firms miss the forest for the trees and fail to innovate in time, allowing new competitors to swoop in and change the rules of the game for them. By that time, of course, it’s way too late and they’re toast. Ask Kodak about digital photography. Bet they now wish they had started the transformation to digital a few years earlier, don’t they? Or ask Borders about eBooks? I could go on and on…

So, do you think the networks will figure it out? Let me know in your comments.

– Rio

6 Steps to Building the Perfect Landing Page

Today I’ve decided to go back to basics. And in the world of direct response marketing, nothing is more basic than the landing page. Having worked in the industry for many years, I can tell you from firsthand knowledge that no campaign can succeed without a landing page that converts. This is an indisputable fact. Try launching an email or direct mail campaign with a kick-ass creative that sends people back to the homepage of your wesbsite and see what happens. Inevitably, almost all of your hard-fought leads will evaporate into cyberspace, lost forever, destroying any chance of achieving ROI.

Don’t believe me? Want to know how big of a difference a kick-ass landing page makes? Huge. Think about it like this. I’ve seen top-performing landing pages convert upwards of 10 percent to 20 percent of visitors into leads or sales. By contrast, a generic Contact Us page on a plain-vanilla website will typically convert anywhere from 1 percent to 3 percent. I’ll save you the time by doing the math for you: This means you’ll covert anywhere from three to 20 times more visitors. Do those numbers turn your head? If so, read on for some tips on how to build a landing page that kicks butt.

  1. NOT the band.

    KISS, or Keep It Simple Stupid—Generally, when it comes to landing pages less is more. Essentially, keeping visitors focused on the key message is the name of the game. This means eliminating all extraneous details not directly related to the campaign at hand. Links to other pages? Delete them. Fancy and distracting design. Change it. Lots of extra content about your firm? Gone.

  2. Headline—When visitors arrive on your landing page, you’ve got at most 15 seconds (and probably a lot less) to grab their attention. And nothing grabs someone’s attention better than a catchy and hard-hitting headline. According to Jeff Ginsberg (@mktgexperiments), landing page headlines should “emphasize what the customer gets rather than does and be customer-focused.” Couldn’t agree more. If you’re new to the headline game, don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Check out successful campaigns and see what they used. Get a sense of what other marketers are doing, and remember that imitation is sometimes the sincerest form of flattery.
  3. Get them moving!

    Call-to-action—If you spent your hard-earned marketing bucks to drive someone to your landing page in the first place, bet your bottom dollar it’s because you want them to do something—express interest in your products or services by filling out a Web form, buy your product by whipping out a credit card and clicking submit on a shopping cart, etc.  With that in mind, make sure your landing page contains a clear, concise and effective call-to-action that encourages the prospect to follow through and close the loop.

  4. Form—Unless you’re running a branding campaign—in which case you wouldn’t even need a landing page, right?—at the end of the user-engagement process you want to visitor to fill out some sort of Web form. Call it what you will—lead form, shopping cart and so on—but the act of filling out or not filling out this one vital page element is what will ultimately be used as a Key (if not the Key) Performance Indicator (KPI) that determines how well your campaign performed. When it comes to Web forms, the shorter the better. Fact is, nothing turns off or scares away Web visitors more than a long and imposing Web form. So make it short, sweet and to the point. Oh, and if possible, using technology such as Personalized URLs (PURLs) that pre-fills as many of the form fields as possible. Remember, the less there is to do, the greater the chance it gets filled out in the first place.
  5. Let them know you mean business

    Advertise security—Nobody likes to submit information on a website they don’t trust. In other words, flaunt your security credentials. If your page is secure and encrypted (SSL), make sure the security certificate is displayed prominently on the landing page. And if there are other security features your firm follows, darn right you should display them, too.

  6. Build credibility—Similarly to the last point, prospects fill out forms on landing pages because they trust the vendor. This means that it’s your job to tell your brand’s story in a clear, concise and compelling manner. The trick to this point is that because we’re talking about a landing page, you don’t have too much real estate in which to tell your story. In other words, talk about what make your firms and its products unique, but don’t waste too much space or verbiage doing so. If you want to tell a customer testimonial or testimonials, make them short and to the point.

Okay, I guess those are my best tips for landing pages. So go out and build some good ones. Trust me, you won’t regret it.


You’ve probably heard of CRM, right? CRM is old hat. An acronym standing for Customer Relationship Management, the goal of any CRM program is to manage a company’s interactions with prospects and customers, while reducing the costs and building customer lifetime value.

CEM: you’re going to like this sister.

Now how about CRM’s twin sister, CEM? Probably not. Unknown to many, CEM is an acronym that stands for Customer Experience Management. As a side note, Customer Experience is sometimes also referred to as CX. Now if you’re a marketer, regardless of what you decide to call it, Customer Experience Management is a discipline you need to get acquainted with.

In general, CRM programs tend place a heavy emphasis on marketing and communications. After all, establishing touchpoints with customers or potential customers at crucial points in the customer journey is incredibly important to achieve desired behavioral outcomes. Fair enough.

In many ways, CRM programs tend to be one-dimensional in nature, focusing on how the firm makes decisions as regards place, product, price and promotion, with little emphasis on customer needs or desires. It shouldn’t be too surprising then to learn that many CRM programs fail because they use an approach that—while brilliant on paper—is misaligned to actual customer wants, needs or expectations.

These are your customers. Now, get to know them!

This is where CEM steps in. You see, it turns out that to succeed in today’s challenging multichannel and mobile/social environment, firms need to expand their scope of their CRM initiatives to create a program that aims to focus like a laser on customer needs, both rational and emotional, and drive toward expected outcomes and KPIs.

At a baseline, the goal of any CEM program is ostensibly to move customers from satisfied to loyal and then from loyal to advocate by taking a holistic view of the totality of their experiences—regardless of place, time or channel.

This is important because, let’s face it, at the end of the day customer perception is built through interactions across multiple events—most usually through multiple channels. As such, successful CEM programs all feature the capability to manage and track engagement where they actually take place—on the Web, on a mobile device, when a customer speaks with a customer service rep or deals with an automated switchboard on an IVR. It all adds up.

Depending on the type of business, customer engagement channels might include contact the Web (main website), mobile (mobile website or app), brick-and-mortar stores and call centers, while touchpoints may include phone (call center, IVR or in-house customer service team), Social Media, email, self-service Website (traditional or mobile) or in-person. Lifecycle engagement includes ordering, fulfillment, billing and support.

But that’s not all—CEM programs also take into account when engagements take place in relation to the customer’s (or buyer’s) journey. An initial conversation between a sales rep and a new customer would be tracked and discerned, for example, from an inquiry on the Web. And this has real-world repercussions. A customer service inquiry by a high-value customer, for example, would be handled differently than in initial inquiry by a prospect on a Web form.

The Customer Engagement Management ecosystem

As is the case with most disciplines, CEM programs have evolved over time. This is a good thing. If you look at the chart, you’ll observe that I’ve broken down CEM into its three dimensions: Engagement Channels, Engagement Touchpoints and Engagement Lifecycle.

You’ll notice that I’ve bolded four of them in red. I’ve done so because these are recent additions to the CEM value system.

Okay, I know I could go on more, but I’m running out of room for this post. Got any questions or feedback? Please let me know in your comments.


– Rio

Marketing: It’s the New IT

Spring is in the air…

Spring is here and change is in the air for marketers in the way they consume technology. Big change. Not incremental or run-of-the-mill change. We’re talking a paradigm-busting tectonic shift that’s going to change the way that companies are structured. And when the dust settles, things will never be the same again, for Marketing or IT.

What do I mean? What I mean is we’re on the ground floor of a transformational process in which marketing replaces IT as the stewards of the Marketing Technology Infrastructure. At the end of this process, marketing will own and manage vast majority of IT’s responsibilities, as they relate to marketing functions. This is going to happen—sooner than you might think—as a result of several parallel trends that are already underfoot in the business world.

  • Emergence of robust and easy-to-use SaaS marketing technologies—the proliferation of tools like Constant Contact, Eloqua, SalesForce and Marketo give marketers access to incredibly powerful plug-and-play solutions that can be used with virtually no internal IT support. Because they’re delivered using the SaaS model, all updates and tech support are managed by the vendor. Talk about a marketer’s dream …
  • Development of secure and dependable cloud storage and computing infrastructure—as little as five years ago, companies could never have imagined moving their precious data outside the organization’s firewall. Oh, how times have changed! Numerous security breaches combined with improved cloud technology and falling prices for storage have turned the tables on this argument. Why go through the cost and hassle of maintaining your own databases if you don’t need to? For many companies, this is already a rhetorical question.
  • Standardization of Web-service-based API architecture—Now that API technology has grown up, so to speak, we have a universally agreed-upon language (XML) and set of standards (SOAP/REST) developers can use to tie disparate systems together. Building on point No. 1, APIs are a quick and effective way to pass information back and forth between various platforms. What’s more, a new generation of developers has grown up that’s fluent in this ecosystem, and companies are taking advantage by staffing up big time. Within the next couple years, you’ll never again hear, “We don’t have an API developer on staff.”
  • Validation of the “Platform” model for development—why build a platform when you can use someone else’s? What’s more, why try to build a better mousetrap yourself when you can leverage a network of thousands or tens of thousands of developers who are willing to give it stab? This is the power and promise of the platform model. Over the next few years, the marketing space will be increasingly dominated by large platforms who create ecosystems their clients can tap into for cutting-edge capabilities, and developers can leverage to line their pockets. By 2020, I think it’s safe to say that if you’re a developer, you’ll either be working at a platform, developing apps for one, or building tools and methodologies that pass information back and forth between them. So if you like to code, get with the platform program, and quick!

Marketing & IT: not exactly BFFs

Because the relationship between IT and Marketing could be described as “frosty,” at best, I think it’s safe to say that, overall, this will be a welcome change for most CMOs. In my experience, marketing departments tend to feel that IT is understaffed, distracted and overall not a strong partner for the marketing team to rely on. If anything, the adversarial nature of this relationship will serve to accelerate the overall trend of many IT functions dissolving into marketing department’s purview.

But what’s most interesting about this process is that it will not be limited to the marketing department. Think about it. Other departments consume technology as well, right? That means it’s going to happen in parallel throughout the entire enterprise organization: Finance, Accounting, Purchasing, Procurement … They will all go through the same transformation, as software is procured from SaaS service providers, and data storage and database management is migrated to the cloud. We’re talking comprehensive and organization-wide transformation.

I’ve already seen the beginnings of this process within many of my client’s organizations. In a previous post, The Great Marketing Data Revolution, I touched upon the incredible transformation organizations are being forced to make as they deal with and try to make sense out of with the deluge of unstructured marketing data they are collecting every day, which is often referred to as “Big Data.”

For many companies, the ultimate Big Data strategy involves a Master Data Management (MDM) solution for collecting, aggregating, matching and storing this vast pool of information. While supported by IT, MDM initiatives tend to be marketing projects, as most of the data is collected and used by marketing. MDM/Big Data solutions tend to be cloud-based and take advantage some, if not all, of the four points I addressed above.

Change: get used to it.

Now what’s going to happen to IT, you might ask? If you’re working in IT, don’t fret. Your department won’t disappear. But its role will undoubtedly change with the times. Instead of focusing on product development and infrastructure maintenance, IT will instead focus on identifying the right players to engage with, testing, auditing and supporting the process—not to mention providing API technologists to help tie systems together. And, possibly, developing specialized tools to help fill in gaps the marketplace has overlooked.

If you’re a developer, this means that you’re going to need to redefine your skills to align them to the needs of the marketplace. And the good news is you probably have a few years to get it sorted out. Still, things will undoubtedly change and—once the proverbial tipping point is reached—they’ll change awfully fast.

So I hope this all makes sense. I do have a feeling this may be a controversial topic for many readers—especially those in IT. If you have any questions, comments or feedback, please let me know in your comments.

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