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Science, creativity, and contradiction: the making of a modern TV ad

3 Oct Indeed TV Ad

In this age of ubiquitous technology, it should be quick and easy to create a 30-second TV advertisement. How complex can it be? The answer: shockingly hard if you do it right. To get TV advertising right requires a near impossible mix of science and creativity – disciplines that are in many ways diametrically opposed. It requires small teams that protect the purity of great ideas and big audiences that provide the feedback required to avoid mistakes. Great ads requires creative ideas that strike the most personal human chords with an appeal that spans cultures and continents.

Among all of these contradictions, the core challenge of advertising is that you are delivering a message that nobody is looking to hear. When it comes to both TV and online video, the ads are the price of the programming and the competition is steep — in the U.S. the average person is exposed to more than 5,000 brands and ads every day.

And many companies are organized to systematically dilute the power of great ideas. Creative advertising requires powerful ideas, emotion, and beautiful execution. Science requires the sort of measurement and optimization that slowly erodes the punch out of many creative endeavors. Keeping performance and creative impact in balance is difficult. Too many powerfully creative ideas are weakened by endless rounds of negotiation, revision, and compromise.

Embracing these challenges, today our team at Indeed launched the first ad in our latest global TV campaign. The ad, titled “what / where” in reference to the highlighted Indeed search boxes that are featured throughout, will begin airing today in the United States. Additional versions will start to appear in 6 other countries over the next few weeks.

This is my favorite Indeed ad yet — for me it strikes the right balance between emotion, inspiration, and performance. Like many strong ads, the final version is very similar to the first concept. We’ve  worked hard to make sure that our tweaks didn’t erode the power of the creative idea.

While the creative idea was the starting point, we had four practical things we wanted to accomplish with this ad:

  1. Performance: Indeed’s mission is to help people get jobs. After family and health, career may be the most important dimension in our lives. We know that if someone hasn’t heard of Indeed, we won’t be able to help them get a job. We advertise to drive awareness and carefully benchmark for each ad the cost per new person aware of Indeed in the labor force.
  2. Salience: We hope people will think about Indeed when they think about looking for a job. We want people to know that we’re the largest job site in the world, that we are a search engine for jobs (not a job board), and that an incredible # of new jobs are added to Indeed every day. We look for ads that build memory structures around these ideas.
  3. Global Relevance: We’re working hard to build Indeed into a global brand. To this end, we look for campaign ideas that get to the heart of human emotion, hopefully transcending culture and geographic boundaries. Practically speaking, we try to design TV ads that can be adapted to work in many markets around the world.
  4. Effective across multiple media channels: We talk about TV but we run adapted versions of our ads on youtube, full episode players like Hulu, other digital video networks, and social networks like facebook. This ad, in particular, was designed to work with or without sound.

And as we developed the ad, we did three interesting things:

  1. Protect the creative idea: By keeping our internal advertising teams small and by ensuring that we have minimal processes for internal review, we try to limit the number of people designing, reviewing, and refining an ad. Our goal is to keep the creative idea as intact as possible as we bring the ad from concept to launch.
  2. Transparent development: In a previous post, I wrote about the importance of transparency as a core marketing value. With this belief, we’ve made our entire advertising development process completely open and transparent within Indeed. Any of our 3,000+ employees can see all of the 500+ ad ideas we’re working at any time. We solicited company-wide feedback on the four most promising concepts prior to the final round of edits. The feedback was phenomenal — it helped is make the ads more relevant to more people around the world.
  3. Pre-launch testing & benchmarking based on emotion: Finally, when we have an ad that we think might meet all these requirements, we test and measure the emotional reactions to the ad in markets around the world. We then benchmark this measured emotional response against a database of ads to model likely performance. Only if it tests better than all of our previous ads will we put it into market.

So that’s it — the difficult process of creating a good global TV ad. And even with all of that work and preparation, we won’t know how many people a new ad can help to find jobs until we release it at scale globally.

How to Measure TV advertising ROI (and the surprising distribution of performance by network)

26 Sep

If you want to build a great global brand, you’ll likely need to buy TV advertising. For most marketing organizations this means big budgets, a dependence on agencies, opaque pricing, and imprecise performance and ROI measurement. Even highly sophisticated marketing organizations struggle to get the most from their TV investments.

tv

The challenge with TV advertising is that it’s difficult (if not impossible) to identify people that saw your ad and to know whether the impression led to real-world action or behavior change.

How to measure TV advertising

To measure and optimize the impact of TV ads, you need to do two things. The first is to measure the aggregate impact of TV advertising as a marketing channel. This can be done through very granular purchase analysis or surveys that measure brand awareness and preference changes modeled against media investments. If your marketing investments are at scale, you can typically measure the impact of different advertising channels (TV, social, online video, email, banner, and even out-of-home) on the results that matter to you.

For most TV advertisers, however, this aggregate channel view is not enough: it’s essential to get closer to spot-level impact to get the most value for every invested dollar. While not all brands can do this, it’s typically possible if your TV advertising drives an immediate measurable action such as branded search for your company/product or visits to a digital site or application. If you can measure a digital outcome granularly, then it is possible to statistically model the cost per engagement for categories of TV spots such as particular shows or TV networks. The more ads you run during a show or network throughout the season, the more accurate this measurement might be.

Doing this right requires the ability to look at your search and engagement data over time — ideally by second — attempting to pick-up the engagement bump attributable to a specific TV advertisement. These bumps are typically quick and recognizable. While they may only measure a portion of customer engagements (some happen much later), they provide a good statistical measure of performance. While they may not capture all of the benefit of advertising, it should help identify the relative performance of ads to help better optimize your TV spend.  If you run very few ads, you will not have enough data for this type of analysis.

The surprising distribution of performance by network

When you finally see the details of show-by-show and network-by-network TV advertising performance while also measuring daypart and spot length, the results are surprising. In our own analysis, we looked at performance of our ads across more than two dozen networks and a hundred programs with significant numbers of ad impressions.

The results were shocking. While we expected the impact-per-dollar-spent on a TV spot would vary by network, show, daypart, and program reach (high-reach programming is more expensive than low-reach programming), we were surprised by the broad distribution of results.

In our analysis, we looked at the the cost to drive a web visitor with TV advertising. The range of real-world results was spectacular: On a network level (CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, ESPN, etc), we found cost per engagement varied by more than a factor of 15. That’s right: the impact of 1$ spent on TV ads run on the highest performing network equaled the impact of more than $15 in advertising from the lowest performing network.  In other words, a portfolio of ads run on the lowest performing network were less than 7% as effective as a similar portfolio of ads run on the best performing network.  Not surprisingly, when you look at show-by-show performance you will find an even greater range of performance variation.

Why do these differences exist? There are a few reasons. First, demographics vary by network and different audiences respond differently to any one company’s ads. Second, TV ad pricing is partly based on the reach of a show (high reach shows include valuable light-TV watchers) and the desirability of the program with advertisers. The wider the audience and the more popular the show with advertisers, the more expensive ads will be on a per-impression basis. In the highly-fragmented U.S. TV advertising market, there are many opportunities to lower costs by aggregating audiences.

For marketers buying TV advertising, it’s nearly impossible to get great results without a clear picture of awareness gains or cost-per-engagement by network, show, spot length, day part, and ad version. By optimizing all of these factors — smart TV advertisers can improve TV advertising performance and ROI by 500% or more while still maintaining target market reach.

 

 

The three core values of successful marketing teams

7 May

indeed_office

I recently read that the average tenure of a Chief Marketing Officer is 24 months, up from 18 months not very long ago. While that’s good progress, it’s still much shorter than other c-level positions.

Why is CMO tenure so short? It often comes down to the credibility of the marketing team. Too many marketing organizations erode trust by focusing on activities instead of results, by taking credit for things that can’t be proved, and by building walls between their teams and the rest of the company. Furthermore, marketing is such a broad discipline that there are always many possible marketing solutions to any business problem. The breadth of viable approaches makes for an infinite opportunity for misalignment between CMO’s and their leadership peers.

In this environment, what becomes important for CMO’s is how we build teams that work well with the rest of the organization. To this end, here are the three values that we have developed for marketing at Indeed:

Value #1: Test many things. Fail often. Stay grounded in the data.

When it comes to both our marketing and the product, we are continuously surprised at what works and what doesn’t. Companies that measure learn quickly that it’s very difficult to guess what will have the biggest impact on the business. Results will continually surprise all of us. What we do know is that if we continuously test lots of different ideas, we’re more likely to find approaches that really move the business.

One of the best examples of testing vs. intuition came from when Indeed product management finally tested the words on the Indeed job search button that allowed users to create job alerts. The original button — which said “save alert” — had been used for years but never tested. Product management came up with six new options to test: Sign up, get jobs, save, subscribe, activate, and send me new jobs. Two interesting things happened with the test: First, every single tested option outperformed the original best guess of the team that originally created the feature. Second, the highest performing option, “activate,” took all the experts by surprise. With a 12.8% increase in job alert creations from that one change, Indeed was able to send more than 1/2 billion additional job alert emails that year.

At Indeed, we’re lucky to have incredible access to data and a culture that embraces testing. So what do we test? Everything. Here are a few illustrative ideas of things we test: video ad creative for salience and recall, headlines for effectiveness, sales presentations for conversion, every word and every visual on call-to-actions for app downloads, the subject lines of email for click-through rate, the creatives for promotions for conversion effectiveness, and just about anything else where optimization can have an impact on performance.

To make testing easy, we’ve established a campaign lab that helps with the orchestration of tests supporting all of our functions. With more than 500 documented tests completed since the beginning of the year, we encourage our teams to test many permutations of tactics, messages, and creative approaches. The vast majority of these tests fail but the benefits of the few that succeed more than cover all of the expense. By staying grounded in data and encouraging our teams to fail, we discover impactful ideas and approaches that we otherwise never would have attempted.

Value # 2: Be transparent and avoid marketing ourselves

As marketers, we only get the full-impact of measuring and testing if we pair it with a marketing culture that looks objectively at activities and results. As a marketing team, there is often a temptation to apply our craft to our own results. Nothing diminishes our trust faster than spinning results or sharing only the good. On the other hand, few things can increase trust faster than being transparent about our struggles and failures.

Not marketing marketing is one of the hardest adjustments for new employees to make when they join our team. Although it is difficult, we ask everyone to be objective about the impact of our programs. It’s easy to find a metric that went up and to call a program a success. We try to be careful to not “spin” our programs to look better than what we may really know. We look at all of our results with a critical eye and are careful to present results impartially inside and outside our organization.

Being transparent requires us to make data on our tests and performance available as broadly as possible. By sharing data and insights and avoiding marketing our own work, we all learn the same lessons together. This makes us better. When we hide bad results, we lose the opportunity to share in the learning and risk repeating the same mistakes.

Over the last month, we’ve even set up mechanisms for anyone in the company to see and provide feedback on new advertising at all stages of production. In many companies ads are worked on secretly by a small team and then unveiled with grant fanfare upon completion. By sharing our work broadly at all stages, we get useful ideas, feedback, recommendations that helps us make all of the work stronger.

Value # 3: Our most powerful impact will come when we work through other teams

One of the things that I worry about most is that as our company and team continues to grow, we’ll lose some of the fun and impact to a monotony of meetings, complex approval processes, and uncoordinated projects spanning disconnected organizations.

For this reason, we’ve structured marketing to embed directly with the teams that have the center-of-gravity for every initiative that we support. When we’re the center of gravity, we ask other teams to embed with us. With a shift of our traditional online marketing teams to a growth marketing model, our teams are spread out and embedded directly with the product and engineering teams for the products we’re working on. As we support sales, we’ve centered our marketing planning efforts around our country marketing managers who sit with the sales teams and directors we support all around the world.

For everything we do, we ask where the most appropriate center of gravity should be — whether that is sales, client services, product, engineering, international, marketing or any other team. We then sit and work with those teams together as one team focused on solving problems together with as much day-to-day collaboration and as few giant meetings as possible.

While these three values may not be unique to our marketing team, they are part of a deliberate effort to avoid the silos, hype, misalignment, and politics that undermine the credibility of too many marketing organizations.

 

The Hierarchy of Startup Marketing Needs

6 Nov

For emerging businesses, it’s often difficult to know where to start with marketing. With finite resources, entrepreneurs need to focus on the things that will have the biggest impact at each stage of the business. Since marketing includes so many different types of tasks and activities — from researching customer needs to building demand — it can be challenging to find the right place to start.

While every business is different, it is helpful to think about marketing as a series of distinct activities with a proper sequence. The first thing to think about — getting your product right — is the precursor to everything else you’ll do. The most aspirational stages such as building broad awareness and love for your brand require all the other parts of your business and business model to be working well.

Hierachy_startup_marketing_needs

I think about the sequence or hierarchy of startup marketing needs as a simple pyramid with the essential marketing activities on the bottom and the aspirational activities on top. As entrepreneurs go up the pyramid, the marketing components become more expensive and more complex and return on investment becomes increasingly difficult to measure.

The pyramid has seven layers starting with a product foundation and building up to brand love. Here are a few thoughts on each of the levels of the marketing pyramid:

Product — You can’t build a great brand with a mediocre product. Marketing requires making promises to potential users and customers. If the product doesn’t live up to expectations, nothing else matters. Get the product right first before even thinking about investing in other marketing activities. Read more here.

Personality — The world is full of perfectly functional products that nobody cares about. The most successful products have personality: they are interesting, engaging, and likeable. They find their voice. They define what is special about the way they serve their customers and use their mission and values as a filter for product design and communication. They are willing to take a stand and fight for what matters to them and their customers. For more, read this classic blog post on Minimum Viable Personality.

ExperienceSo you have a product and personality, it’s now time to take the next step and make sure that every interaction with customers is as good an experience as it can possibly be. Great customer experiences are carefully crafted and orchestrated and — increasingly — this is the job of the CMO.

Experience is different for every company but almost always requires coordination across multiple people and disciplines. You may need to think through the purchase experience, the way you interact with customers, the experience of opening product packaging, the way that people reach you for questions,  or how customers  get help when something goes wrong. You’ll need to think about the way you communicate with customers, the way you thank customer for their business, the way that you train employees to create as consistent an experience as possible. It’s the visual identity that you use to make sure company or product and all of your communications recognizable.

DemandDemand drives sales which drives revenue and profits which are the lifeblood of any business. For this reason, too many entrepreneurs  jump first into demand generation before thinking about product, personality, and experience. This is almost always mistake.

For most businesses, the quality of the product, personality, and experience determine the economics of demand generation. If you product is differentiated, compelling, and enjoyable than your cost of acquisition will be lower. When you acquire a customer they will be more likely to refer their friends or colleagues. Good things will happen.

While there are a near infinite number of methods to generate demand, management of demand generation really comes down to a few metrics and techniques. The starting point for demand generation is to set a targeted cost per acquired customer (or product sale) based on the financial model of the business. The next step is to test — to try as many methods and messages and designs and to measure the results. The best demand generation methods are scalable and able to deliver large numbers of  acquired customers at the targeted price.

Demand generation is where many companies begin to invest significant resources on marketing as part of their business model.  The more revenue and profits marketing programs are able to drive, the more smart businesses are willing to spend.

Credibility — For people to trust a new product, company, or approach, they need a reason to believe. It’s marketing’s job to help potential customers understand why their offering is better than other alternatives that a business or consumer might consider.

In consumer categories, credibility may come from expert opinions, celebrity associations, exclusive distribution arrangements, or relationships with other businesses that people trust, among other options. In the seventies, for example, Trident’s claim  that “four out of five dentists surveyed recommend sugarless gums for their patients who chew gum” provided credibility for their saccharine-sweetened gum. Sporting gear manufactures relationships with prominent athletes and teams provided similar credibility for their products. For many business-oriented and technical products, credibility often comes from commissioned research, surveys, white papers, awards, or benchmark reports that help people understand the value of the offering.

Credibility comes next in the pyramid because it’s the first step towards broad awareness. To engage people who are less likely to be early adopters of your product or service, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate credibility.

Awareness — For people to choose your product or service to solve a problem or meet a need, they need to know that your solution exists.

The first step to building awareness is clearly defining the audience that you need to reach. The narrower the audience, the easier (and cheaper) it will be to grow awareness. For a useful pharmaceutical that requires a prescription, it should be easier to get thousands of doctors to prescribe the product than to get millions of patients to request prescriptions. If you are selling auto insurance, you probably only want to reach people who own or drive cars.

Once you define your audience, there are many ways to build awareness. In the strongest businesses, awareness grows naturally and virally as your customers naturally interact with potential customers. Unfortunately, few businesses are lucky to have these dynamics. Other businesses need to invest to get their message out through advertising, public relations, social media or through the development of programs that encourage customers to recruit other customers.

Unlike demand generation techniques which typically focus purely on return on investment, many types of awareness investments are more difficult (but not impossible) to measure.

For consumer businesses, building broad awareness for a product requires strong execution on all of the levels of the hierarchy plus sustained investment in building awareness over time. In 2013, for example, 9 companies spent more than $2B each on U.S. advertising.

Brand Love — This is where every business wants to be: to have their product or services broadly known and loved by the people they target. Typically, it takes perfect execution on all of the above marketing elements to achieve brand love.

To get to brand love, you need to start my measuring every element of the customer experience. Using a tool like Net Promoter Score which looks at high likely a customer is to recommend your product or service.

But measurement isn’t enough to be great. You’ll need to get it right at every level of the pyramid including a great product, personality, a memorable product experience, and broad awareness in the markets that you care about.

 

Brand Strategy for a Product Company: the Story of Indeed’s First Global Campaign

11 May

This week we’re rolling out the first global brand campaign for Indeed. It’s a big step for Indeed because we’ve traditionally eschewed these types of investments. We’re not a flashy company. We’re purpose-driven and product-focused. We’re passionately focused on helping people get jobs.

Indeed: How the World Works

“How the World Works” — Indeed’s first global brand campaign

Over the last decade, we’ve been lucky to grow at an amazing rate by helping more and more job seekers find the right job every year. Now, every month, more than 140 million unique users in more than 50 countries visit Indeed. We’re the number one job site in the world as well as the #1 site in the U.S., UK, Canada, Brazil, France, the Netherlands, Italy, South Africa, and many other countries. We’re the #1 job app in iOS and Android in more than 20 countries around the world.

So why launch a brand campaign now? It’s a question that we’ve thought about a lot. The online job industry grew up with major job boards in every country, many of which made money by luring job seekers to small pools of paid postings using large TV-driven brand campaigns. Unfortunately, the industry has been dominated by humor-driven ads that mock the workplace and play to employee frustrations.

It’s in this context that Indeed has quietly grown to become the world’s leading job site by focusing on the needs of job seekers. As a search engine, we try to find every job in the world and show them to job seekers on our site — whether or not the employer is an Indeed customer. Today we have more than 16 million jobs on Indeed covering all occupations, roles, and levels. Most of Indeed’s growth derives from the fact that the product is simple, relevant, and comprehensive. We work hard to make the site easy for job seekers to find and use online or with their mobile device.

As we thought about diversifying our strategy to include brand investments, the decision came back to our purpose: helping people find jobs. 140 million people is an enormous amount of job seekers — but it’s a small portion of the world’s 7.2 billion inhabitants. There are still many more jobs offline than online. And there are still many people who don’t know Indeed. It was these factors that encouraged us to develop our first campaign.

In building our first campaign, it was important to tell the story in a way that felt authentic for Indeed, our clients, and job seekers. The campaign’s theme is ‘How the World Works’.  It celebrates the importance of every job, and showcases how Indeed helps millions of job seekers and employers find the right fit.  All of the creative elements within the campaign tell the story of how diverse jobs combine to make something work – from a simple cup of coffee, to the complex workings of the London Underground or the global stock market.

The campaign centerpiece is a television commercial which is a visual representation of the core campaign message. In the ad, the camera quickly turns from the staged advertisement to focus on the workers behind the scenes: the people that come together to make a commercial happen.

Here is the story of how the commercial was made, and what happened when we brought these amazing people together from around the world:

 

To source talent for the commercial, Indeed posted 26 job openings on its website – from accountant, to nurse, to mechanical engineer, to  IT Consultant. It was a great chance for us to showcase what Indeed does best. Within 48 hours, a staggering 1,500 applications were received for the roles.  Indeed then conducted more than 200 interviews in just 14 days resulting in a total cost per hire of $217. Once a selection was made, industry professionals from six different countries – UK, US, Canada, Czech Republic, Australia and Germany – traveled to Prague for filming and production.

While there are many more pieces to the campaign, here is the final commercial which will start showing this week in the United Kingdom, our first brand launch country:

 

As a company, we’ve come to conclusion that both product and brand awareness have an important role in helping people find jobs.  As more people discover our product and as the product continues to evolve, we’ll be able to help more job seekers find the job that is the perfect fit and we’ll be able to help more employers find the right talent for their organization.

Like everything else we do, we’ll be measuring the campaign on many dimensions. One of the most important will be how many new people find a job on Indeed.

How Tropicana Misled You: The Story of a Bad Brand

4 Aug

I hope I’m not the first person to tell you that Tropicana orange juice would be flavorless without the help of a New Jersey perfume company. It probably all made sense 40 or 50 years ago when food and brands were manufactured in similar ways. But over the last 50 years, the core philosophy of corporate branding has shifted from “the story that you tell” to “the promise that you keep.” Tropicana never evolved.

Tropicana Orange Juice: Fresh and Pure?

Decades ago, big brands focused on manufacturing a brand image. Before the Internet and social media, brand building focused on telling a story about a product or service that made people want to experience it. Broadcast media was trusted by the public and Madison Avenue agencies were wizards at building brand stories that everyone believed. During this bygone era, truthfulness was a secondary consideration.

Tropicana: “Fresh from the Grove”

Some of these brands are still alive and strong today. My favorite example is Tropicana.  Many people my age have enjoyed Tropicana orange juice for years based on its unique taste and brand promise of premium orange juice “fresh from the grove.” Tropicana’s story was that the orange juice was fresh, never frozen, and never from concentrate. I judged the taste of other orange juice brands by the taste of Tropicana and wondered why other brands couldn’t match its fresh taste.

Tropicana was very good at creating slogans that highlighted the freshness of its product:

  • Tropicana. Straight from the fruit.
  • Orange juice direct from oranges, not from concentrate.
  • 100% pure squeezed sunshine.
  • Feel pure good. Everyday.
  • If it tasted any fresher it would still be on the tree.
  • Tropicana’s got the taste that shows on your face.
  • Specially made for healthy bodies, healthy lives, healthy kids.

It turns out that the reality of Tropicana’s product is very different from the story told by the company’s slogans. The secret to Tropicana’s success is an innovative manufacturing process that preserves orange juice by removing oxygen from the freshly squeezed juice. Removing oxygen allows Tropicana to store the juice for long periods of time without freezing or reducing to concentrate. Unfortunately, it also permanently removes all of the natural flavor of the juice. Here is a summary from Civileats.com:

“The technology of choice at the moment is aseptic storage, which involves stripping the juice of oxygen, a process known as ‘deaeration,’ so it doesn’t oxidize in the million gallon tanks in which it can be kept for upwards of a year. When the juice is stripped of oxygen it is also stripped of flavor providing chemicals. Juice companies therefore hire flavor and fragrance companies, the same ones that formulate perfumes for Dior and Calvin Klein, to engineer flavor packs to add back to the juice to make it taste fresh. Flavor packs aren’t listed as an ingredient on the label because technically they are derived from orange essence and oil. Yet those in the industry will tell you that the flavor packs, whether made for reconstituted or pasteurized orange juice, resemble nothing found in nature. The packs added to juice earmarked for the North American market tend to contain high amounts of ethyl butyrate, a chemical in the fragrance of fresh squeezed orange juice that, juice companies have discovered, Americans favor. Mexicans and Brazilians have a different palate. Flavor packs fabricated for juice geared to these markets therefore highlight different chemicals, the decanals say, or terpene compounds such as valencine.”

In the food industry of the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, new production techniques made it possible to create highly-processed mass-produced food products that could be produced consistently, shipped globally, and sold everywhere. Tropicana created something new: a manufactured juice product whose premium price was driven by marketing and technology. Tropicana combined a strong brand with a unique taste and claims that were legally protected. For a generation of consumers, Tropicana was the benchmark for fresh.

Tropicana: A Broken Brand Promise

By today’s standards, however, Tropicana is a bad brand. Why? Because Tropicana broke its most core brand promise of a product described as fresh and pure.  While Tropicana’s claims might be legally and technically true (the perfume flavor is made by isolating chemicals found in oranges and reassembling them into the flavor of Tropicana), the reality of the Tropicana manufacturing process leaves customers feeling betrayed.  Once a loyal Tropicana customer learns the truth, the product never tastes the same.

There is no good escape for brands built on false stories. Consumers take implicit brand promises seriously and are quick to shift brand loyalty when false or misleading claims are exposed. Good brands built on lies can become bad brands very fast. In the case of Tropicana, disappointed consumers have filed more than 20 lawsuits against the company.

Today’s most successful brand builders make promises that they can keep. They highlight unique, authentic elements of their business that are meaningful to consumers. They make sure that product development delivers on the commitments they make.

The best brands are built on trust. If your brand story is built on half-truths and misleading statements, it’s going to be a tough ride.

Facebook Email Targeting & CRM Retargeting: Important New Tools for Marketers

1 Oct

Email marketing is a delicate art. In today’s world, fewer than 1/5 of recipients will open a commercial email message. For every 10 people who click on an email link, one person permanently opts out. While new subscribers are likely to open and click, results fall-off by 65% or more within just 4 months of email list subscription.

For most marketing organizations, email lists are full of high-potential contacts who no longer wish to receive email. In B2B, this is particularly an issue in businesses with  long sales cycles and high levels of lifetime customer value. While a prospect may be interested in a product or solution, they may not want to receive any commercial email.

A few weeks ago, Facebook rolled out a new advertising feature that allows marketers to display ads to targeted recipients selected via email address, phone number, or Facebook user ID. The new feature allows a self-service advertiser to upload an encrypted list of 20 or more contacts with the ad they want to show. Facebook will automatically target the supplied ad to the specified contacts.

This type of marketing, often referred to as CRM retargeting, allows advertisers to invest in building awareness or driving conversion within a known group of contacts. A large IT provider, for example, could drive an online campaign targeting known CIO’s who arbitrate buying decisions for their firms. A telecom company could market new devices to customers on expired contracts. Concert promoters can promote shows to people who have purchased tickets in the past. And all of this can be done using a prospect’s email address or phone number but without sending an email.

For B2B marketers focused on nurture marketing or content marketing, CRM retargeting enables marketers to reach prospects with relevant messages and content through an additional channel. It makes is possible to invest in advertising specifically targeting people who would prefer to not receive email. For companies with very large accounts, it would be possible to build account-targeted campaigns that deliver a unique message to representatives of a specific company. For companies looking to build a Facebook follower base, the new model allows them to promote their brands directly to a list of customers or fans who are most likely to engage online.

While others have attempted to use email as a filtering method for display advertising, two things makes Facebook’s new service unique: a billion member reach and a collection of multiple address for many of their members. For people with multiple addresses — work, home, school — Facebook is likely to have a match for whatever address might be in your CRM system.

Why Mobile Display Advertising Doesn’t Work

17 Sep

It seems that the fate of the major advertising-driven consumer Internet companies will be determined by the success of mobile advertising. As people spend more time on smartphones and less time on PC’s, a healthy mobile advertising market is needed to monetize the great free applications and Internet services that we all enjoy. For FaceBook, in particular, mobile advertising metrics seem to be closely linked to enterprise valuation.

But here is the big problem: mobile display advertising doesn’t work. This is why mobile ads sell for as little as 20% of their web display peers and at a small fraction of the per-impression cost of more traditional media.

How can such a promising new media business model be so fundamentally broken? Here is why mobile display advertising simply doesn’t work:

  • Lack of Cookie Support = Minimal Targeting: In the online display world, browser-based cookies enable powerful tools for segmenting users based on interests or previous interactions. For example, when you abandon an online shopping cart, advertiser’s can track you with ads designed to lure you back into their online store. These cookie-based behavioral and contextual capabilities don’t exist today on mobile platforms. In fact, if your user is on an iphone, they are probably using Safari which turns off cookies by default. This means that ad targeting is incredibly difficult and only marginally relevant.
  • Ad Click  = User Experience Disruption: Clicking on an application or browser-based mobile advertisement is an unpredictable experience. It’s not clear where the ad will take you or how a user will return to where they want to be. The only thing that is predictable is that an ad click will disrupt whatever task the user was previously trying to accomplish. This is particularly important because mobile device usage tends to be highly task oriented: users typically engage with a browser or application with an end in mind.
  • Tiny Ads = Useless Brand Experience: Tiny standard 1/3 inch by 2 inch mobile ads are too small to engage prospects with a compelling message. As Gilad De Vries wrote in Forbes (describing online display), “you can add all the bells and whistles you want to banner ads, but they’ll never truly create the kind of emotional experience that gets consumers excited about your brand.” This is infinitely more true for mobile display ads.
  • Bad Measurement = Underperformance: If you’ve ever tried to navigate around a 1/3 inch ad on a touch display, it’s very easy to accidentally click. In fact, research has shown that 40% of online clicks are either accidental or fraud. In a domain where advertisers relentlessly measure performance and return-on-investment, the math of mobile display doesn’t work.
  • Application Fragmentation = Limited Ad Interaction: As a marketer, my hope is that an ad click will result in a rewarding experience or a useful transaction. In a mobile world of purpose-built applications, it’s very difficult to deliver ads in context that drives any sort of meaningful interaction. When a user does interact, the many mobile platform, application, and screen limitations make it very difficult to create a positive experience for a mobile prospect.

So where do we go from here? Some big vendors will figure out new ways to monetize mobile that don’t rely on display. A great example of this is promoted tweets that appear on mobile Twitter clients. But for the ecosystem to thrive, there needs to be industry-standard advertising mechanisms that deliver real results. Otherwise, there will be many fewer ad-supported free products and services for users to choose from.

The Frightening Science of Prediction: How Target & 10 Others Make Money Predicting Your Next Life Event

6 Sep

If you are planning to go out tonight to play billiards at a bar in Montreal called Sharx, you might want to pay with cash. Predictive analytics from Canadian Tire demonstrated that Sharx customers are the more likely to default on credit than patrons of any other drinking establishment in Canada.

The analysis by Canadian Tire, now a decade old, marked the beginning of a wave of predictive analytics that now has companies trying to guess your next move — no matter how private it may be. Are you going to get married? Are you having a baby? Are you likely to get a divorce? Might you run into financial problems? Are you changing jobs or moving cities? Who are you going to vote for? Who are you likely to buy something from? What big purchase are you likely to make next? When will you get sick? How soon might you die?

If there is value in the answer to any of these questions, there is likely a company that is actively trying to predict the answer based on the data they have on you. As credit cards and loyalty cards have become omnipresent, more and more companies are now able to mine deeply personal data patterns to predict private behavior.  According to the New York Times, “Almost every major retailer, from grocery chains to investment banks to the U.S. Postal Service, has a ‘predictive analytics’ department devoted to understanding not just consumers’ shopping habits but also their personal habits, so as to more efficiently market to them.”

Here are 11 real examples of how companies are trying to predict your next life event:

1. Predicting Pregnancy (Target): Target uses a statistical model to score every female customer on the likelihood that they are pregnant. It can accurately predict when a shopper is pregnant early in the pregnancy and her rough due date. As reported in the New York Times, Target’s data scientist is “able to identify about 25 products that, when analyzed together, allowed him to assign each shopper a ‘pregnancy prediction’ score. More important, he could also estimate her due date to within a small window, so Target could send coupons timed to very specific stages of her pregnancy.” According to a Target data scientist who was quickly banned by the Company from talking to the press, “We knew that if we could identify them in their second trimester, there’s a good chance we could capture them for years . . . As soon as we get them buying diapers from us, they’re going to start buying everything else too.”

2. Predicting Divorce (Credit Card Companies): In the book Super Crunchers, a Yale professor describes how a major credit card provider uses purchase data to predict divorce, which in turn, helps the company predict potential future credit problems.

3.  Predicting Financial Problems (Canadian Tire): According to the Daily Beast: “Cardholders who purchased carbon-monoxide detectors, premium birdseed, and felt pads for the bottoms of their chair legs rarely missed a payment. On the other hand, those who bought cheap motor oil and visited a Montreal pool bar called ‘Sharx’ were a higher risk. ‘If you show us what you buy, we can tell you who you are, maybe even better than you know yourself,’ a former Canadian Tire exec said.”

4. Predicting Your Next Vote (Obama & Romney Campaigns): Both major parties maintain broad voter databases appended with detailed demographic information. Using psychographic profiling, they are able to predict who you will vote for, how likely you are to go to the polls, and the potential for them to change your vote. Using this data, they are able to drive targeted media strategies and send volunteers to the right doors to maximize impact on the election. As reported in the Washington Post, “If you use Spotify to listen to music, Tumblr to consume content or Buzzfeed to keep up on the latest in social media, you are almost certainly a vote for President Obama. If you buy things on eBay, play FarmVille or search the web with Bing, you tend to favor former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney.”

5. Predicting When You Will Switch to Fedex (UPS): UPS uses data analytics to predict when customers are at risk of abandoning the company and switching to one of its competitors. Whenever a potential switcher is identified, the company tries to prevent the loss with a phone call from a salesperson.

6. Predicting How Influential You Are (The Palms): Third party companies like Klout have built complex algorithms for assessing the social media impact of an individual. If you complain online, it’s your Klout score that will often determine the response. But now, companies like The Palms and Gilt Groupe are using these social media influence predictors to differentiate between customers. According to AdAge, “The Palms’ chief marketing officer, Jason Gastwirth, is currently building out ‘The Klout Klub,’ which ‘will allow high-ranking influencers to experience Palms’ impressive set of amenities in hopes that these influencers will want to communicate their positive experience to their followers.’ The Palms is already pulling in data from Klout and referring to it as part of their reservations process.”

7. Predicting How Much Money You are Willing to Lose (Harrah’s): According to the Daily Beast, “With its ‘Total Rewards’ card, Harrah’s casinos track everything that players win and lose, in real time, and then analyze their demographic information to calculate their ‘pain point’—the maximum amount of money they’re likely to be willing to lose and still come back to the casino in the future. Players who get too close to their pain point are likely to be offered a free dinner that gets them off the casino floor.”

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View Your Google Cookie: See What Google Knows About You

31 Jul

When it comes to advertising, personal data can be incredibly valuable. And when it comes to personal data, few organizations know more about you than Google.

As you browse the web, Google tracks the sites in its sprawling ad network that you visit. As Google tracks your browsing patterns, it builds a profile of your inferred interests and demographic categories which are then stored in your Google cookie.

Here is how Google explains it: “For example, if a user browses many sports-related websites displaying AdSense ads or watches sports-related videos on YouTube, Google may associate a sports interest category with their cookie and show the user more sports-related ads. Similarly, if the sites that a user visits have a majority of female visitors (based on aggregated survey data on site visitation), we may associate the user’s cookie with the “female” demographic category.”

My cookie was quite accurate: it included valid generic categories such as music, business news, consumer electronics, enterprise technology, CRM, Air Travel, andMobile / Wireless. It also knew my gender and age band.

If you want to see what Google knows about you, you can view the contents of your cookie here.

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