Find Inspiration In Other Industries

One of the recommendations in my new report, Web Site User Experience 2010: Australian Banks, is that Australia's "big four" banks should study online retailers as as precursor to fixing their own broken website search systems. At present, these banks serve up a hodge-podge of media releases, FAQs, customer memorandums, product pages and more in their search results, giving users little clue about which search results they should click and why. By contrast, leading online retailers provide highly usable search results, which they help users to effectively preview, sort and refine. 

But banks are far from the only businesses that need to look beyond the narrow confines of their own industry.

For example, when speaking with pharmaceutical marketers in Sydney yesterday, I was reminded that almost no Australian marketers in that industry set aside a portion of their budgets as internal seed capital, funding marketing experiments that are small enough to fail gracefully, but audacious enough to perhaps exceed all expectations. Big pharma, at least in Australia, could learn from how the leading global consumer packaged goods companies are supporting marketing innovation with devices like internal seed capital.

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Twitter And My Spring 2010 Schedule

I was traveling for the past couple weeks in the United Kingdom to meet with clients.  Following a set of very successful meetings I ran into a bit of trouble.  Just as I was planning to return home a volcano in Iceland erupted and brought air travel in Europe to a standing halt.  I had to spend an additional 6 days in London. I never thought I would utter that combination of words, it just goes to show that sometimes truth is stranger than fiction.

(picture credited to AP Photo/Icelandic Coast Guard)

All things considered I can't complain too much.  Obviously it is never fun to have travel plans disrupted or to be away from family longer than anticipated.  But there are far worse places to be stranded than London!  It's a wonderful city.  And I have many clients, colleagues and friends there, so I kept quite busy, and was able to work from Forrester's London office while awaiting the green light to come home.  About a dozen Forrester employees were in a similar situation, and the company did a great job of making sure we were ok and provided much needed support; I'm sure many travelers were not so fortunate.

It is interesting how the web became my constant companion as I made my best efforts to stay productive during the crisis and find my way home.  I frequented the travel websites (American Airlines, Marriott), the UK and EU air transport authorities (NATS), news sites (BBC and Sky), and most of all Twitter (#ashtag) to stay up to date on the volcano news and ensure that I had a place to sleep every night, and a seat reserved on the earliest flight home.  Turning to Twitter for real-time, crowdsourced news was a real revelation: they often scooped the big news websites; and it provided a sense of community, a lot of us were stuck in this mess together!

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Behavioral Marketers Will Be Responsible For Data Disclosures

Frank Gertsenberger, VP of Product Marketing for Audience Science wrapped up day one with an excellent update on privacy concerns and expected changes due to FTC and congressional work on behavioral advertising policy. 

The concern is that even though data is being collected anonymously, when enough anonymous data points are collected, is an individual still anonymous?

Four entities are running concurrently to tackle this challenge:

  1. The FTC began investigating data practices about two years ago and determined that the risk with behavioral marketing is that consumers are not aware of what data is being collected; current privacy policies are insufficient at explaining how consumer data is employed with behavioral marketing.
  2. Congress – A subcommittee was convened last year to quantify the value of behavioral marketing in order to determine its value in the online economy.  Through studies supported by the NAI (the network advertising initiative), Congress now understands this and is outlining a policy outlining what the baseline protections should be for consumers.
  3. NAI– A membership organization which now represents more than 80% of all online ad spend, and created studies focused on answering Congress' need to value behavioral marketing.  Also helps audit member sites to aid compliance efforts.
  4. The Associations – This is a collection of online advertising associations like the DMA (direct marketing association), the IAB (interactive advertising bureau) and the ANA (association of national advertisers).  This group is taking a pass at developing requirements for providing enhanced notice to consumers.

What this means for advertisers and publishers:

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Publishers Create Ad Solutions; Still Don't Talk Tech

The second session of AudienceScience Summit this afternoon is a panel moderated by Quentin George, Chief Digital Officer of Mediabrands.  Panelists include Dave Dickman, SVP of Digital Media Sales from Warner Bros. Television and Barbara Healy, VP of Online and Mobile Fulfillment at Tribune.

 The theme of the panel was intended to address how these publishers manage their audience assets.  But really the primary message I took away was that publishers are focusing on solution sells -- finding ways to sell more high margin offerings -- whatever these happen to be.  I was expecting to hear more specifics about how they are working with publisher optimization solutions, or data management offerings.  But it sounded instead that it was any and all efforts to create unique ad solutions, rather than just impressions.

Two points heard, one good, one bad:

1) Warner Bros talked about an alternative way to think about creative, empowering creatives to build original programming that airs on the Web and allows users to provide input into the plot and production that the program takes.  This approach garnered premium sponsorship (from J&J) and helped creative resources feel a part of (and not irrelevant to) emerging media.

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Publishers Talk About Audience Targeting With AudienceScience

Coming to you live from the AudienceScience Targeting Summit in Las Vegas, a three day event for publishers and advertising talking about changes in display media and the value of targeting for both sides of the online advertising ecosystem: buyers and sellers.  My presentation was part of the publisher day (Day one is for publishers, day two for both publishers and advertisers, and day three for advertisers alone) and spoke to the findings of a custom study I worked on for Audience Science earlier this year.  The conclusions I shared today are:

  • Online advertising has significant growth in store
  • Audience and behavioral targeting will grow further advertiser investment in display media
  • And yet, advertisers still second guess display advertising value because it is so hard to take full advantage of (I walked through a laundry list of challenges online advertisers face like media proliferation, measurement challenges, $$ shifting downstream from branding to more direct sales channels, operations inefficiencies and limited staff)
  • So publishers must be ready to help create more automated, more dynamic, more data driven advertiser solutions to help advertisers overcome the challenges with using display today.

Preempting Spotify

Rhapsody announced yesterday that its new Rhapsody 2.0 iPhone app allows users to download their playlists to their phone and listen to them even when an Internet connection is not available. With this announcement, Rhapsody has now fulfilled the three tenets of true cloud-based music services that I put forth in a report last year. Those were: 1) availability across platforms -- Rhapsody is available on phones, set-top boxes, home audio, and, of course, computers; 2) availability across brands -- Rhapsody is available on the iPhone, Android phones, and multiple home audio brands; and 3) availability when the cloud is not available. Rhapsody's execution on all these tenets is a work in progress, but at a price of $10 a month, the service has now vastly improved its value proposition. Rhapsody and its competitors (MOG and Thumbplay) are on their way to providing consumers with new, compelling reasons to rent -- not own -- music. The question is, will it catch on?

We expect the number of subscribers in the US to double in the next few years. But that's still not a very significant number considering the small base it is starting from. Subscriptions are hard to commit to -- but once you are committed, switching away or off is hard to do as well. Therefore, there is a short window of opportunity for Rhapsody and others to lock in some of that growth for themselves before Spotify launches Stateside or Apple launches its own version, thus changing the competitive environment. But these new services could also end up energizing the market, and the rising tide may perhaps lift all boats.

But what Rhapsody really needs now is to get a service provider to subsidize the service across platforms.

Consumer Product Strategy Podcast, episode 1: Find Your Popcorn

In the CPS team we are exploring new ways of delivering our ideas, as part of a strategy to open up our research processes. So if you'd like to hear me talk about how media companies should be building new revenue streams, please click on the video link below. And watch this space for updates on how to subscribe to future podcasts via iTunes. And as ever, I welcome any thoughts and feedback on both what we are saying and how we are saying it.

Does Your Company Use Social Media To Influence Product Strategy?

As promised, our newest Consumer Product Strategy panel survey launches today.  We invite all readers to take this 3-minute survey to tell us about how your company uses social media, what kinds of policies and procedures are in place for sharing information from social media with product development teams, and how that information is used to affect product strategy.  In return for your time, all respondents will recieve a copy of the research report containing the results of the survey. 

Thank you in advance for your contribution!

Spotify Puts The Crowd In The Cloud With Ambitious New Featuresets

Spotify has today flicked the switch on a rich suite of additional functionality that lays the groundwork for some ambitious strategic objectives. You can read the Spotify blog for a detailed breakdown.

Simplicity has been central to Spotify’s success to date.  In fact the Spotify experience was so simple it looked positively archaic compared to more feature-rich and socially-rich services such as Last.FM and imeem.  But that simplicity was Apple-like in its elegance and a key reason it has proven so popular.  The barriers to entry were lowered so that it had mass-market appeal rather than being condemned to ending up as another niche hide-out for the tech savvy music aficionados.

Spotify was always going to flick the switch on a greater level of sophistication, but only when it needed to.  Doing so now is a very cleverly timed move. Today’s announcement both raises the stakes for new entrants such as mFlow and beats Apple to the music cloud. To understand why, we need to take a quick look at what strategy the new functionality implies.  The two most important groups of functionality are social and cloud. 

Spotify becomes a social experience. Spotify has always had a keen sense of how to coexist in the broader ecosystem rather than try to do everything itself (cf  integrating audio scrobbling). It has now taken that a step further with Facebook integration and relatively sophisticated sharing and interaction. Doing it in the context of Facebook simplifies the education process for users.

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Marketing Budgets Increase! Are You Allocating Wisely?

The economy is getting better, right? The answer is still not crystal clear. Yes, the DJIA topped 11,200 last week, but unemployment is still hovering near 10% in the US. The economy has reset expectations for all of us in our personal and professional lives. The idea of doing more with less is now a long-term business strategy versus a short-term mandate. Or is it?

Our data shows that marketing budgets are growing for many marketing leaders, but budgets may take years to return to “normal” (e.g. pre-Great Recession). We read every day in business journals about “the increased need for accountability in marketing.” CMOs have more measurable data and analytic tools today, but are we really making better strategic marketing investments?

In our February 2010 marketing leadership panel survey, we asked: Which of the following best describes your 2010 marketing budget compared to your 2009 marketing budget?

Most marketing leaders see steady or increasing marketing budgets. Thirty-seven percent state their budgets will increase in 2010 versus 2009. Another 35% of marketing leaders see budgets remaining the same as last year. The smallest percent -- 27% -- are working with reduced budgets.

Regardless of your budget situation, marketing leaders must continue the shift towards managing marketing as an investment versus an expense. CMOs will likely influence or own more technology budget as marketing shifts to digital and emerging media. Marketers are working more every day with IT and corporate finance on capital budgeting processes for new technology investments like listening platforms.

Two keys to success in this era of increased accountability are for CMOs to:

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