Marketing 2014: Driven By Insights, Striving For Personalization, Breaking Media Boundaries

December 26th at my house was probably a lot like it was at yours: We ate leftovers; we binge-watched shows we’d missed earlier this year; and we played with toys. Not kids’ toys—tech toys. The one we played with most is also the one I spent the most time researching before I bought it: the 3D printer. 

Between printing demo pieces and whistles, I checked out my favorite sites to see if any new stories had been posted over the holiday. One of them appears to have implemented a cookie-based content targeting strategy, as both its tech and design sections were packed with headlines about 3D printing. I was pleased to see this attempt at relevance, but it failed in my case. Why? Because it was too one-dimensional. 

By just looking at my recent cookies, an automated system could conclude that I’m interested in 3D printing in the abstract. But in fact, I was just trying to learn everything I could in order to make the most informed purchase. If the targeting strategy had taken into consideration the timing of those cookies (I only ever dug into the topic between Thanksgiving and the second week of Dec), my affinity data from Facebook and other social networks, and my long-standing content habits, I would probably have ended up with headlines related to smartphones, tablets, and wearables: things I’m more interested in now that my Christmas shopping is done. 3D printing headlines may have seemed more relevant, but they didn't get a single click from me.

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Content Marketing Fortnight V: A time for branded data, surveys, reports and playbooks

What’s happening (that’s important) in the world of content marketing? This is your fortnightly* round-up of the best of the best stuff online for marketers who think about content; for the previous “Fortnights”, go to the bottom of the post. (And for more information about what the Content Marketing Fortnight is, see my intro from the first one. Get this curated newsletter in your inbox every other week – send me a mail.)

IAB publishes content marketing primer
Set up simultaneously with its native advertising task force (see below), the IAB’s content marketing task force has produced a content marketing primer. It is by no means sexy or compelling for content marketing practitioners, but it does give them a succinct, 6-page tool to explain the basics of content marketing (as well as a tacit endorsement from the IAB) for stakeholders.

IAB drops native advertising playbook same day as FTC workshop

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Newly Published Forrester Wave™ Evaluation Of Social Advertising Platforms

After a few long months of research -- including selecting the seven most significant vendors and conducting in-depth briefings, demos, and customer references -- I am pleased to announce that the inaugural Forrester Wave™ evaluation of social advertising platforms is now live!

The social advertising space is a rapidly growing and maturing category. Social advertising generates more than 85% of revenue for both Facebook and Twitter, and marketers’ spend is trending sharply upward. In fact, the vendor customer references I spoke with for this evaluation spent an average of $512,000 per month on social ads. However, the public social networks’ native tools are insufficient for enterprise marketers manage this spend. Vendors have responded with products intended to help marketers achieve outcomes that justify the effort and spend.

We define this category as:

Platforms that help marketers buy, manage, optimize, and measure ads on public social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

These platforms are best used by marketers seeking to reach new customers who aren’t already aware of their offerings; they should be used alongside both TV and search ads as well as social reach tactics, such as influencer and advocate marketing.

We selected vendors that have a standalone social offering, a strong self-service platform, a critical mass of enterprise customers, and customers that spent more than $50 million on social advertising through the vendor in the 12-month period ending July 1, 2013. The best vendors help with analytics and measurement capabilities; measure beyond the social network's walls; and integrate social advertising with other reach tactics and types of ads. 

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Robot as a platform - Google upgrade their hardware ambitions

Some exotica for the end of the year: Yesterday I did an interview with the French publication Nouvel Observateur on Google's recent robotics acquisition Boston Dynamics. Google has been acquiring robotics companies hand over fist during 2013, and it's quite a reveal of how they are planning for the Google of tomorrow - something of interest to almost every brand. Here is my short take: 

1. Why did Google decide to invest in robotics?

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Get Ready For The Next Stage Of Online Video Advertising

Guest post by James McDavid

Today we’re publishing two reports exploring the current state of online video advertising, one focused on US and Canada and a second on Europe. This is a piece of research Forrester has conducted periodically over the past five years, allowing us to map the growth of the medium as it has risen to become a major component of the marketing plans for many brands, and this long-term perspective has allowed us to identify both the good practices and the bad habits that have taken root in the practice.

Amongst the positive elements are:

  • Many publishers now take great care to ensure that video content on their site is presented in an uncluttered fashion. This is allowing marketers who’ve bought in-stream ads access to consumers without having to compete against a barrage of banners on the same page.
  • Publishers in the US are leading the way here in delivering ‘clean’ viewing experiences – The New York Times and USA Today are good examples of how to present video in a way that benefits both advertisers and consumers.
  • The adoption of interactive ad formats has also gathered pace, bringing new and engaging approaches to in-stream video ads and facilitating a break from a ‘TV-lite’ medium toward something with its own creative boundaries to play with.
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LeWeb: The Next 10 Years

What do all of these players have in common?

Most of them are US startups initially backed by venture capital (VC). Some of them are now worth more than $1 billion; others are planning for an IPO; and a couple of them have been acquired for a lot of money while generating little (if any) revenue. Most originated in social media, in the collaborative economy, and pretty much all of them depend on mobile as a significant and growing part of their business. They represent the typical attendees at the LeWeb conference in Paris, looking to become the next Facebook or Amazon in the next 10 years. Some other smaller and less well-known startups competing in LeWeb's startup competition this year may join this list: http://paris.leweb.co/programme/startup-competition

In fact, what they really have in common is that they are all digital disruptors leveraging digital platforms to create new experiences on top of connected devices. They are taking advantage of open development tools and free infrastructure resources to overhaul products, invert category economics, and redefine customer relationships. They are more agile than traditional companies. As my colleague James L. McQuivey stated recently, digital disruption requires an organizational fix if you don’t want your company to be disrupted.

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Why WeChat Is Not A Good Marketing Tool — Yet

WeChat (Weixin in Chinese), the hottest mobile social app in China, now has more than 600 million users. Because WeChat dominates mobile Internet usage, marketers are putting high expectations on its marketing potential. However, WeChat is not a good marketing tool yet for most brands, as it has several limitations:

  • WeChat has core features of privacy and one-to-one communications. User behavior on WeChat is very different from on Weibo. The information that users share on WeChat is private and can be seen only by personally approved friends; as a result, WeChat is used more as a communication tool for friends to keep in contact. Users are less likely to repost brands’ information massively, as marketers expect them to do on Weibo.
  • Branded accounts have restrictions in sending messages. There are two types of public accounts — service accounts and subscription accounts — that marketers can use to send one-to-many messages to their WeChat followers, but each type has restrictions. A service account has custom-menu functionality that works almost as a mini-site embedded in the WeChat platform, but it allows only one message per month. A subscription account allows, at most, two messages per day, but with less advanced functionalities. In addition, all subscription accounts are folded together, so it's hard for users to notice new messages.
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