It's not about whether brands have value. It's about how to manage the value.
Twilight Of The Brands
In early 2014, our profession faced an existential crisis. The end was near, said James Surowiecki, in his New Yorker article, "Twilight Of The Brands." Look at Lululemon, he cried. The cult-like athletic wear brand was reeling from product failure and leadership indelicacies. And he referenced new research that said consumers were "supremely well informed," and did not need to "rely on logos" to determine value.
In The Pink Of Health
Turns out Surowiecki wasn't so well informed after all:
More is not better. It is true that the digital age brings with it more information about brands. More than many would care for, really. And therein lies the rub – this tsunami without filter or curation does little to clarify and more to confuse.
Brands signify more than information. The idea of brand as a signal of value is valid, although simplistic. More information may bridge quality and trustworthiness gaps, but a brand is much more. It conveys an emotional connection. Information plays no role in sipping a Coke or running in Nike.
Marketers are always falling in love with mobile’s latest “shiny new object” and new technology acronyms — 5G, BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy), NFC (near-field communication), RWD (responsive web design), etc. — and they’re constantly looking for the next platform, whether it’s virtual reality (VR), bots, artificial intelligence (AI), or the internet of things (IoT).
However, it is time to stop this quixotic quest for a paradigmatic new platform to replace mobile! Instead, recognize that mobile will activate these adjacent technologies to enable new brand experiences.
Over the past decade, smartphones have become a sort of black hole, integrating a huge array of sensors, but mobile is now exploding back out to our environments. Sensors and connectivity are expanding beyond smartphones to our wrists, bodies, cars, TVs, and washing machines as well as to buildings and “invisible” places in the world around us. The IoT is generating tectonic shifts among digital platforms and tech vendors, signaling a new wave of disruption, and unleashing new forms of competition.
The IoT is also redefining brand engagement by enabling marketers to:
Listen to their customers and analyze their real behaviors.
Create more frequent and intimate consumer interactions.
If you’re unfamiliar with it, F8 is a two-day event focused on developers, a crucial part of Facebook’s ecosystem. I was fortunate enough to attend, and though I have many takeaways, which I'll discuss in upcoming posts, the one that surprises me most is Mark Zuckerberg himself.
Zuckerberg’s rousing introductory keynote set the foundation for the two-day event. He kicked things off with an ambitious 10-year road map.
Let’s be honest: The most we see from companies today is a three-year road map or, for the adventurous, a five-year road map. Yes, Zuckerberg caught our attention once he took the stage; however, when the 10-year road map slide appeared, a new type of energy filled the venue. As a result, I couldn’t help but take a holistic look at his approach and name it “Zuckerberg 101.” For F8, this approach consisted of a foundational message, expectation setting, and an appeal to the audience. Take note marketers because this approach is one we can all use to foster connections with our audiences. It also helps us understand Facebook’s long-term strategy, along with its near- and long-term investments. Zuckerberg 101 consists of:
A foundational message. F8 2016's message is that Facebook’s mission of connecting everyone is everything. The 10-year road map echoes this vision with key milestones that aim to provide everyone with the power to share. All subsequent presentations reflected this theme throughout the event, creating a consistent message. Key takeaway: If you're trying to change the world (or anything else), make sure everyone knows why you’re in it to win it.
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend a teleconference highlighting IBM Watson’s success stories over the past year. Most of them are under NDA, so I can’t go into the details, but I will say they covered an incredibly broad range of use cases. One use case that I was hoping they would cover and didn’t was content analytics for marketing, aka “quantent.”
In the customer analytics arena, we often talk about “getting the right message to the right customer at the right time.” This is only partly true. Well-built and rigorously tested propensity models will deliver you the right customer and the right time. Behavioral segmentation models may even specify the best channel to use to deliver the message. But that still leaves the message itself. Whatis the right message?
Content analytics begins with entirely different data than customer analytics, and the two analytical streams merge just prior to the point of action. Whereas customer data contains information about customer profiles, transactions, and behaviors, data about content characterizes tone, length, wording, dates, products mentioned, type of offer (if applicable), and other key themes within the content itself. Most importantly, content that has been subject to A/B testing also creates data about the success of the message on an individual customer basis.
Combined, online display and social media advertising spend will double between 2015 and 2020, growing from €14.4 billion to €28.7 billion.
Among the factors driving growth, the combination of mobile and premium video advertising will drive an upsurge in demand for both online display and social advertising. Advertisers will increase their investments in video and mobile ads as media consumption evolves and targeting accuracy improves.
Native mobile video advertising is already proving a winning formula in the social media sphere, and publishers will take notice as they further refine their video ad offerings to provide more premium inventory, preventing a decline of video ad CPMs as supply increases. In fact, mobile ad spend will overtake PC as PC flatlines in the next five years.
Other developments will continue to disrupt online ad revenue in the next five years:
Programmatic will become the default mechanism for trading online display
Ad blocking will force new behaviors on the publisher side, and a greater struggle to hit the sweet spot between monetization and consumer experience.
Growing rivalries between Apple, Facebook, and Google for news aggregation services will further dis-intermediate publisher mobile advertising revenue.
For two days this week, I enjoyed Hubspot’s Inbound 2015 conference. Hubspot is an inbound marketing platform targeting small to medium-size businesses and each year the company holds a conference bringing together thought-leaders, customers, and partners. This 3.5-day event has over 250 sessions spanning a myriad of topics. Conferences provide different perspectives on the marketing landscape, customer success stories, product updates, philanthropic awareness, networking opportunities, and — my favorite — kernels that can be developed into themes with broader implications. I was happy to experience all those elements and walked away with more than a few kernels with broader implications. I’d like to share a few resulting from comments by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, Chris Brogan, and Mitch Joel. Let me forewarn you, these ideas may seem provocative, but they make for a good debate and even better research.
Here at Forrester we are busy planning our upcoming Forum For CIOs And CMOs. With a theme of “Building A Customer-Obsessed Enterprise” the event explores the partnership between marketing and technology leaders. But what about our government clients? The role of marketing is associated with the private sector. Companies employ marketers to identify their target markets and the opportunities for providing goods and services to them. Public-sector organizations don't typically have the luxury of choosing their target market or their products and services. Or at least that’s what most organizations think. But even if that is the case, it doesn't mean that these organizations shouldn't get to know their "customers" and understand how best to meet their needs. While the service might be prescribed by legislation or regulation, public organizations can influence the customer experience, and the rising focus on citizen engagement mandates they do so.
Alright, I admit it. I'm not necessarily the most loyal insurance customer. I like mixing things up to test out different experiences, which means that if you're my insurance company, I'm going to talk about you in my job...a lot.
Back in 2012 when I was writing the US Secure Auto Insurance Site Rankings report, I changed my car insurance to Progressive (so underwhelmed was I by their predecessor, I can't remember the name of the insurer, just that I got from my agent). And I not only changed to Progressive, I also switched from a traditional auto policy to the company's usage-based insurance coverage, SnapShot.
A few days after signing up, I was surprised to get this box in the mail--note the SnapShot logo on the packaging tape (and trust me that there's a Progressive logo on both ends of the box). Best of all, there was a compelling call to action on the box: "Plug In Today!"
And inside the shipping container? This smaller box, about the size of...the box an engagement ring might come in. Oh my! I felt like I was about to go with Flo on a Thelma and Louise-like adventure, assuming that we'd be safer drivers than they were, at least when the movie ended.
As a prequel to some of what we'll hear from Laurie at our event, we sent her questions about the FedEx customer experience and why she sees it as a competitive advantage. Her answers appear below.
Q: How would you describe the experience that you want FedEx customers to have?
A: Relationships oftentimes start with a simple handshake. For example, when you meet someone for the first time and extend your hand in greeting, you’re offering to build a relationship. In the same way, we want to offer a hand to our customers to establish a personal and meaningful connection. After all, FedEx is more than just delivering packages. We’re an innovative company that thrives on delivering solutions and programs that meet our customers’ needs and expectations.
2D bar codes are on buses, in newspapers and magazines, storefronts, product packaging, store shelves, bus stops, mailings from political candidates, and subways. Retail stores like Best Buy, Home Depot and Lowe’s have corporate programs for 2D codes. Honestly, it is hard to name a place that I haven’t seen a 2D bar code. Hard to say if there are more codes — or more consumers scanning the codes. I think it is the former. As with many things mobile, this is more of a supply-side-driven phenomenon than demand-side.
Why are there so many codes? They are one of many mobile technologies that facilitate the connection of consumers to relevant content when they need it. Scanning bar codes simplifies the experience of discovering content or initiating an action on a cell phone like sending a message or adding a contact to a phone. Brands are doing all they can to educate consumers about what codes are and how to use them. Budweiser, for example, has designed an entire TV commercial around tags from Spyderlink on its Bud Light cartons. See the video.
Plastering codes everywhere, however, is working — adoption among US adults has increased from only 1% last year to 5% this year. Adoption among smartphone owners is three times that. While adoption is relatively low today, the strong growth in usage of the codes by brands and consumers alike indicates a bright future for brands looking to deepen their engagement with consumers. Bar codes don’t facilitate just marketing — they will be used 360 degrees around a customer’s journey — from branding or consideration through to purchase and replenishment.