Uber....Pepsi....The Ringling Brothers Circus.....

Three very different brands with an unfortunate commonality: Each has recently incurred the wrath of a growing segment that Forrester calls the values-based consumer.

Last week at Forrester’s Consumer Marketing Forum, my colleague Henry Peyret and I launched a new line of research. It helps marketers manage the trend of consumers looking beyond the direct, personal benefits they receive from a brand to also value the brand’s impact on society and the world. Paired with Anjali Lai’s powerful companion data report on how empowered consumers’ decision making is changing, this set of research represents a new dimension of Forrester’s overarching thesis on the age of the customer.

To be “customer obsessed,” brands need to do more than study their customers’ technology habits and the digital data they have about them, and even go beyond delivering extraordinary experiences. These are things all companies are trying to do today and will differentiate brands just until their competitors catch up. Increasingly, brands will be evaluated beyond the sum of their features, benefits, personality, and positioning. Tapping the increased transparency created by social technologies, consumers are able to choose brands that reflect their own beliefs on issues related to their personal interpretation of societal impact.

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Plate Tectonics and the TV Advertising Business

 One of the key concepts I learned as a geology major at Williams College comes in very handy when analyzing the changes in the TV advertising business over the past few years. Plate tectonics describes giant slabs of the earth's crust that contain the continents and are propelled by the upwelling of molten layers deep in the earth's core. As plate boundaries grind against each other or are pulled apart by these forces, the mega-structures of the earth are formed: mountain ranges, undersea trenches and ocean basins. The San Andreas Fault is probably the best known example of a plate boundary. For decades, or even centuries, there is no apparent movement but once the massive forces can no longer be contained, the plates can move a dramatic distance within seconds, such as the 1989 Loma Prieta quake which exhibited a 7 foot shift in the position of two plates.

What the heck does this have to do with TV advertising? Just as this plate movement builds up tremendous pressures, so have the forces of technology, advertiser demands for better targeting, and the drift of dollars away from TV to digital put pressure on the TV networks. But just as the plates initially resist moving, there has been little movement in TV advertising: The upfronts last year recovered from the down years of 2014 to 2016, there has been little progress in addressable TV, and Nielsen still reigns as the currency of the market. We've seen the TV business resist these technology-driven pressures for at least a decade, so the question is whether the business will gradually change over the next five to 10 years, or will a San Andreas style quake transform the industry in a matter of months?

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Super Bowl LI: Lackluster Brand Promises, Inspiring Values

Out of a generally uninspiring batch of ads this year, one trend stood out: brands using the largest ad platform in the US to align their brand with social and political values that generally are thought to have no place in the bottom-line world of driving quarterly business results. Social media listening firm Talkwalker notes that 5 of the top 10 most talked about ads have a social or political theme and generated strong positive sentiment: Budweiser, Audi, Coca-Cola, 84 Lumber, and AirBnB.

Not all ads attempting to align a brand with societal values were successful: Audi’s attempt to take a stand on gender pay equity lacked a credible connection to this testosterone-fueled luxury car. And, of course, taking a stand risks alienating consumers who disagree. Since Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” ad was originally conceived long before the election, I’m not convinced they were trying to make a statement about immigration policy. But it is certainly being seen in that tone and has brought out a fair share of trolls commenting on YouTube.

These brands are acknowledging that the idea that “the business of business is business” is changing. Along with my colleagues Henry Peyret, Brigitte Majewski, Alex Cullen and Drew Green, I have been exploring the changing nature of how consumers incorporate these broader values into their brand decisions. Stay tuned for the report but our research tells us 3 things a brand must do to walk this delicate line in today’s polarized environment.

  • Carefully consider where your brand should be on what Carol Cone calls “The Purpose Spectrum”
  • Be authentic and back up the words with tangible commitments
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AT&T DirectTV Now - The Cord Never-Ever Package

 I'm in NY today at the launch of DirectTV Now -- AT&T's new video streaming service. The key points are:

  • Live TV plus on-demand streaming
  • Packages starting at 60 channels for $35 per month up to 120 channels for $70 -- with a special deal to get the 100 channel package (normally $60) for $35, for as long as you remain a customer 
  • The channel line up is all the good stuff -- not padded with niche channels nobody ever watches.
  • The catches: No CBS or Showtime yet -- though they are working on it. No NFL Sunday Ticket, but they're working on it.
  • Extensive distribution through all AT&T outlets and resellers, plus deals with Amazon and Apple TV. 
  • A special AT&T exclusive deal with Taylor Swift for original video.
  • Their focus is the 20 million people not already in the pay-TV ecosystem: people who couldn't pass a credit check to get satellite DirectTV and apartment/MDU dwellers.
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The Forrester Wave: Marketing Measurement and Optimization Solutions, 2016

Gone are the days of marketing mix providers.  So long cross-channel attribution technologies.  There’s a new sheriff in town—Marketing Measurement And Optimization Solutions.

Today, Tina Moffett and I are excited to publish The Forrester Wave: Marketing Measurement and Optimization Solutions, 2016.  The 2016 Marketing Measurement and Optimization Wave combines the previous Marketing Mix Modeling Wave and Cross-Channel Attribution Wave.  This report evaluates 10 vendors on current offering criteria, strategy, and market presence. 

Why did we take this “unified” approach to marketing measurement?  Customer data deluge is putting pressure on marketers to measure the effectiveness of ALL marketing initiatives, across each customer.Marketing mix modeling and cross-channel attribution each provide deep marketing performance insights but each fell short in providing what marketers urgently need: a singular view of marketing performance.

Over the past 18 months, Forrester saw a dramatic shift in solutions; traditional marketing mix modeling measurement providers were investing in technology and methodology develop for attribution and we dubbed this “Unified Marketing Impact Analytics”

This inaugural wave helps marketers make sense of this complex landscape of top providers in the measurement space. By virtue of offering a unified approach today, these 10 vendors are the creme de la creme. We expect to see this landscape evolve, with new players entering into the space and mainstays evolve their core offering even further.

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The Trust Crisis in Advertising

Facebook's admission that their video viewing numbers have been inflated for two years is one more shoe dropping in an ongoing breakdown of the relationships between advertisers, agencies and media companies in the advertising ecosystem. Coming after the ANA's work on transparency, and the unresolved issue of fraud in the programmatic ecosystem, this points to a larger, more fundamental problem in the advertising industry.

I won't try to diagnose them all (my colleague Sarah Sikowitz did a good job on the agency transparency issue on her blog). And I won't even go into the fact that the agencies didn't challenge these bogus counts. 

But I have a word of advice for the digital industry: stop obsessing over bits and pixels and clicks (Oh My!). I've been in digital for 20 years and by now the industry should have learned that no matter how readily available this data is, it is meaningless relative to what advertisers really want to know: is my message getting through and having an impact? I may sound old fashioned, but in contrast to these irrelevant, spurious, and potentially inflated data, I'll take a good-old exposed/unexposed ad communication/awareness/attribute association/purchase intent lift survey any day.

True, I give up the individual-level data the digital prides itself on. But if the data is this weak and subject to manipulation, it is at best an inaccurate view of ad performance and likely to be downright misleading.

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Unilever Buys Dollar Shave Club: The End Of The Mass Marketing Era?

When I read the news of Unilever buying Dollar Shave Club I couldn't help but think of an advisory session I did for a big CPG firm with colleagues Melissa Parrish and Brigitte Majewski a few months ago. One big topic of conversation was how to build a brand today in a media and marketing world that is so fragmented. We had used Dollar Shave Club as an example of how the rules have changed in the post-digital era.

And then I came across this post on the Stratechery blog that analyzes DSC and its disruptive strategy extraordinarily well.

I can't help but read from this the end of the mass marketing era whose rules P&G is rightly famous for codifying and rigorously training its brand managers in. My conclusions from this example include:

The end of product innovation. Really interesting story about how Gillette's 5-blade razor bombed. Basically, products reach a point of development that no further improvement is needed. Or at least the added cost of the innovative product didn't bring commensurate increase in performance to justify it. The model of continuous product innovation hit the wall -- certainly a product strategy driven out of a lab and corporate goal to merely increase price and profits hits the wall. DCS listened to customers and innovated not the product, but the pricing and distribution model to solve a different problem than delivering a "better" shave.

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Introducing Unified Marketing Impact Analytics

“Hey…you got chocolate in my peanut butter!”

This line from a 1980’s Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups campaign is a classic in advertising…and aptly describes what is happening in marketing measurement today. (For a blast from the past click here to view this oldie!)

Two proven techniques that work great separately – attribution and marketing mix modeling – work even better when merged into a unified measurement approach.

I suspected the convergence of different marketing analytics approaches was inevitable so earlier this year, my colleague Tina Moffett and I began sharing our ideas on where marketing measurement was headed.   We agreed each approach provides only a partial answer to the marketing ROI puzzle and they shared enough methodological similarity that merging them was plausible.

We’ve just completed research that shows that our intuition is correct and in our new report "Embrace Unified Marketing Impact Analytics to Deliver Value Across Interactions" we dubbed this converged approach as Unified Marketing Impact Analytics (UMIA), defining it as:

blend of statistical techniques that assigns business value to each element of the marketing mix at both a strategic and tactical level. 

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Video Consumption Behavior -- Corroborating Evidence

Sorry for that rather legalistic/nerdy headline. As I mentioned in my last post, Forrester's data on Making Sense of New Video Consumption Behaviors stimulated a discussion of methodologies, and particularly the challenges with our self-reported survey methodology. I agree, this approach has some flaws, as does any research methodology. That's why we're trained here to look for multiple data points and then to interpret them to give as accurate a view as we can of what's happening in the market.

So I just came across an article that I had read while I was writing that report which provides additional evidence. In it, NBC Universal's AlanWurtzel describes the digital viewing numbers they are beginning to provide, using behavior data from Nielsen, Rentrak, Omniture, and Hulu. These numbers point in the same direction, and perhaps point to even larger changes than Forrester's data indicate.

The article cites numbers for two shows, on a live-plus-seven-day basis. For The Blacklist, digital viewing accounts for 17% of the total viewership, while digital views are 37% of Parks & Recreation's total.

These data sets and NBC's methodology have their own gaps and weaknesses, no doubt. But I believe that is a matter of degree, not direction. These numbers -- and Forrester's -- don't have the degree of precision needed for the currency of the TV market, but they clearly indicate that a significant change is happening in consumer viewing behavior that advertisers need to factor into their planning. 

More On New Video Consumption Behaviors

The press coverage of my report "Making Sense of New Video Consumption Behaviors" -- and especially the number they highlighted that 46% of the "core" TV audience watches linear TV in a typical month -- raised a lot of questions (and skepticism!) on the Research Wonks list serve. I figure if they had those questions, others might, too, so here is the response I posted there:

"The media always looks for the headline-grabbing, shocking, number and the 46% watch linear certainly qualifies. I used this number in passing to set up the report so before I address the methodology questions, let me share the core conclusion of the report: consumer video consumption behaviors are different enough across generations that planners need to break out of past planning routines and account for these different behaviors. Toward the end of the report I say:

A goal of 100 gross rating points (GRPs) against an 18-to-49 audience is merely an average across this entire audience; if the placements are skewed to linear TV, it will likely deliver too many ads to the 35-to-49 segment and not deliver enough to the 18-to-34 group.

The 46% number doesn't comment on the number of hours, and the data we capture is very broad here, but even it shows that linear is still the larger number of hours.

In the report I say that linear is the “main dish” that must be complemented with “side dishes” like streamed sources and addressable plus “desserts” like professional short-form video to present a balanced video ad diet. (Yes, I really tortured that metaphor!)

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