When it's time to make a decision -- say to take a new job -- what informs your process? Is your choice based solely on a checklist of data items -- how well respected the company is, the salary, the title, the potential for growth -- or is it based off some kind of intangible gut emotion? How do you feel about the new positon? Chances are you'll make a decision based on a little bit of both -- some data and some intuition.
Intuition, or a "gut" feeling, is essentially internalized knowledge that we act on unconsciously and with lightning-fast speed. In contrast, "data" can take a long time to acquire and interpret, but implies objectivity.
That's why in business, we tend to trust the data over our gut intuition. We research and quantify, we test and examine. When trying to make product decisions with big dollars and careers on the line, data drawn from outside of our own experience is the "safe" bet. But even when the numbers say "go," the sad fact is that 85 percent of all new products fail.
So what if we turn that data-driven paradigm on its head? What if we made business decisions the same way we make real life choices -- using intuition alongside the data? In order to hone that "gut," businesses have to actively cultivate customer intuition, understanding the passions and fears of the people they're looking to serve as instinctively as they understand their own motivations. Armed with this intuition, businesses can be more agile and make the kinds of split-second decisions that drive growth and innovation in today's marketplace.
With that in mind, here are three ways to hone your customer intuition.
To be more intuitive and really trust our guts, we need to be able to understand our customers -- their joys, sorrows, worries, and dreams. Empathy is a basic human emotion, but one that isn't often associated with brands or business. How can you build empathy within an organization? By learning to see the world through your customers' eyes. In one now infamous case, a personal care brand worked with adults with incontinence to improve their adult diapers. One of the adults suggested that, in order to really "get" what it's like living with incontinence, the brand needed to go a full day wearing the diapers. This is an extreme illustration of what it means to build empathy, but it's the kind of hands-on experience and deep understanding that enables an organization to build up the kind of gut instincts that inspire confidence.
It's one thing to have the marketing team or the insights team spend time building relationships with customers, but if the internalized knowledge resulting from those relationships does not make its way into the hands of the decision-makers, it's impossible to bring about real change. Brands trying to build their customer intuition have found unique ways to bring the customer to life for everyone in the organization. A healthcare brand built an immersive experience in a former conference room, turning the space into an exact replica of the kitchen of a customer whose son had diabetes. From the medicines in the cabinet to notes on the kitchen table, the room brought to life the daily experiences of a family struggling with the complexities of the disease. By sharing a patient's everyday journey, people within the organization could experience and connect with these customers on a more personal level.
While data can often tell you the "what," it can't tell you the "why." While it can tell you what people do within the realm of what's available and observable, it can't help you create the future. To understand the "why" requires listening to the human voice to tell a story that data, however beautifully visualized, cannot. Why does this matter? Executives have a huge role to play if they take the leap from being reporters to being change agents within and outside their organizations. But to do that, they themselves must be moved and know how to move their organizations. That's why it's crucial to marry data with interpersonal approaches relying on empathy to identify meaning, not just patterns, and to tell stories, not just visualize points in time.
In a time when consumers have more choice and power than ever before, building ongoing relationships with customers is critical. Only by designing the customer into the whole organization -- by building that gut customer intuition -- can organizations act with confidence and agility in the face of continuous change and disruption.
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Bachelor's degree? Check.
Didn't wear a baseball cap and sandals to interview? Check.
"When can you start?" - hiring manager circa 2007
This scenario doesn't happen very often nowadays. The traditional hurdles of interviewing still exist, but the modern course of action has a new variable to clear: culture fit. Coasting in with a solid resume and references won't guarantee a second interview with the C-staff. Brains, talent, and charm are desirable traits, but only if the shoe fits. All of the smarts and qualifications in the world are worthless if the candidate's general attitude and outlook will erode your company's culture.
To be clear, company culture is important on both sides of the desk. Glassdoor.com filtered through their database of employee reviews last year and compiled a list of the top 25 company cultures voted on by employees. Corporate culture was ranked on a scale of 1-5, and to no surprise, big names like Twitter, Google, Facebook, and Southwest were in the Top 10. Company culture is truly about hiring the right people, though. All the perks in the world can't overcome a group of people who don't jive together. While this article will focus on culture fit from an employer standpoint, rest assured top applicants perform their due diligence as well.
Assessing a candidate's compatibility begins with knowing your company culture front to back. Startups who anticipate long hours and employees wearing a lot of hats know who to look for. Larger companies with a lot of red tape and structure similarly understand who will thrive in their environment. It's up to the company to apply these considerations to their hiring process, and it starts with asking the right questions.
There is a lot of talk lately about identifying emotional intelligence and other secondary qualities, but a happy culture is all about like-mindedness. Companies must be conscientious in their line of questioning, and finding out if the candidate is a match takes personal yet prudent inquiries. Here are several examples of what you can ask to hire for culture fit:
What type of management style do you thrive under?
Directive. Authoritative. Affiliative. Participative. Pacesetting. Coaching. All of these management styles are unique, and it is possible for candidates to thrive under more than one. A safe exercise can be to ask what styles they prefer and which they can't stand, as well as why and why not.
Name one work environment factor that must be present for you to be happily employed.
There is no wrong answer here. You need to know what makes them tick, and asking for only one factor will help expose the candidate's absolute "must-have."
Name something that drove you crazy at your last company.
This answer can be more valuable than knowing what they like. If the candidate mentions something that corresponds to your company's day-to-day, it's worth taking into account when making your decision.
What activities do you most enjoy outside of work?
Similar to a college that wants you to participate in extracurricular activities, it pays to know the candidate has passions outside of work. Exercise, art, volunteering -- anything that shows the person is inspired and leads a motivated lifestyle. All of that positivity and energy will certainly make its way back into your office.
Name one random thing about yourself.
Some people love "Star Wars." Others love cycling. Finding out the one random fact a candidate will expose may let you know if they will fit in with the likes of your current employees. This question is by no means a deal-breaker, just a peek into how quickly they will chime in at the watercooler.
One clear dividend of hiring for culture is the high retention rate. Someone who loves their job and office culture is very likely to stay and grow within the company. However, not all positions work out long-term. This is especially true for startups. Demands and requirements change and the employee pool must be able to fulfill these needs. This is yet another scenario where if you hire for culture, you probably have employees you can repurpose to fill these roles.
This philosophy is especially applicable for terminated positions. If the employee has a great rapport with the team and shows commitment to the company, why would you throw that away? His or her impact on your culture is a valuable company resource. If a deeply rooted employee's position suddenly becomes useless, find another use for the employee. The cost and time to hire and train another employee will never equate.
Earlier I mentioned how most colleges require extracurricular activities to accept students. Truth be told, the framework for culture fit can actually be traced back to grade school. No matter how intelligent or well-rounded a child is, if they don't play well with others, a problem exists. The same goes for hiring for culture fit. Recognizing intelligence and experience isn't hard for hiring managers, but if a personality doesn't feel right, it's hard to ignore. "Will this new candidate play well with others?" That's for the company to decide.
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False advertising doesn't get much worse than mid-century American cigarette print ads: "Not one single case of throat irritation due to smoking Camels." Really? I kind of doubt it.
Of course, advertising is significantly different now. Oversight by the Federal Trade Commission is stringent, so it's uncommon to see anything as outrageous as physician-recommended cigarettes. But brands still attempt to bullshit their customers all the time. From greenwashing to unfounded health claims, well-known brands regularly attempt to fleece us. But just as regularly, those brands get caught red-handed -- sometimes by the FTC, sometimes by the online community at large.
Here are a few examples from recent years, ranging from the "whoops" to the "seriously?"
In the 2011 case of Reebok and similar 2012 case of Skechers, you could argue that naive -- or at least desperate -- consumers were partially to blame. The promise by the shoe brands regarding their new lines of product? Switch your shoes and instantly tone your butt and legs by doing nothing more than walking like usual!
Sign me up! A Kardashian wouldn't lie, right?
Image via New York Daily News.
The problem, of course, were that these were unfounded and deceptive health claims, which is pretty much the easiest way to get the FTC pissed off at you. In the end, Reebok paid out $25 million as a part of its settlement agreement, and Skechers paid out $40 million. And Americans butts continued to have to go to the gym.
In one of my college communication courses, the professor began every semester by writing C=f(p) on the blackboard -- communication is a function of perception. This couldn't be any truer in today's world of digital marketing, where communication can only be effective if the customer perceives value in both the message and in the communication method.
Contextual marketing seeks to solve this problem -- providing value to the customer by offering them the perfect message at the perfect time and place. Ultimately, it will provide value to the business as well. To understand how contextual marketing will help us create more mutually-beneficial marketing programs, we first need to define it. In its most basic form, contextual marketing is all about relevancy, which is the most aspect of digital marketing -- something I have been preaching to clients for years. We now have the data to craft and send messages at the most valuable moment, predict behavior, and communicate to the customer in the most relevant way.
The concept itself isn't difficult to understand, but there are a number of challenges marketers often face as they get started building a contextual marketing strategy. Some common questions include:
What new challenges should we anticipate as we build contextual marketing capabilities and new sources of data?
The biggest challenge is knowing what information you have and how best to use it so your campaigns speak to your customers in a truly relevant way. It is important to understand the various sources of data available and what we should and should not do with that data. One rule of thumb I often tell my clients is "don't be creepy." Just because you have data doesn't always mean you should use it. Make sure that you are using it in the right way.
With real-time triggers across channels, are there new deliverability issues marketers need to take into account?
Any time you send campaigns, it's important to track and monitor those messages, whether they are promotional or triggered. The issue I see a number of marketers have is that they only worry about reaching their customers' inboxes and don't think to monitor their triggered IPs or domains. While this is usually true, it is important to monitor this by following various trending within your campaigns for opens or clicks.
There is so much data of which we could be taking advantage -- new brand and customer touch points as well as unique customer data sources. How can I focus?
The most exciting thing about this new push for contextual marketing is all of the opportunities it provides to marketers. Customers are beginning to demand more relevance, and as these programs advance they will likely continue to be open to the possibilities that contextual marketing programs have to offer. To understand where to focus, think about the end customer's needs. Where can you increase relevance to better their experience? By focusing on the customer, you'll be able to make the right decisions to encourage long-term brand advocacy.
How will this actually help me make more revenue?
While it is widely accepted that email is one of the most cost-effective marketing channels available, it doesn't mean it is the most effective for everyone. Being able to choose the right channel based on real-time contextual data will help you increase relevance and improve the chances that you reach the customer at the time they are most likely to act.
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In the past 10 years, brand teams have matured their direct marketing infrastructure to a point where they work with a single set of customer data. They install CRM software, populate a customer database, and then message customers through their software across retail, web, and email channels. Things can get more complicated with the addition of point solutions for rich media, social marketing, mobile marketing, etc., but most of these software platforms are built to bolt onto this ecosystem, which rests happily on the common foundation of customer data. More important, most marketers are focused on driving the same thing -- revenue, through digital or traditional, physical channels; whether it's easy or difficult to attribute a sale to a particular marketing activity, everyone is doing their best to connect those dots.
Many of digital marketing's advertising peers, on the other hand, rarely have an established technology ecosystem, a common audience or a defined set of success metrics. Instead, they grapple with a wide variety of data up and down the "advertising supply chain," coming from agencies, programmatic platforms, and publishers. Each player in the chain uses a murky, often unique definition of audience data and has created a host of metrics that work for a volume-based media spend, but don't work at all for brands that are trying to figure out what's actually driving revenue.
These differences in data, incentives, and metrics create a gaping chasm between marketers and advertisers, and perpetuate the costly divide between the conversation advertisers are having with consumers and the one marketers are having with consumers. In a world where technology and changing consumer behavior should be driving advertising and marketing closer together, this gap impedes the relevant messaging that consumers value.
Ideally, advertisers would overhaul some of their behaviors to move closer to marketing best practices. Namely, they should disregard most of the "audience insights" they receive from third parties and change agency incentives to encourage attribution that marries with marketing activity.
Change is not easy. Hundreds of millions of dollars can flow through well-established advertising systems, some of them tied to other groups (like TV media buyers) that have even larger relationships with agencies, and few advertising teams have large technology and analytics departments to replace third-party technologies. But recent advances in audience advertising technology have provided a path out of the wilderness for the brand advertiser willing to shake up the status quo.
While most advertisers probably won't rip up a digital advertising system that's been established over the past 15 years, many brands are focusing on first-party data-driven audiences as the initial step to improving the state of digital advertising. The process usually begins when a brand advertiser convinces their company to work directly with a Digital Marketing Platform (DMP) or similar audience technology, rather than allow their agency to manage the relationship. By working with a DMP directly, brands (Proctor & Gamble is a good example) are doing much more than ensuring that they have control over their own audience data (which is a very good reason in itself); they are setting up their entire business to be aligned across marketing and advertising -- including new metrics and new agency incentives.
If a company keeps an audience database in-house, marketing technology teams have access to it and can start comparing it to their own customer data. Suddenly, audiences can be tracked from ad to website to checkout much more accurately than before. This starts the transition from separate to shared success metrics between teams, and provides a way to create much more continuous customer conversations.
Additionally, advertisers can use audience targeting to start replacing impression-based advertising. By targeting real people, advertisers and marketers can start making the move together to true customer engagement.
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360pi announced it will offer a free report series to help qualified subscribers predict top-selling toys this holiday season.
451 Research is excited to announce the return of Henry Baltazar as research director for the Storage Research Channel.
AccuWeather, Inc. announced it has appointed Karen Bressner as head of digital advertising sales.
Ace Metrix announced that data and analytics pioneer Mark F. Bryant has joined the company as vice president and general manager, politics and advocacy.
clypd announced that Pete Doe has joined as chief research officer.
DDB Stockholm have created "The Catch-up Grant" for Samsung, giving one person the chance to watch TV series, completely undisturbed, for 100 days.
dotstudioPRO announced that Scion NorCal has signed on as one of the first brand partners for mySPOTLIGHT.TV, a video content aggregation and targeting offering.
Nice & Company has been tapped for creative services for Allegiant, a Vegas-based airline offering low fares on nonstop flights to 107 cities nationwide.
Odoo released Odoo 9, the latest version of its all-in-one software.
Offerpop, provider of the leading visual user-generated content (UGC) marketing platform, announced its integration with the Instagram Ads API.
RetailMeNot, Inc. announced that Marissa Tarleton has joined the company as its chief marketing officer for North America.
RevTrax announced the extension of its digital patent portfolio with a technology that limits access, printing, and use of digital promotions or coupons.
StartApp, a mobile advertising platform, has announced the launch of a publisher-centric rewards program called StartApp Rewards Program.
Tapad appointed Morgan Rigsbee to senior director of sales for technology licensing.
Trusted Media Brands, Inc. announced the appointment of Vincent Errico as chief digital officer.
Verndale, a Boston-based marketing tech agency, acquired LA-based digital agency Dustland.
Visual IQ announced significant enhancements to its IQ Intelligence Suite with the introduction of IQ Envoy for branding and TV attribution.
Vixlet announced the launch of MLB Fans, the official social network of Major League Baseball (MLB), in partnership with MLB.
Yieldbot announced two senior executive appointments: Elissa Reiling-Gray as vice president of brand marketing and Veronica Mendoza as vice president of product marketing.
Editor's note: We list the companies and people alphabetically. Our bimonthly column is always looking for announcements, so please email them to email@example.com.
We all remember 2008 and the financial fallout that followed. What's interesting is that technically the economy was a full-on bull market come mid-2009, despite business acting like it was still a recession for the next few years. Even when the market had fully recovered, the hangover from this event lasted far longer. The deeper the emotional impact of an event, the longer we account for it in our current reality. Marketers are no different. Today, there are a number of trends that consumers are demonstrating that marketers are ignoring at their own low-ROI peril.
Whether looking at Mary Meeker's annual internet trends report or the fact that 86 percent of mobile screen time is spent in-app, we are not becoming mobile consumers -- we already are mobile consumers. Mobile search has overtaken desktop search by volume. But how many marketers have shifted budgets and their focus so that it's at least a possibility that mobile consumes more budget than desktop?
eMarketer recently pointed out that marketers are wrong to stay hung up on mobile measurement. Just because it's not perfectly measurable doesn't mean it's not the right channel for marketing. How do you measure your outdoor advertising's effectiveness? What about TV? Most major advertisers have done enough research to know that when they run TV, they see a lift in sales. But have you identified how every single program and spot you buy performs? I'd bet not. I'm told CMOs are always on the hot seat and need to measure everything. But instead, are you a CMO spending money in the wrong channels just to be able to better measure the outcomes of an incorrect decision?
How many of you are relieved to find an online chat option so you don't have to actually pick up the phone and call customer service? But you and I are different. We're at our desktops a lot. Go sit in a Chipotle during lunch and watch the people that come in. How many look as though they're in front of a desktop all day? For many, their phone is their computer. Ever tried to chat with customer service through a mobile browser? I wouldn't even try.
Yet look to the top 10 globally installed apps and you'll see every single one is a social or messaging app. We're not just mobile consumers for consuming information; we've completely changed how we communicate with each other to center around our mobile life. Wouldn't it be less painful if you could contact customer service via Kik, Snapchat, WhatsApp, Instagram, Twitter or any other major messaging apps of your choice? (There's a business here -- don't forget the idea guy!) To marketers the messaging space looks fragmented. To consumers with their messaging app of choice, it's highly organized in that tiny app icon.
As the process matures, fraud is becoming the biggest challenge for marketers looking to make programmatic mainstream and not feared in the industry. However, there are real ways that bots can be battled if marketers are serious about saving the future reputation of programmatic. Seph Zdarko, head of partner strategy & attribution initiatives for Quantcast speaks to iMedia at the thinkLA Programmatic Summit about why the identification of click patterns and elimination of financial extraction points are two excellent ways the industry can win the programmatic fraud war.
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Article written by media production manager David Zaleski and video edited by associate media producer Brian Waters.
"Evil angry robot" image via Shutterstock.
We find ourselves in a moment in time where most marketers are drowning in data. What started as a great thing -- knowing what works and what doesn't for your business -- quickly became a deluge of curious information that doesn't lead to clear interpretation. Many marketers have become overwhelmed with the numbers and are suffering from data paralysis as a result. It's clear that marketers need an easier and better way to use analytic insights.
How can marketers overcome data exhaustion and start utilizing analytics to make better decisions and drive better results? Here are five tips:
Resist the temptation to check data too frequently.
Just because it's on hand doesn't mean it's ready for use. Make sure that you're aware of seasonal trends and external factors that might be influential. Most importantly, make sure it has reached statistical significance with a critical mass of activity. Otherwise you can't have confidence to support the trend you see. Although it's good to keep your finger on the pulse of what's happening daily, obsessive checking won't allow enough time for trends to develop, and can lead to misinterpretation of data. It can be easy to rush to a decision that could ultimately be wrong for your business. Give it time to be certain.
Let the data paint a clear picture.
A picture is worth a thousand words -- so show it, don't tell it. Make it clear and shareable to all levels of marketing and analytics education. There are many options for how to show the information beyond pie charts and line graphs. If it's a cohort of like behavior from a single type of site visitor, try to show the learning as an expression of that persona's customer journey.
Set up the systems you need for your context.
You don't need to just buy either the top or bottom shelf to put off your uncertainties. Think about what actual complexities you're facing in your business. What problems do you really need to solve? How is your website set up to serve your customers? We've seen several clients over purchase and still not have the best solution in place for their business challenges.
Keep learning the landscape.
This is a space that is evolving quickly. First there were basic analytics, then big data, now predictive analytics. What new insights can be gained? Do they matter for your decision-making? You need to know what's available. Machine learning and cloud analytics are just a couple of the new trends that hold tremendous promise as they start to evolve and apply to more businesses.
Don't let the data "drive."
The analytics are there to serve you, not the other way around. Analytics can provide valuable insight to make better decisions. But as easy as it is to be reactive, marketers should avoid doing things without a well-considered plan. An early outlier, temporary drop, or a slow start can distract from sound long term, data-informed strategies.
By taking these steps, marketers can avoid falling into the trap of data paralysis, and start to truly reap the benefits of analytics. For marketers who understand how to harness these insights, it's a great time to be in the field. Never before have we had access to so much customer and behavioral data. You can find out which campaigns turn prospects into paying customers. You can learn about the content customers prefer, their buying patterns, the reasons they stop doing business with you, and the reasons they keep coming back. Now is the time to put that knowledge to good use by turning data into actionable results.
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More than six months have passed since the end of the great period of consolidation in the video SSP/exchange space. Facebook acquired LiveRail, RTL snapped up SpotXchange, Yahoo bought BrightRoll, and AOL put this whole spate of buys into motion when it closed out a deal for Adap.tv.
Creating a single platform that connects advertisers with audiences and broadens capabilities through acquisitions is clearly how key players in the ad tech space are looking to get ahead in video. As a one-stop shop for advertisers to utilize video, providers can combine horizontal and vertical integration strategies to cut costs incurred by third parties, enter new markets, increase control, and maximize the yield from their owned and operated properties. Given the deep value proposition, it seems inevitable that video would live inside the stack.
Then last September, WPP rocked the boat, deciding to invest $25 million in AppNexus. Martin Sorrell made a strategic decision to support one of the select few independent solutions that does not sell its own media, despite of all the momentum around consolidation. So are concerns over a lack of independence in the video ad tech space justified, or is consolidation a positive evolutionary step for this rapidly changing industry?
Let's take a closer look.
Apple, Facebook, and Google all have their own proprietary user IDs that enable them to trace user behavior across devices. This deterministic identification of audiences enables them to offer advertisers more effective and efficient cross-device campaigns. However, the use of that data is limited to applications within their respective platforms.
Despite the fact that cross-device targeting is still relatively nascent, advertisers ultimately desire the ability to build out a three-dimensional view of their global audiences and execute campaigns across all media available to them. The siloed nature of that data in the current ad tech landscape makes that dream a forlorn one, for the moment.
This summer, Facebook announced it was updating its viewability metric to only charge advertisers once an ad is 100 percent in view, rather than billing when only a fraction of the ad is in view, as was formerly the case. While welcome, this move towards the more stringent viewability requirements of the demand-side is not representative of a miraculous unification of the way in which key industry metrics are measured.
Google's Active View product has been accredited by the MRC for the measurement of viewable impressions, while Facebook's accreditation is currently in progress. However, neither platform enables third-party verification to run on its inventory, a crucial barrier to developing a standard currency for viewability. The influence these video heavyweights wield is going to be make or break for emerging standards, but the prevailing sense is that if you've gone to the trouble of building an empire, you don't let someone else rule it for you.
For many incumbents in the SSP/Exchange space, acquisitions enable them to fill a hole in their set of solutions, whether by broadening into a new channel such as video from display, or adding a mobile web or in-app capability.
While this undoubtedly has strategic merit, the actual integration process once the paperwork is signed usually takes a minimum of six months, and throughout that time, products see very little in the way of updates. Ultimately, there is a risk that the value a company adds having a clear and independent focus is diluted by coming under the wings of a larger, broader organization. Independence not only enables innovation, it demands it.
Ad-tech vendors sit between two stakeholders with diametrically opposed approaches to video advertising. One wants to buy quality inventory for the lowest price possible, one wants to sell it for the maximum price possible.
Consolidation silos inventory and puts the brakes on innovation, preventing the emergence of a truly organic market where value is determined fairly. In order to evolve, the industry needs to find a compromise in the haggling process through the meritocratic evaluation of every advertising opportunity in an open, interconnected pool of inventory that is governed by standardized and universally adopted quality criteria.
If we are going to realize the full potential of video advertising, the role of independents in creating open marketplaces, developing common audience identification technology, adopting standards, and innovating in fringe technologies are all vitally important.
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