If you could sum up your agency's most important focus in three words, what would they be? That's exactly the question we asked several senior level digital marketers at the iMedia Agency Summit in May. Their answers might surprise you.
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More than 70 percent of the entire internet domain name system we use every day is currently hosted in the .com space, making it one of the most familiar generic top-level domains (gTLDs) for companies and consumers, along with .net, .org, and a few others. In the next few months, however, the internet will expand, introducing a host of changes that will transform what has been a relative status quo in the area of top-level domains (TLDs).
The International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an organization essentially made up of the folks who "run" the internet, has made it its mission to expand the spaces and places that can be explored and used as domain names. To date, ICANN has already accepted applications for almost 2,000 new top-level domain extensions for everything from common terms (.web, .love, .store, .blog, .surf, .sex, .ad, .books) to brand names and unique identities like .apple and .NYC. We'll probably see the first new gTLDs roll out sometime in July 2013 for U.S. domains, with more to roll out and expand geographically every month thereafter. The last to roll out will likely be the more common terms (like .hotel and .music) that are being disputed by multiple organizations.
So what does this mean for brands and marketers? Well, many don't even know much about it. A report last month showed that more than 60 percent of all small to mid-sized businesses were unaware of the new gTLD launch. Consumers are also in the dark, meaning that even those marketers in the know might face an uphill battle. According to research commissioned by domain service provider Afilias, only 20 percent of all U.S. consumers are aware that the program even exists.
With that said, the more savvy brands out there have been following closely from the start, and many have even spent months preparing and strategizing about how to leverage the new .anything world of domain names, including brands like Citibank, Canon, Apple, Prudential, State Farm, and Google. At a branding conference in New York last month, many leading marketing managers from around the globe came together to discuss how a .brand TLD might enhance the customer experience online. These companies are making plans to ensure their success in the new TLD world by focusing on five ways to enhance their respective brands.
Many brands will be housing their various sub-brands and associated names under the commonly known "house" brand. For example, Citibank will be putting all of its web holdings into the .CITI TLD in order to create one space for all of its properties. This could be a big plus in terms of simplifying its footprint. In addition, New York City is launching .NYC to differentiate NYC-based businesses from services worldwide, decreasing consumer confusion.
Having a .brand TLD could give consumers more confidence that they are on a trusted website, particularly because with the thousands of new TLDs set to come online, there is bound to be more confusion then ever over what sites can be trusted. A .brand site, only open to the trademark owner, will ensure an extra layer of security and help stave off phishing attempts.
Companies want to make sure that consumers are able to find and navigate to a website. Brands will be working hard to ensure that their content is searchable and that it maintains priority in search engine algorithms across various search engines. Further, some brands are exploring the concept of creating search functionality within their .brand space that mimics a Google-type search in order to create an ecosystem for consumers to stay in and find related products without having to leave their site. For brands like P&G, Citibank, or Johnson & Johnson, this could be a powerful way to engage new and existing customers.
The internet is becoming more mobile, particularly as the penetration rates for internet users worldwide are increasingly based on mobile and smartphone usage. More than 85 percent of U.S. adults have a mobile phone, and more than 56 percent of them have accessed the web from their phones. Brands should consider using a .brand TLD to direct mobile traffic to their site(s) and determine how mobile applications can link to .brand sites.
The instant connection that users will have with a .brand or generic TLD like .music, .green, or .sports will be a powerful tool for creating meaningful interactions between users. To this end, brand owners should survey the entire space of new TLDs on a consistent basis to make sure that they register and use domains in meaningful spaces to connect with consumers. For example, a company like Patagonia should consider the idea of owning the domain www.patagonia.green. The brand could use the site to highlight its work in the "green" community. Additionally, Patagonia will be able to leverage the work that the .green gTLD is doing to connect with that community and make it a known quantity amongst consumers who want to support "green" initiatives.
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There are major industry forces in play that are changing the dynamics of how data gets generated, collected, and used for optimizing customer interactions across offline and digital touchpoints. Digital data expansion has accelerated the "big data revolution." In fact, 90 percent of the data that exists in the world has been created in the past two years and includes valuable anonymous data sources in addition to personal data.
According to industry sources, digital media spend is expected to grow nearly 50 percent and overtake TV ad spend by 2016. Targeted display alone will grow more than two-fold by 2016 and surpass search as the No. 1 digital media category. Data-informed programmatic media buying continues to grow as a way to generate high performance from digital media.
In today's fast-moving digital ecosystem, there is a lot of hype about digital data, but its value is not fully understood, and its accuracy not properly validated. Leading digital data players build impressive technology stacks and do a nice job of collecting and aggregating various digital data sources, but there continues to be a major gap in analytics.
Existing audience selection practices for digital targeting are primarily driven by off-the-shelf, generic third-party segments that are not optimized to specific campaign objectives. Marketers are not making use of rich digital and transactional first-party data to create custom audiences and are not maximizing the value of data that is available to them. We see some digital marketers with limited analytics experience making data-buying decisions based on subjective factors such as relationships and market hype.
Some digital marketers gave up on the idea of using third-party digital data completely and believe they are not getting enough benefit from the use of third-party data to justify the cost. On the other hand, data sellers arbitrarily set the price for their data assets without any consideration into the incremental lift it generates for digital campaigns and wonder why digital marketers don't leverage their data to make targeting decisions. Others, who make data-buying decisions based on subjective factors, get disappointed by the accuracy of the data when they realize that a big portion of the female audience segment they purchased in fact consists of male consumers.
Digital data sourcing needs to undergo a major transformation. To put this transformation into context, we should take a look at the changes that have taken place in the data ecosystem over the last 10-plus years. In the early 2000s, content-based buying was used as a proxy to reach desired audiences. In the mid 2000s, we saw continued reliance on content as a proxy, but re-marketing provided a shift in targeting. In today's environment, spend shifted toward third-party data, and first-party audience targeting grabbed the interest of marketers. The future state is all about using custom predictive analytics driving media targeting decisions and integrating offline and digital data sources. Digital marketers who embrace this transformation will have a tremendous opportunity to generate high ROI through analytically led digital data solutions.
The transformation of digital data sourcing and targeting needs to be driven by several factors. Measuring the value of digital data sourcing requires advanced statistical techniques.
Unbiased approach: Analytic evaluation and validation of all available digital data using an agnostic approach is key to determining the most valuable data sources.
Big data capabilities: An internet scale, real-time big data platform is needed to process vast amounts of digital data and integrate with DSPs, ad exchanges, and other digital media partners in the ecosystem.
Advanced analytics expertise: Predictive analytics and optimization will enable the mining of granular first-party data such as response, conversion, and customer value to develop custom audiences for digital targeting.
Transparency and privacy: It's important that marketers leverage all the available data using privacy guidelines and provide full transparency to consumers in terms of how their data gets collected and used to create relevant messages and offers.
The output of this analytic evaluation process is a detailed, customized scorecard that marketers can use to rank order various digital data sources that are available in the market place. This is a much more rigorous method than single-dimensional simplistic methods like lift reports that are widely used in the industry. This type of analytic evaluation and ranking of data sources leads to optimized audience targeting practice and higher campaign performance.
Marketers need ask themselves some tough questions when assessing a source through an analytic evaluation process. They include:
The digital data landscape is changing rapidly due to innovation and the big data explosion. An analytically led, unbiased approach is needed to identify the most valuable digital data sources that will drive high performance for marketers. We are in the early stages of an exciting journey and new approaches will be necessary. First movers embracing advanced analytical methods will have a significant advantage.
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BloomReach released Continuous Quality Management (CQM) technology delivering ongoing web page quality visibility and management.
Burstly announced its official corporate restructure, becoming the most comprehensive provider of tools to address developer and publisher needs across the entire lifecycle of an app. Consequently, Burstly became the parent company for a suite of services including TestFlight, FlightPath, and SkyRocket.
Celtra released all five of the IAB Mobile Rising Stars into its award-winning AdCreator 3 platform.
Comedy Central named Jason Shafton as VP, brand marketing.
CoreMedia announced the appointment of Jochen Toppe as VP of product management.
Critical Mass promoted Shaina Boone to the role of SVP, thus adding her to the executive team overseeing the agency's strategy and growth.
DDB Worldwide announced that it has appointed John Minty as chief operating officer of DDB California.
dot429 announced that Kevin Sessums has joined the team as editorial director to helm the new 429 print publication, launching in October of this year.
engajer announced that the engajer platform now integrates with LinkedIn, making it easier for salespeople to deliver their best interactive video pitch to the right audience at the right time.
Fetch announced the appointment of John Durham, CEO of Catalyst S+F, to its board of directors.
Gigya announced a major update to its NEXUS Partner Ecosystem with the addition of 21 social and marketing technology partners, including Marketo, Sailthru, Livefyre, and Disqus. The company also announced integration with Backplane Protocol, allowing Gigya's suite of social plugins to seamlessly communicate with other applications on websites.
Hotwire announced its latest office opening in San Francisco, Calif.
Interakt announced its expansion into the U.S. with the opening of offices in New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago.
Krux continued building out its go-to-market and management teams by adding two senior executives: Michael Moreau as VP of business development and David Ron as chief financial officer. Krux also appointed Colin McLean to sales director and Tousanna Durgan to director, advertiser products.
KSC Kreate, a creative and production studio specializing in visual content, launched a new studio in Columbus, Ohio, to support the city's retailers and marketing teams.
Lattice Engines announced the latest release of its big data analytics platform, Lattice salesPRISM. Lattice salesPRISM features new capabilities that turn social insights into laser-accurate leads for sales and marketing by combining social data with the predictive power of big data.
MailOnline reported that a new survey of more than 600 online advertising and marketing executives reveals that about two-thirds of brands (66 percent) and agencies (65 percent) say that branded content marketing has become very important or most important to their marketing mix.
Pandora announced that Tommy Page, a former record-company executive and, most recently, publisher at Billboard, has joined the company in the new position of VP, artist and brand partnerships, effective immediately.
Permission Data hired Christopher Ambrosio as chief revenue officer and Edward Shannon as VP of media. The company also promoted Stephanie Wyand to SVP of operations.
SapientNitro announced that Tabitha Geary has joined as VP of SapientNitro's growing Washington, D.C., office, which serves as the base for the agency's Mid-Atlantic business. SapientNitro also announced the debut of Sapient CommerceNow, the latest addition to Sapient's EngagedNow suite of offerings.
Silverpop announced the launch of Universal Behaviors, creating real-time individualized campaigns.
Simply Hired welcomed Kristy Stromberg as SVP of marketing.
The Online Publishers Association (OPA) named Noah Mallin VP of marketing.
Viggle announced the appointment of Christopher Traynor as chief technology officer. He will be creating Viggle LABS, a second-screen thought leadership initiative within the company. Viggle LABS will oversee the recently announced AppJam Challenge, a competition to create TV companion apps for the Viggle platform.
xAd and Telmetrics released new retail insights, such as one-third of consumer's online shopping time is now spent on smartphones and tablets. Also, with more than one out of three mobile retail shoppers exclusively tapping their devices to research purchases, mobile is becoming a de facto retail shopping tool.
Editor's note: We list the companies and people alphabetically. Our bimonthly column is always looking for announcements, so please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Did you know that social media consumes nearly one-fifth of the time users spend on the web? Well, most major brands and marketers do! If you think about it, social media has become the perpetual internet refrigerator. We check social sites constantly to see if anything else has changed or, in other words, to see if anyone recently posted new information relevant to our interests.
This continued reliance on social media has led to the expansion of advanced social capabilities -- specifically search. In serving both personal and professional functionalities, search features allow users to inquire, discover, learn, and connect. Today, effective marketers recognize the boundless opportunity to inject ideas and content into social media channels.
However, in a revolutionary combination, search within social uniquely blends the way people think, interact, and communicate. Users flock to few social media sites for much of their daily information uptake. For instance, Facebook operates as a hub for sharing YouTube videos, tweets, news articles, photos, personal opinions, and even music.
By providing interactive search capabilities, social sites discourage users from exploring beyond network boundaries by offering a wealth of onsite data. The objective is clear: incentivize audiences to naturally repeat engagement and become the center of the web.
Let's examine the major social giants and their respective search capacities. We'll stick to three components: engine functionality, user engagement, and content optimization for brands.
Though currently in beta testing, Facebook Graph Search will allow Facebookers to pinpoint specific content connected to highly targeted people, places, and businesses. And it will do this for more than 1 billion users. So say, for instance, you wanted to see results for the search query "biking." Graph Search will automatically provide you with an array of drop down selections related to biking: the Facebook page for biking, the interest, the people who like biking, your friends who like biking, photos of biking, and web searches of biking and biking gear.
Users will be able to search in layers, opening the door further to semantic search. Semantic search technology interacts with the user by providing relevant suggestions to better understand what the user is searching for. This isn't a new concept and will only improve over time. Because of these multifaceted functionalities, people will inevitably change the way they interact with Facebook, using it for many purposes.
With Graph Search, brands -- especially local -- have an incredible opportunity to get in front of new and interested customers. Before metrics such as likes, comments, and shares convert to sales, businesses will need to optimize their pages by updating their timelines. Highlighting company milestones and telling a story will deepen impact. Established authenticity is critical to online reputation.
Furthermore, filling out all information categories, including location and contact details, while incorporating appropriate links, will maximize business search visibility. For example, if you sell hotdogs in Dallas, let Facebook know that you sell hotdogs in Dallas!
Creative people are open to stats, but not if they are presented in a cold, disconnected way. Storytellers will just retreat back to what's worked in the past. Analytics need to be handed off with the campaign's goals in mind.
When data people talk at creative people, rather than to them, it couldn't be a bigger mistake. Don't condescend your colleagues. Engage them in an open conversation.
When Southeast Toyota Distributors decided to focus ad spend on Facebook, it didn't guarantee dealerships that sales would rise. However, after launching several local Facebook campaigns, revenue with a Facebook footprint started to pour in.
Marketing communications manager Julie Tullis tells us why the company decided to make Facebook a primary advertising priority and the surprising revenue results.
Everyone's talking about it. But what is it exactly? It has something to do with ads that don't look like ads, but rather provide a degree of value in terms of being content. In that sense, native advertising is certainly a form of converged media, as it combines paid media (advertising) with owned media (content), often with the goal of generating earned media (social interaction, UGC).
Yet brands have been paying publishers to run their own content since forever. Does that mean "native advertising" is simply a neologism for what we used to call advertorial? Or branded content? Maybe it's sponsored content?
If native advertising somehow differs from older models of advertorial, sponsored, or branded content, where are the lines drawn? Does "native" necessitate some sort of technological framework to carry and/or distribute the content in question (à la products offered by The New York Times or tech startups such as OneSpot or inPowered)? Does it mean a publisher's in-house agency (think BuzzFeed, Gawker Media) was commissioned to come up with the creative?
Bottom line: The term "native advertising" raises more questions than it does answers. The value proposition of native advertising is, however, clear in a digital environment of banner blindness and plunging click-through-rates. Pre-roll ads are skipped or ignored, and email subscriber rates are eroding. Given any kind of choice, consumers are saying a clear "no" to interruptive advertising.
Native advertising lies somewhere in bridging the divide between content marketing (a pull strategy) and plain, old fashioned advertising, which is interruptive. Somewhere in its definition is probably the fact of paying for space or time (the "advertising" part). The "native" part means it is organic, conducive to the user experience, non-salesy, and offers some sort of value in and of itself as an ad (entertainment, education, or utility, for example).
Native advertising's promise, therefore, is better performing ads -- but only if metrics are defined that are "native" to "native." Digital marketing goals likely don't apply in this case. Highly customized ad solutions mean more revenue for publishers (and boy, can they use it now). Also, this means deeper creative engagements for agencies, and hopefully, a better user experience for consumers.
The fly in the ointment is that without a real definition of native advertising, it means anything you want it to mean. Or anything whoever's trying to sell it to you wants it to mean. Confusion in the marketplace is not a good thing (though it can benefit certain constituents).
This is why, as a research analyst, my next project will be to define native advertising, as well as to map the landscape of products and technologies related to the practice. (I'm also part of an IAB taskforce that will work to define the term -- it's therefore important to note the research will be my own work, not that of a committee.)
As this project is just kicking off, I'd love to invite your input. What do you believe native advertising is? Isn't? What are the important companies in the space? Please let me know, either via email or in the comments section.
I'll report back soon. Watch this space!
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The best customer is a connected customer. Yet determining how and when to connect seems more complicated than ever. Companies that leverage multiple channels online and offline are creating more connected and therefore more loyal advocates than ever before. If it were easy, we'd all be dominating our industries and capturing customers for life. Today, consumers are so connected they are now detached from the way they used to buy.
Just as everything old becomes new again, customers are loyal to those with whom they have the greatest connection. Providing that visceral, dependable connection has gone beyond the core product to now include digital interactions in ways more measurable than ever.
The key to creating connected customers lies in:
I use the term "connected moment" because a real connection occurs at a moment in time, and it's that moment that matters. Connection is not simply engagement. Often marketers discuss engaging their audiences. And while this is valid, it is only one of several ways customers need to both feel and be connected. Having a presence in channels is a start. Focusing on engaging for the sake of engaging is less important than focusing on enabling connected moments.
Indispensable connection: The customer feels a sense of connection to the product/service itself (what you offer is so valued by the customers that the product/service is the root of the connection)
Shared values connection: The customer is connected to your brand. He or she feels a sense of affinity and alignment with your brand values beyond just the products and services.
The right connection: The customer is able to connect whenever and however they prefer (you make yourself available for the customer to engage, interact, and transact as he or she prefers across physical and digital touchpoints).
Community connection: The customer is connected to a community with which he or she directly associates your brand. Customers often feel connected to brands that support/enable a community -- both physical and digital -- where their passions and interests are aligned with others who they enjoy interacting with.
It's a common fact that consumers now -- in virtually all demographic and psychographic groupings -- are actively utilizing both wired and wireless internet through PCs, laptops, tablets, smart phones, and kiosks. And many groups are active in consumer social environments -- with younger generations flocking to various and shifting preferred social interaction. Sites like Instagram and Houzz.com are transforming online communities.
The increased number of ways and means consumers have to interact has driven even more need for unified, omni-channel communications strategies. The rapid increase in mobile devices and their internet usage has further spawned what some refer to as "the app economy," in which applications and services via mobile are more and more valuable for attracting and retaining customers through high-value connection moments.
Ultimately, customers seek information, services, advice, and often escapism related to your products and services. Consumers of athletic footwear are interested in all these things:
Even in B2B, such as heavy HVAC equipment, these needs exist:
It might sound like a strange idea to optimize your emails for search engines, but SEO is a skill that email marketers better start working on -- as far as Google is concerned anyway. The company is currently conducting tests to include Gmail inboxes in the search results. What does this mean for email marketing?
Gmail Field Trial is the name of the experiment in which Google includes a user's Gmail inbox in his or her search results. For example, someone that uses Google to search for flight information will not only see airport websites in their search results, but also their own e-tickets. Or whenever someone searches for cooking tips, they will also get the recipe for chocolate chip cookies their aunt emailed them.
The project is currently still in test phase, and only a happy few are able to use it. Knowing Google, however, it's only a matter of time before this product is available for a larger group of users. So, as a marketer, if you want your emails to profit from this new feature, you'd better be prepared.
Judging the previews Google has made available, the search engine will by default only show emails from the priority inbox in its search results.
So, to search engine optimize your emails, the first thing you'll want to do is make sure these emails get this priority label.
According to a PDF document that Google released, Gmail uses complicated algorithms to determine if an email should be put in the priority inbox. As usual, Google won't exactly tell the world how the algorithm works.
However, in general, the following things contribute to a priority ranking:
Apart from the tips above, as an email marketer, you should of course also comply with the existing SEO techniques for websites to your emails. Obviously you won't be able to link to your emails, but be sure to use the right keywords and apply title and alt tags to your images.
Whether you're an SEO expert or an email marketer (or both), none of this advice will probably come over as shocking to you. In the end, the whole story comes down to one thing: being relevant -- something that already should be your main priority, for both SEO and email marketing.
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