Change Is the Means and the End — My Last Way of Thinking

We talk all the time about change in marketing. But change is not an event or a goal or even an obstacle. Change is the environment. If you’re moving with it, you’re constantly changing. If you’re not changing, you’re just fighting to stand still.

“Without change, something inside us sleeps, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken.” I read “Dune” at a young age, and that always stuck with me.

We talk all the time about change in marketing. From branding to direct, from direct mail to digital, from broadcast to targeted, from email to social media, from “then” past to “then” future. The truth is change is not an event or a goal or even an obstacle. Change is the environment. If you’re moving with it, you’re constantly changing. If you’re not changing, you’re just fighting to stand still.

That doesn’t just hold for marketing. For the past decade, it’s been the same for us covering the industry at Target Marketing.

I’ve been with Target Marketing for roughly 8 years, and with our parent company NAPCO Media for 11. I never expected to stay in one place for so long, but just because I’ve been “still” in my career doesn’t mean things haven’t changed. Every year has brought new challenges, new ideas, new changes.

The running joke at our annual reviews has been that this year looked nothing like the year before, and would look nothing like the year ahead. We’ve constantly been trying new things, taking on new challenges. And I love that.

Years ago, perhaps from Dune, perhaps from early jobs (I’ve been a grave digger, overnight Walmart shelf-stocker, headhunter, dot-com “business analyst” and more), I learned that without change, there is no opportunity — neither for the business or my own career. If there’s a job in this age that rewards stagnation, I haven’t seen it.

So when I see a chance to change, I try to treat that like a game of skill. An obstacle is an opportunity to find a new way forward. A mouse trap is nothing but free cheese and a challenge. (Thank you, Scroobius Pip.)

Sometimes we’ve been more successful than others, but as long as we’re pushing forward and embracing those opportunities, taking those smart chances and figuring out how to get the cheese without breaking our necks, I think we’re on the right path.

I hope our journey down that path has helped you seize the opportunity of change in your own companies and careers. If the things we’ve created have helped you meet any of those challenges and forge ahead, then I think we’ve done a lot of good.

And there’s going to be even more changes in the year ahead. Target Marketing has new events, new programs, new ideas that they’ll be bringing to you at a constant clip in 2019. Stay tuned, because we’ve been working on great things!

But, for once, you’ll be enjoying that cheese without me.

This is my last day with Target Marketing. You may see some content that’s been in the works trickle out in the weeks ahead, and I’ll likely pop up around an event or two, but after 11 years I am bidding a very fond farewell to my magazine and the wonderful team we have here.

I leave the publication in the very capable hands of Melissa Ward and Heather Fletcher, and they’ll be joined by Denis Wilson, who’s coming over from a sister publication to take over as head Editor. Keep an eye out for all the awesome things they’ll be working on in 2019!

As for me, I should still be pretty easy to find (I’m pretty sure I’m the world’s only “Thorin McGee”), but LinkedIn is always a good place to start.

Thank you for all the support you’ve given me and the whole Target Marketing Family over the past decade. I wish you many more years of great marketing, and great change, because we all need to learn how to stop worrying and love the change.

At least, that’s one way of thinking.

Why You’re Probably Not Ready for Machine Learning, and How to Get There

The truth is, there’s a gap there. Companies have spent years developing data capabilities to support the various flavors of direct, automated and digital marketing. Now that effort needs to shift toward corralling even larger data sets for even more business-benefit in machine learning.

Last week on our Marketing Garage podcast, we interviewed a Fortune 500 company, Reckitt Benkiser, about the success they’ve had using machine learning to guide their marketing strategy across a number of well-known consumer brands.

As we went through the interview, I couldn’t help but wonder why more brands aren’t using machine learning in that way. Then at FUSE Digital Marketing, I got to hear Christopher Penn, co-founder of Trust Insights and host of the Marketing Over Coffee podcast, talk about where marketing data is, and where it needs to be for machine learning to add value.

The truth is, there’s a gap there. Companies have spent years developing data capabilities to support the various flavors of direct, automated and digital marketing. Now that effort needs to shift toward corralling even larger data sets for even more business benefit.

That’s why Reckitt Benkiser has both their own internal head of e-commerce analytics and still brings in help from Fractal Analytics to tap into AI insights. And why more marketers need to lay the data ground work to make machine learning work for them in the future.

Artificial Intelligence Is Math, Not Magic

“All machine learning begins with stats and probability,” said Penn. “Machine learning is math, it’s not magic.”

And when it comes to applying that math to today’s marketing data, he identified five core problems:

  1. Volume: There’s so much data being crated today that any attempt to quantify it just sounds like you’re making up words. For example, Penn said “this year it is estimated, as a civilization, we’re going to create about 30 zettabytes of data.” Your brain cannot count to a “zettabyte.” (Go ahead and try, I’ll wait.)
  2. Variety: There are more kinds of data than ever.
  3. Velocity: It’s coming at us faster than ever.
  4. Veracity: Data has to be verified. If it’s not accurate, it’s harmful to your business.
  5. Value: Penn compared data to oil. Raw, it’s sticky and not very useful. It has to be refined and used to create value.

Machine learning can help marketers overcome all of those problems, but you need to get your data and organization into position to process it and put it to work.

One note: There is a difference between artificial intelligence and machine learning. According to Penn, AI is when you develop an algorithm that allows a computer to some extent to “think” for you towards achieving a goal. Machine learning is when you let the computer create an algorithm to solve for the goals you give it based on large pools of data. (And “deep learning” is when you have many machine learning algorithms with deep pools of data working in conjunction.) They’re sort of different levels of the same idea.

The Enterprise AI Journey

Penn says there are five stages of enterprise data usage.

  1. Identification: You can use data to identify what happened.
  2. Diagnostic: You can use data to diagnose problems and why it happened.
  3. Predictive: You can predict what will happen.
  4. Prescriptive: You can use data to determine what should happen.
  5. Proactive: A machine can use data to make it happen for you.

Most companies are somewhere around stages 2 and 3. Getting to that fifth stage is an enterprise AI journey of establishing the capabilities to move form identifying data to proactively using it. Penn sees that as a seven-step process:

  1. Data Foundation: You have the base tools to house and process data.
  2. Measurement and Analytics: You are able to accurately measure and analyze what you’re doing.
  3. Insights & Research: You have the tools to turn the measurement and analytics into business intelligence.
  4. Process Automation: You have the tools to automate these processes, so turning your data foundation into business intelligence happens automatically with minimal personnel intervention.
  5. Data Science: You install the capability to recognize next-level data science insights.
  6. Machine Learning: You have the data science  and tools in place to integrate AI insights into your business.
  7. AI Powered Enterprise: You solve for AI first, breaking down business challenges into process-oriented steps that the AI can solve with minimal human intervention. “How can we use AI to do this for us on an iterative, continuously optimizing process o create business value?”

Again, almost no one has gotten to step 7, or even 6. Th most advanced brands today around around step 5, and most are still in the first half of the journey.

Should You Buy or Build AI?

If you feel like your data and processes are ready for AI, Penn says whether to buy or build yourself comes down to time, money and strategy.

If you have money but no time, a vendor can help. Look to buy or hire a service.

If you have time but not money, look to build in-house. A lot of AI in use today is using open source software. There’s no fee, just a knowledge cost. Budget about two years per person to get up to speed. (For many marketers in 2018, this could be prohibitive.)

Strategy: Before doing either, make sure you’re going to be able to use what you get to add value to the company. Bot of those options are significant investments.  Do you have the strategy to support AI whichever you choose? One good benchmark is to look at the state of your digital transformation. A complete digital transformation is essential to do this. Without being digital, you can’t be AI.

How to Prepare Your Company for AI

Once you’re ready and committed, Penn said you need three kinds of people you need to have to enable your AI strategy.

To go back to the oil analogy, data is messy stuff that’s useless on its own without refinement. So you need:

  • Developers to extract the data
  • Data scientists to refine the data
  • Marketing technologies to figure out how to use that data

Beyond those roles, certain skills become more important in a digital, AI-driven business. So look to train or hire overall talent with skills like these:

A slide from FUSE Digital Marketing 2018 where Christopher Penn laid out the essential skill to thrive in a machine learning world.
A slide from FUSE Digital Marketing 2018 where Christopher Penn laid out the essential skill to thrive in a machine learning world. | Credit: FUSE Digital Marketing 2018 by Christopher Penn

It also takes some different ways of thinking, according to Penn.

To be successful in an AI enterprise, marketers must learn to think algorithmically. Learn to think like a machine, process-focused on how to solve that problem.

Also, it’s important to understand that machines need oversight. Algorithms can spit out a bias if you don’t actively watch for it. It happened to Amazon, it’s happened in police use, and it can happen to you to if you don’t watch.

And finally, AI-focused organization must be built around outcome-focused people. It’s easy to get lost in AI if your goals aren’t clear, measurable and accountable.

Who Does the Machine Serve?

In the future, Penn said there will be two kinds of jobs: “Either you will manage the machines, or the machines will manage you. We want to be the people who manage the machines, not the kind of people who are managed by them.”

Reese’s Turns Halloween Disappointment Into Experiential Marketing Deliciousness

The peanut butter cup is America’s favorite Halloween offering, and Reese’s knows it. So this year they decided to dunk on the confection competition with a first-of-its-kind candy exchange vending machine. “Disappointing” candy goes in, Reese’s Cups come out, and a fantastic piece of experiential marketing is the brand byproduct.

Whatever candy you’re giving out for Halloween, it they’re not Reese’s Cups, you’re going to have some disappointed trick-or-treaters. The peanut butter cup is America’s favorite Halloween offering, and Hershey — maker of the Reese’s Cup — knows it. So this year, as part of its #notsorry social media push, Hershey decided to dunk on the confection competition with a first-of-its-kind candy exchange vending machine that will dispense up to 10,000 peanut butter cups in exchange for other candies. “Disappointing” candy goes in, Reese’s Cups come out, and a fantastic piece of experiential marketing is the brand-building byproduct.

Really, it’s a thing of beauty. Check it out:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m89djlGgzIQ

Rebirth of the Branded Vending Machine

Vending machines are a new frontier in out-of-home, experiential marketing. The maker movement, 3D printing tech and accessible robotics have come together to enable some rally cool on-site site gizmos. Experiences like the custom Oreo Trending Vending machine, which caused lines to form around the block at SXSW and got 45 million media impressions.

And that’s really just the start. Brands from Coca-Cola to Berlinomat have crated vending machines that both serve products and deliver impressive brand experiences that customers love to talk about and share.

Unique Out-of-Home Experiences

One of the overlooked aspects of our social media world is that an in-person, out-of-home, brand experience can generate significant earned media impressions. Maya, the agency behind the 3D printed Oreos claims the stunt earned 45 media impressions. There aren’t many better ways to get people talking than letting them interact with a giant machine that gives them what they want: Your product.

While the word “vending machine” conjures ubiquitous images in most of our minds, what sets many of these machines apart is precisely that they’re not the black-box can conveyors of old. Applying the traditional form factor to new uses creates new and interesting animatronics.

You don’t just get a pack of Reese’s Cups, you turn your unwanted candy in to be counted and get an equivalent number of Reese’s Cups. You don’t just order a pack of Oreos, you invent your custom flavor combination and watch it built up in the 3D printer.

These machines are a wonderful combination of nostalgia and futurism. And they’re an experiential marketing blueprint for how the most inventive, technology-based marketing can interact with customers it the real world to leave a lasting impression.

Why Aetna’s MarTech Strategy Is Customer-Obsessed, Not Technology-Obsessed

Shiva Mirhosseini’s whole career has been about marketing technology. But the focus was always internal, on what the technology could do for marketing. Until she realized that enabling marketers doesn’t actually help a brand reach its goals — enabling the customer does.

Shiva Mirhosseini’s whole career has been about marketing technology: setting martech strategy, building tech stacks and creating cutting-edge marketing capabilities. But the focus was always internal, on what the technology could do for marketing. Until she realized that enabling marketers doesn’t actually help a brand reach its goals — enabling the customer does.

Would Your MarTech Stack Help Your Father Use Your Services?

Mirhosseini is Aetna’s VP of marketing technology and digital experience, and I got to hear her speak at MarTech in Boston earlier this month. (That was after I went to Content Marketing World, but before &THEN … which is why this blog’s been on hiatus for a couple weeks.)

Technology can enable marketers to do a lot of things. But when it comes down to it, our martech strategy is very transactional: Give people content to get their information. Make them offers based on that information to get them to buy. Follow up on that purchase with more useful info and offers to get repeat buyers.

But when Mirhosseini’s father had a health scare, it changed her perspective on the true measure of marketing technology success.

“He doesn’t care about all that transactional data exchange,” she said. “What he really wants is a human exchange.” He doesn’t care about he marketing emails and everything like that. He wants the right information before his doctor visit so he can have an informed conversation with his doctor.

That realization was a game-changer for Mirhosseini, and it should be a game-changer for all marketers who’ve been thinking of martech strategy through the lens of what it can do for the brand. The real power of all marketing technology is not in what it allows you to do, it’s in what it allows you to let the customer do.

“I finally realized that I was no longer a technology sort of marketer,” says Mirhosseini. “My role had changed to be a customer evangelist whose sole responsibility is to create frictionless experiences, simplify the customer experiences, and be at the services of our customers. Only then may we earn the customer trust enough to pivot towards growth.”

You can see that part of her presentation in this video. Tell me: How much does what she’s saying make sense for your company? But then, how much are you acting on that?

Changing the Marketing Culture

“You should really think about that end consumer and how your work is changing their experience,” said  Mirhosseini.

This isn’t just a healthcare issue. She points out that the revenue benefits of marketing technology have largely accrued at one kind of company:

  • S&P 500 has grown revenue 2.5%
  • NASDAQ companies have grown 20%
  • Salesforce has grown 30%

“Worldwide investment in digital transformation is on pace to reach $2 trillion by 2020.” So, she asked, “Why hasn’t more of it translated to revenue lift?”

Mirhosseini sees the issue as part of the overall martech strategy: How the technology is employed and how the department is built to use it.

“The companies that have invested in these technologies, We have not adapted our model,” she said. In fact, she thinks brands have spent too much money buying technology in silos, and not transforming the martech strategy and the way they focus on enabling the customer.

“Very few companies can leverage technology and unite behind the premise of serving their human customers, like my grandfather,” she said. “It’s not about having marketing and sales talk more with eachother or have more meetings. … It’s about building a customer-obsessed organization, and it starts by having a customer-obsessed vision.”

Now, Mirhosseini sees it as her role was to simplify customer experiences and enable the outcomes and experiences those customer want. To do that, Aetna’s marketing team has moved from being masters of the pipeline to becoming customer evangelists. What Mirhosseini calls, “truly customer enablement teams.”

Marketing Stopped Following the Funnel

A big part in Aetna’s transformation was aligning the company toward customer success, and away from the sales funnel. They essentially decided that happy customers would lead to more revenue than unhappy customers being shoved down the sales funnel.

On the customer-facing side, this means dramatically simplifying the Aetna online brand. “We obsessed about our customer experience. We launched enterprise-wide digital governance,” said Mirhosseini, to make sure every online project matched their customer-obsessed digital guidelines. This has lead to reducing Aetna’s confusing digital footprint by 80%, and they’re seeing that “customer satisfaction and customer engagement is continuing to go up” as they shrink that footprint.

Internally, Aetna also redirected its KPIs, away from transactional KPIs like leads and conversions to goals that measure the customer experience. Those include:

  • Customer satisfaction
  • Retention
  • Lifetime value
  • Net Promoter score

“If our goal, process and operational model are centered around customer success, so should our metrics,” said Mirhosseini. “When the customer gets what they want when they want it, their overall lifetime engagement goes up, and everyone wins.”

So far the results of this transformation have been good, and those metrics are rising as Aetna continues to focus its technology efforts on making the customer’s life easier. But the journey isn’t over for Mirhosseini and her team. The next step is to move beyond customer obsession to customer success, which she says is still a struggle for all brands, including Aetna.

In the meantime, Mirhosseini said, “All I know is building a customer-obsessed culture is a very worthy mission, and we should all be aspiring to do that.”

So take a look at your own company and ask yourself: Is your martech strategy focused on your success, or your customers’? Can you really have the former without the latter?

It’s Not Too Long, You’re Just Boring: How to Find the Right Length for Your Content Marketing

People always tell you to “keep it short.” They may chalk it up to people being busier, shorter digital media attention spans, or just those darn Millennials! But the conventional wisdom is to get engagement, your content marketing must be short. “Not true,” says Andrew Davis.

People always tell you to “keep it short.” They may chalk it up to people being busier, shorter digital media attention spans, or just those darn Millennials! But the conventional wisdom is to get engagement, your content marketing must be short. “Not true,” says Andrew Davis.

After all, as the great copywriters know, shorter isn’t always better.

The Cult of ‘Short’

“Our audience makes time to consume content that maintains their interest,” says Davis, who is the author of the best-selling book “Brandscaping,” a presidential advisor, and the keynote speaker at last week’s Content Marketing World (where I saw him).

And he’s right. All of the people you’re trying to reach take the time to indulge deeply in content that keeps their interest. How many of them will sit down at some point in the week and binge watch “Stranger Things,” “House of Cards” or even just YouTube?

If they make time to binge watch two seasons of stranger things, says Davis. Then maybe we need to think more like stranger things.

But by not thinking like that, and by always trying to say things as curtly as possible, we’re conceding the battle for interest. We’re telling audiences that our content isn’t worth their time. Worse, according to Davis, “In the effort to make our content shorter and shorter and shorter, we’ve eliminated everything that makes it interesting.”

Short can be a virtue for content marketing. But too often in our quest to force content to fit our purposes, short becomes the only virtue that matters. We glorify short — fetishize it, even.  And in doing that, we sacrifice engagement.

Watch the Gap … We Can’t Help Ourselves

The key to maintaining interest, according to Davis, is the curiosity gap.

“What you know” ___________________________ “What you want to know”

That line is the “curiosity gap,” says Davis. It’s “the key ingredient to grabbing and holding your audiences attention is creating those curiosity gaps.” These are the delays between creating the desire for information, and actually delivering that information.

We have a deep, psychological need for closure. Once a question is opened in our minds, we are compelled to answer it. “Your needs for closure is a deep desire for a firm answer to a question,” says Davis, “and a natural aversion to ambiguity.”

You can think of interest as new questions. “When someone says ‘your content is too long,’ what they’re actually saying is ‘I have no more questions,'” says Davis. “When we eliminate our audiences desire to answer one more question, we eliminate our content.”

So the trick to content that truly drives engagement is to make your audience crave answers, and delay paying off on those answers. But once you do pay off on them, the payoff has to be satisfying. That pleasing sense of closure,  once all the questions are answered is what will bring them back for more content in the future.

He has an actual equation for measuring that engagement: Attention = (tension/time) x payoff

The problem with a lot of content marketing today, is it doesn’t do any of that. In fact, you probably lead with the answers most of the time. Your titles may even answer all the questions. “We’re creating tons of case studies and testimonials, and none of them have any curiosity gaps,” says Davis. “None of them create any tension.”

The Reality TV Director Formula

So how can you use these insights i your own content? “Think like a reality TV editor.”

If you’ve ever watched reality TV, especially the kind of shows that court disaster, like “Ice Road Truckers,” you’ll recognize some of their tricks. They don’t just show you what happened. They draw it out.

First they tell you what you want to happen, what the characters are trying to do.

Then they tell you how it could go wrong. In great detail. … With ominous quotes from your favorite characters set to horror movie music.

Then they show you the journey, and how the character progresses, and every worrisome hint that they won’t do what you want them to do … and might die in the process.

Then the situation gets even worse! Some aspect of it blows up into a huge obstacle! All MIGHT be lost!

Then they show you how the character solves that problem, in detail, with post-crisis interviews about how they overcame it.

And finally, they show the characters achieving the goals, dropping off the load, and getting home safe.

Taking that outside of the realm of reality TV, Davis offers this six-step formula to create questions and tension in your won content marketing.

  1. Show something the audience or character desires
  2. Threaten it for as long as possible
  3. Raise the stakes “one rubber band at a time,” slowly
  4. Delay the reveal
  5. Payoff

Keep sparking questions in your audience’s minds, and you can keep them engaged — and delighted — for a lot longer than you think.

When Direct Mail Gets Digital, Brands Unite

In a world where 90% of brand contact can happen in digital channels, how you use print can be the difference between marketing wins and wasted money. Smart brands today are using digital print and direct mail to bring many of their online marketing techniques into the real world and their customers’ homes.

When Target Marketing started some 40 years ago (then called ZIP), direct mail was the smart marketer’s channel — the one where you could execute scientific marketing, measure results to a “gnat’s eyebrow,” and reasonably predict ROI on every effort. Times have changed, the world’s gone digital, and so has marketing. But print is evolving along with the rest of our digital world. Digital printing is a real thing, and the impact those technologies are having on direct mail is phenomenal.

In a world where 90% of brand contact can happen in digital channels, how you use print can be the difference between marketing wins and wasted money. Smart brands today are using digital print to bring many of their online marketing techniques into the real world and their customers’ homes.

We’ve been working with a sister publication, Brand United, to cover how brands are using these new technologies in their print marketing and direct mail. And we’ve covered some very interesting cases. Now we’re looking for more.

What Digital Print Marketing Can Achieve

You can click over to Brand United right not to see how brands are making an impact with digital print. Including:

How the luxury home goods brand Amara creates an award-winning customer experience through its personalized package inserts.

How the premium pet brand Mr. Dog uses print-on-demand, digitally customized packaging to bring its unique brand voice to consumers at home and on retail store shelves.

And how the Delta Group used a must-open digital direct mail piece to double response rate and increase the average donation by 40%.

In addition, the site is full of supporting “Pro Tip” articles that’ll show you how to get those kinds of results in your own marketing.

So, if you’re wondering why we talk about direct mail so much on Target Marketing, head over the Brand United to get a taste of everything you can do with today’s high-tech, digital printing and direct mail.

Got a Digital Print Story to Tell?

And if you’ve had success with these kinds of tactics yourself, we would love to hear from you!

Brand United is always on the lookout for new case studies about how brands are using these tactics to fuel their marketing success. If you’ve got a good story to tell around digital print and direct mail, send me an email at tmcgee@napco.com, and we’ll work on getting that onto Brand United.

Take Our 2019 Budgets Survey, Win Up to $300!

How to spend your budget is one of the most important questions every marketer has to answer. Whether it’s a department budget, social media budget, AdWords budget or any other, how you allocate those resources is the difference between failure and success. Help us figure out where marketers are putting their money for 2019, and you’ll have the chance to enter to win one of three gifts card for $300, $100 and $100, respectively.

TL/DR: If you just want to know how to get the money, click here and take our survey to enter to win!

We’re working on the latest Target Marketing research, and I need your help to make it a success.

How to spend your budget is one of the most important questions every marketer has to answer. Whether it’s a department budget, social media budget, AdWords budget or any other, how you allocate those resources is the difference between failure and success.

That’s why our latest research is the most important to date: The 2019 Marketing Budgets Survey.

Our goal is to collect data on marketing budgets that will turn into a series of actionable budgeting reports on three key areas: Content Marketing, Google AdWords and Social Media, as well as some baseline budgets research. With your help, these reports will reveal how your peers are spending their budgets on these areas, and give you a solid baseline to build your own budget.

The survey is only a few pages, and should take about 15 minutes of your time. And if you do help us, you’ll have the chance to enter to win one of three gifts card for $300, $100 and $100 respectively.

Click here to take the survey, and you could win one of $500 in prizes! 

Thank you for your support in all of our research. I can’t wait to share the results with you in the next issue of Target Marketing and through this series of essential reports.

How to Sponsor a Podcast, and Not Suck

Podcasts are exploding in audience popularity and advertising revenue. But the channel still suffers from advertisers who want to treat it like radio and don’t know how to earn engagement on the platform. Here’s what the experts gathered at Podcast Movement this week see advertisers doing wrong and right when sponsoring podcasts.

I’ve been at Podcast Movement in Philadelphia (Target Marketing’s home town) this week, and it’s amazing to see how many podcasters are going at this medium with all their creativity and ingenuity. Because of them, podcasting is an exploding media channel.

Not only is the audience growing, and audience engagement growing, advertising in the channel is growing, too. According to IAB, podcast revenue grew 117% from 2016 to 2017, and continue to rise. Bryan Moffet, COO of National Public Media, the subsidiary of NPR that handles podcasting and similar media, said NPR’s podcast revenue has doubled every year for the past five years.

And it’s evolving. The entire channel has come a very long way since “Mail K’imp” rode the Serial express to national notoriety.

The opportunity is ripe, the audience is there. The only piece that still needs to fall into place is the advertisers … who still mostly suck at sponsoring podcasts.

Sponsoring a Podcast Is Not Like Radio

Podcasting can look a lot like radio. After all, they’re both audio channels. But the similarities really end there. Radio is local and broadcast, everyone hears it. Podcasts are national (or even international) in reach, but their audiences are targeted and opt-in. In fact, according to the IAB report, most podcast advertising is direct response, not brand-building like broadcast.

Most importantly, where radio is mass media, podcasting is very personal and intimate for the listeners.

“Podcasting is the best way to scale intimacy,” said Pat Flynn, the talent behind the massive Smart Passive Income podcast, during the opening keynote. And he’s right. We’ve talked about mobile as this super intimate channel in the past, and people hold that in their hands. They actually put podcasts physically into their ears. Audiences bond with the personalities behind the podcast and feel like they know them personally. It may be the most intimate mass media channel.

This is even true of business podcasts like those being created by The Harvard Business Review. In a session about how they’ve grown their podcasts, HBR podcasters Sarah Green Carmichael (executive editor, former host of HBR Ideacast and current host of Women at Work), Allison Beard (senior editor and host of Dear HBR) and Nicole Torres (associate editor and co-host of Women at Work) talked about how their relationship with the podcast audience differs from the magazine experience. According to them, readers seldom write to the magazines today, but listeners write into the podcasts all the time. In fact, Beard’s Dear HBR podcast was created specifically to answer their questions.

This is great for building audience engagement. But when you interrupt that intimate listener experience with commercial-style advertising and brash jingles, it often doesn’t work.

What Works in Podcast Ads?

Te consensus among speakers at Podcast Movement is that to effectively sponsor a podcast, you need ad ad approach that integrates with the show.

Although the Mailchimp ad in Serial may not be the best way to do it today, it’s a good example of what happens when you’re doing it right. That ad became a part of the show. Fans looked forward to hearing it, they wanted to know who these people were saying the name, and it became a phenomena in its own right.The ad got the audience engaged. That’s what podcast ads must do.

One of the best ways to do that is to involve the host directly in the sponsorship. “You can create great content between a host and a brand if you bring them together and create something really digital,” said Keli Hurley, VP of digital partnerships at Westwood One.

This usually involves the host reading a short spot from the sponsor, or perhaps endorsing the Product. They may even do an interview to support the sponsorship that can b used over multiple episodes.

Moffet said NPM does  2 to 3 minute audio interviews with sponsors and cuts short clips of them into postroll and midroll ads during the podcast episodes. He gave the example of Audi, where instead of just reading a sponsor message, they would have the car designer talk about the design. That designer’s passion and authenticity comes through in those spots and improves sponsorship performance. 

If the host cannot participate in that way, Moffet suggests that podcasts should have a regular with a great announcer voice read the ads. NPM’s ad readers become a well-known personalities in their own right. If he delivery is good, audiences will come to like them. Sort of like the mailchimp effect. 

If you want to do something more staged, like a classic commercial, you still need to adapt it to the medium. Tyler Moody, VP and GM of the Turner Podcast Network, saw one ad that truly told a story. It played out over three commercials throughout the production, and those commercials had the same actors; had a beginning, middle and end.

“Brands want to tell stories, they want to connect with audiences. And that is what brings them to podcasting,” said Moffet. And podcast sponsorships, done right, are a great way to build that engagement.

How to Become a Marketing Unicorn

What does it take to succeed in marketing today? I recently had a chat with TD Bank CMO Patrick McLean about marketing’s changing roles, responsibilities and leadership. And he joked that at his bank, they’re looking for nothing less than “Marketing Unicorns.” Here’s what that means, and his advice on how to become a unicorn in your own career.

Patrick McLean Executive Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer, TD Bank – America's Most Convenient Bank
Patrick McLean
Executive Vice-President and Chief Marketing Officer, TD Bank – America’s Most Convenient Bank

What does it take to succeed in marketing today? I recently had a chat with TD Bank CMO Patrick McLean about marketing’s changing roles, responsibilities and leadership. And he joked that at his bank, they’re looking for nothing less than “Marketing Unicorns.” Here’s what that means, and his advice on how to become a unicorn in your own career.

“I joke that we’re looking for unicorns in these roles,” said McLean. “We’re asking them to do a lot. We’re asking them to think strategically. We’re asking them to be sound fundamentally from an analytics perspective. We want them to be creative leaders.”

Change Starts at the Top

That expansion of expectations doesn’t just go for the marketers who work for Patrick. It’s true of his role as CMO as well, and for the leaders working for him. We were discussing the recent research on marketing strategy and leadership, which shows that marketers are being asked to do more in 11 different areas than they were just 5 years ago, and he saw exactly what our survey respondents did, especially when it comes to taking responsibility for technology and data. Here’s a piece of what he had to say about that:

Technology and data are things he feels leaders need to understand first-hand, not just have somebody else take care of. “The landscape changes so quickly that not only do you need some people on your team that are immersed in it and get it and are continuing to challenge the status quo. … But you yourself have to immerse yourself as a leader so that, first of all, you don’t personally get left behind, but also so you can understand what that technology can do.”

But even beyond MarTech and data, which are responsibilities I think everyone expects to have expanded, McLean sees other new and important facets to the role of marketing leader:

“The role of the chief marketing officer is so complex now, and there’s so many different dimensions to it,” said McLean. It “has evolved significantly in terms of the role they play across the business. And I think being a good relationship person, and being collaborative, and influencing across the organization is a really important role that the marketer plays.”

A Full ‘Stack’ Development

That applies all the way down the marketing personnel “stack” (to borrow the tech term we all use and respect so much).

When I was a young marketer growing up in the early part of my career, there were the functional disciplines of marketing, and you wanted to make sure you were learning all the aspects,” said McLean. “Fast forward to today … and in a lot of ways the role that analytics plays now, in particular, and the changing dynamics of customer behavior now, and they just demand that you have a really good sense of everything from analytics to strategy to creative.

The marketer used to be the person coming up with the advertising and maybe executing tactically on a few acquisition tactics. But in a  lot of ways, the marketer now is the driver of growth, the voice of the customer, the analytics leader, in a lot of ways, across the business to understand what’s going on in the market place. And I just think that responsibility to be all those things has never been more complex or more important.

How to Become a Marketing Unicorn

So that’s the view from the top of what marketers need to be able to do today. But managing your own career, how can you build those hard and soft skills to become a rare and in-demand Marketing Unicorn? Here was some of McLean’s advice for that:

“We’re looking for unicorns these days,” he said. So, “think about what it would take to turn yourself into a unicorn, at least directionally.”

Patrick went on to describe how he developed his own unicorn skills (Should we call it his “horn”? Maybe not.) and the techniques he used are more like what you see tech workers doing than what you’d traditionally do in marketing. He went out of his way to work in companies and on projects that would give him the skills he needed to develop:

What I did early in my career is I got into an e-commerce role. I took on roles that challenged me from a technology perspective … And having done that, first of all, I had a passion for it. And second of all, I gained an appreciation early for the value of it. I would encourage anybody to do a tour of duty in one of those jobs, whether it’s completely in your wheelhouse or not. Whether you work for your digital team, or get into a product development kind of job where you’re forced to get into technology and forced to understand it.

Patrick also advised ambitious marketers to develop their understanding of business strategy.

“While I’ve always been relatively confident and engaged in marketing strategy,” he said “I think what’s changed for me [as a CMO] has been elevating my game to the point where I’m connecting marketing strategy and business strategy, and therefore influencing business strategy. And that’s been an eye-opener for me.”

That was a challenge at first, and something he had to work on. He closed that gap by spending more and more time with business leaders across the bank.

“Again, it’s this idea of getting out of your functional positions and becoming more a part of the broader business leadership team that’s driving the business forward. And when you move into a chief marketing officer type seat, that becomes the expectation. So the more you can think that way earlier in your career, the better equipped you’re going to be when you get there; and I would say the more likely that you’re going to wind up in one of those seats.”

While some of that may sound daunting, it opens up a lot of opportunities for marketers to move up and into more rewarding positions in the company.

“It makes it that much more fun, too, honestly,” he said. “You’re not just playing your position, but I think we all should be aspiring to move the business forward and lean into it.”

If you to hear more of Patrick McLean’s advice on building your career and becoming a marketing leader, you can click here to see the compete interview on demand over at AADM.

How are you working to develop your own career? What advice would you give to more junior marketers coming up themselves? Let me know in the comments.

Jurassic World Eats Pokémon Go at Augmented Reality App Marketing

Two years ago, Pokémon Go made waves as the first really successful augmented reality app to gain a broad user base. This year, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is the summer’s latest blockbuster, and a geolocation augmented reality app may just be its secret marketing weapon.

Two years ago, Pokémon Go made waves as the first really successful augmented reality app to gain a broad user base. While the mobile game was a stand-alone product and not marketing, it left us asking: “What could AR technology do for marketers?” This year, “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” is the summer’s latest blockbuster, and a geolocation augmented reality app may just be its secret marketing weapon.

Pokémon go was not insignificant for marketers. It broke ground by getting users to engage in a geolocation-based augmented reality experience (which continues to this day, the game still has a significant user base and recently added new features). And it was one of the first AR experiences to offer location-based digital advertising.

But Pokémon Go is a game, not a marketing experience. While it offers sponsorship opportunities, it does little to prove the role AR can play in a marketing campaign. That’s where Jurassic World Alive is different.

The New Breed of Branded Augmented Reality

This new, geolocation augmented reality game is, as Polygon puts it, “Pokémon Go, but With Dinosaurs.” And while it is stand-alone game with its own revenue model via in-game purchases, the entire experience was created through a partnership between Universal and Ludia, with built-in partnerships with AMC and Walmart.

The "News" tab on Jurassic World Alive links directly to the brand's social media pages and advertises that tickets can be purchased at your local AMC.
The “News” tab on Jurassic World Alive links directly to the brand’s social media pages and advertises that tickets can be purchased at your local AMC. | Credit: Jurassic World Alive by Thorin McGee

It should be noted that Ludia was not a part of Pokémon Go, and has developed several games on its own beyond Jurassic World Alive. So this type of game is not limited to certain developers. If you wanted to pursue one for your own brand, you should look for a studio like Ludia to help create it.

An important brand impression is made every time the user opens the app. And the game itself lines up perfectly with the theme of the movie, which sees the Jurassic World dinosaurs escape into our world.

There are several in-game mechanisms that allow Universal to use the app as a marketing base. For example, an in-game message system allows the brand to send marketing messages to every player. And an in-game news feed lights up with notifications whenever a new offer hits. The news section also links to the movie’s social media properties, and has a prominent banner reminding players to get their tickets at any local AMC.

Like Velociraptors, AR Marketers Hunt in Packs

The partnerships with Walmart and AMC are built right into the app. Each brand has special “supply drops” at its locations that give players generous bonuses for entering the storefront and engaging.

When Walmart has a new supply drop, players are greeted with a full-page ad telling them to pick it up a their local Walmart.

The nearest AMC is that red dot in the background. The big crocodile is a "Sarcosuchus."
The nearest AMC is that red dot in the background. The big crocodile is a “Sarcosuchus.” | Credit: Juassic World Alive by Thorin McGee

The AMC partnership is more prominent in the game. In addition to the call to action to visit AMC to pick up your tickets, “nearby” AMC locations are also marked on the player map, even if the closest one is miles away. Inside, the supply drop is very generous, especially over the movie’s opening weekend. I understnad the digital swag given away was enough to sway several gaming movie-goers I know to visit the closest AMC over competing chains.

AR apps and geolocation have come a long way for digital marketing purposes. They’re not right for all brands, but when the brand opportunity lines up with the features of the platform, it’s a great chance to change the rules of your customer experience.

How do they fit into your marketing strategy? Let’s talk about it in the comments.