Getting ‘Facebook Sober’? What Marketers Should Know About Consumers’ Attitudes and Social Data

I thought I was pretty clever when someone told me they hadn’t been on Facebook in over a year and I said, “Wow, you’re one-year Facebook sober.” They laughed. The next day, another person said they’d been off for two years — same comment by me, same reaction. But later, I found the term on Urban Dictionary.

I thought I was pretty clever when someone told me they hadn’t been on Facebook in over a year and I said, “Wow, you’re one-year Facebook sober.” They laughed. The next day, another person said they’d been off for two years — same comment by me, same reaction. But later, I found the term “Facebook sober” on Urban Dictionary — so much for my right to claim ownership of the term.

It’s unlikely that a new 12-step program is going to keep a significant percentage of the more than 2 billion people off of the social media platform any time soon, even though they know Facebook is exploiting their personal data for profit. While studies show that consumers believe the economic benefit of Facebook to them is about $1,000 per year, based on how much they would need to be paid to stay off the platform for that period of time, most will not pay anything to keep a company from tracking their data.

A study published by PlosOne in December 2018 quantified the monetary value that users assigned to participating on Facebook, using an auction experiment design.

Though the populations sampled and the auction design differ across the experiments, we consistently find the average Facebook user would require more than $1,000 to deactivate their account for one year. While the measurable impact Facebook and other free online services have on the economy may be small,* our results show that the benefits these services provide for their users are large.
* (Of course, this statement neglects the $40 billion Facebook realizes in annual advertising revenue.) 

While people claim to be concerned about privacy, they’re not willing to pay for it. A Survey Monkey poll done for the news site Axios earlier this month shows that three-fourths of people are willing to pay less than $1 per month in exchange for a company not tracking their data while using their product — 54% of them are not willing to pay anything.

Researchers at Stanford and NYU sought to determine the effects that Facebook deactivation would have on people’s knowledge, attitudes, moods, and behaviors. “This Is Your Brain Off Facebook,” published by the New York Times on Jan. 13, reports on this study.  A portion of the study participants were paid $102 to stay off Facebook for one month. The researchers stated:

Using a suite of outcomes from both surveys and direct measurement, we show that Facebook deactivation (i) reduced online activity, including other social media, while increasing offline activities such as watching TV alone and socializing with family and friends; (ii) reduced both factual news knowledge and political polarization;(iii) increased subjective well-being; and (iv) caused a large persistent reduction in Facebook use after the experiment.

Despite these findings, the Times reported “some participants said that they had not appreciated the benefits of the platform until they had shut it down:

“What I missed was my connections to people, of course, but also streaming events on Facebook Live, politics especially, when you know you’re watching with people interested in the same thing,” said Connie Graves, 56, a professional home health aide in Texas, and a study subject. “And I realized I also like having one place where I could get all the information I wanted, boom-boom-boom, right there.”

As I noted in my post last month, “Gen Z College Students Weigh-in on Personal Data Collection,” some GenZers don’t mind giving up their personal data in exchange for the convenience of targeted ads and discounts; others are uneasy, but all are resigned to the inevitability of it. One student summed up our mass acquiescence, saying:

“I do not feel it is ethical for companies to distribute our activities to others. Despite my feelings on the situation, it will continue — so I must accept the reality of the situation.”

The reality of the situation is that people are not willing to go cold turkey on Facebook.

Our Digital Selves: Living Without the ‘Big 5’ — And 7,000 Others

There, once again, is the age-old privacy paradox, which predates our digital selves. Do we — individually, as a society, as a matter of policy — understand the data-for-value exchange that is inherent not just on the commercial Internet, but in practically every business arrangement we have?

our digital selves
Chet Dalzell snapped this photo with his smartphone’s camera. (Curses!) | Credit: Chet Dalzell

During the past couple of weeks, I’ve been enjoying a thorough attempt by one Gizmodo editor, Kashmir Hill, to live life one week at a time without the titled “Big 5” — Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Google and Microsoft — and then to do so all at once.

“It was hell,” she reported.

Well, that statement alone could be interpreted as “unpleasant” or “impossible” or “really inconvenient” or “unenjoyable, or maybe all of the above. Hill’s attempts to quit cold turkey appeared to be very earnest and objectively pursued, though her editorial approach is not without a point of view: “The tech giants, while troubling in their accumulation of data, power and societal control, do offer services that make our lives a hell of a lot easier.”

Do I feel powerless with no control? I do not, but that’s a personal choice.

There, once again, is the age-old privacy paradox, which predates our digital selves. Do we — individually, as a society, as a matter of policy — understand the data-for-value exchange that is inherent not just on the commercial Internet, but in practically every business arrangement we have?

To shut off all data flows might be thought of as an exercise of a Luddite. Every individual can choose to live life this way, at least in some measure. Or perhaps it’s an exercise of being jaded: Among us, there are those who believe social media’s popular “10-year challenge” is a not-so-secret plot to update everyone’s likeness for facial recognition software.

Take a Regular Digital Break, Please

I, too, pursue and relish a weekend where I put my devices away, and go off the digital grid for hours or even one day at a time. A walk in the woods, or park, or beach, with no device in reach — and with just my thoughts – is an empowering and recharging experience (for me). It can drive my friends and family nuts, wondering where I am — but they’re used to it by this time.

Mom:

“You didn’t play ‘Words with Friends’ with me yesterday. Is everything OK?”

On the other hand, every day, I observe fellow citizens who seem unable to navigate a sidewalk, or ride an elevator, or even sit at a bar or restaurant, without having their heads down in smartphones. Kudos to them for processing digital information constantly … I think. I certainly can’t do that.

Yet to have a bias — either in practice or in policy — that blocks responsible data flows, truly is an exercise in masochism. As participants in the marketing data supply chain, we have ethical and some legal obligations to be capable stewards of data. We have associations, self-regulatory codes, and regulators that teach and tell us what to do.

Beyond the Big 5, we also have thousands of companies in the adtech/martech ecosystem — at last count, nearly 7,000. Any could be the next “big thing,” as investment flows seem to indicate.

Image of Ad Tech - Mar Tech Breadth

Slide Source: “Outlook For Data Driven Marketing: First Look 2019,” The Winterberry Group, 2019.

On top of these, we have brands and agencies using information, responsibly, to attract (discover), create (convert) and retain (serve) customers. This is not evil. This is innovation — and we shouldn’t fault a data-flow framework that facilitates commerce, consumer choice and diversity of content. We should scrutinize it for harmful data usage — and regulate the harm.

In short, every information use should be vetted. Wisdom, rather than fear, must be our starting point in such examination, with a healthy dose of data reverence. In advertising, we can (and must) have both consumer privacy protection and digital innovation. Achieving such dual, laudable outcomes, however, cannot be achieved if we are required to just shut down.

 

 

The Psychology of Social Proof and Its Role in Marketing

In order to successfully master marketing in a crowded marketplace, you have to think like a customer. And in order to think like a customer, you have to tap into their psyche and understand what influences their perceptions and decision-making.

In order to successfully master marketing in a crowded marketplace, you have to think like a customer. And in order to think like a customer, you have to tap into their psyche and understand what influences their perceptions and decision-making. At the heart of this topic is social proof.

The Psychology Behind Social Proof

Have you ever spent any time around sheep? While they don’t smell great or look particularly cute, they’re fascinating animals, and their psyche and decision-making can teach us a lot.

Sheep have an incredibly strong instinct to follow other sheep – particularly the one right in front of them – regardless of where it’s going. There are many documented cases of one sheep walking off a cliff and dozens more following the same sheep toward inevitable disaster. On the flip side, there are plenty of situations where one sheep saves hundreds of lives by leading a flock to safety during a threatening blizzard.

In this sense, people are very much like sheep. Whether we do so intentionally or not, we tend to flock together and make decisions based on what others are doing. In the consumer marketplace, this idea of flocking together is closely connected with the social proof theory.

Popularized by psychologist Robert Cialdini, this theory says that people look to the actions of their peers to make decisions in situations where they’re uncertain of how to act.

Marketers who understand social proof can use it to their advantage by incorporating elements of this psychological phenomenon into their engagement and promotion strategies. It’s essentially the act of borrowing third-party influence to persuade potential customers towards your brand or products.

“As customers we buy products that make us feel good about ourselves, products that change us and make us better,” conversion expert Talia Wolf writes. “By using social proof in the form of testimonials, reviews and trust icons you’re helping customers make a decision, feel confident about their choice, and a part of something bigger.”

Leveraging Social Proof in Marketing

Social proof is a vast topic with thousands of intricacies and individual theories, but it’s helpful to boil things down to a few salient, overarching points. Sales and marketing consultant Lincoln Murphy believes there are three basic types of social proof:

  • Similar social proof. This is the most basic type of social proof. It’s the type of social proof that brands use when they integrate testimonials, reviews, and logos of other companies into their marketing materials. The goal is to show prospective customers that your products have the approval of their peers.
  • Aspirational social proof. This form of social proof is used to convince your target audience they want to be like someone else. In other words, you’re convincing people to aspire to be like your customers.
  • Endorsements. While most people think about endorsements in terms of celebrity advertisements, famous people are just part of it. Customers also rely on recommendations from authoritative third-party websites. For example, Top10.com ranks products in different categories as a way of helping customers identify their best options. This is a type of endorsement.

If you’re going to develop a social proof strategy for your marketing efforts, start with these elements. Specifically, you should try some of the following techniques:

1. Use Hard Numbers

There are plenty of ways you can go about inserting social proof into your marketing and engagement strategies, but in today’s climate, people respond best to facts and statistics. The more hard numbers you can use, the more persuasive your efforts will be.

2. Insert Visuals

The human brain is hardwired to like visuals. If you want to take your efforts to the next level, you should incorporate as much visual information into your marketing as possible. When it comes to your website, for example, including headshots of your customers next to their testimonials and reviews will pay dividends.

3. Tap Into Social Media

Social media is the perfect medium for maximizing social proof. If you can get your most satisfied customers to be organic advocates for your products – sharing, liking, promoting – you’ll see your results skyrocket. You can make it easy for your customers to share on social media by providing them with shareworthy content and chances to engage with your brand on their favorite platforms (Facebook and Instagram, in particular).

Are You Utilizing Social Proof?

Social proof isn’t something that you can control with 100 percent accuracy. There will always be some element of social proof that naturally arises in the marketplace. However, you have much more influence than you realize.

As you develop and hone your marketing strategy, be on the lookout for ways to leverage social proof and tap into the sense of collectivism that humans, like sheep, are naturally drawn to. Ultimately, this will strengthen your brand message and energize your marketing efforts.

My LinkedIn Error – Brought to You by a Thumb

Recently, I was on a train when I saw a connection request on LinkedIn from a former colleague of mine initiating a job search. Upon having accepted, LinkedIn sends a confirmation that includes a search and listing of all your email contacts and asks if you want to send out connection requests to them, as well.

“So this is Christmas, and what have you done?”

Well in my increasingly cross-screen world, I made a big mistake with my LinkedIn profile thankfully, I was able to undo it.

Recently, I was on a train when I saw a connection request on LinkedIn from a former colleague of mine who is initiating a job search. I accepted her connection request, using my smartphone LinkedIn interface. (I don’t even know if I was in app mode or mobile Web.)

Upon having accepted, LinkedIn (by default) sends you a confirmation page, that includes a search and listing of all your email contacts that match up to LinkedIn profiles elsewhere (and probably many more email addresses that don’t correspond) and asks if you want to send out connection requests to these emails, as well. I hate that “they” do this.

A mistake waiting to happen. I emphatically do not want that to happen.

I don’t know if it was my thumb fumbling on a small screen or some other missed button when I was attempting the close the page, but lo and behold, all these email addresses were then sent a generic connection request.

There Goes the Neighborhood

Just like that. Hundreds of invites sent to people I may only have interacted with  who had found their way into my contacts. Bam, the invites go out. No intervention from LinkedIn asking me to confirm this hefty request.

Just like that. Six years of carefully curating my LinkedIn profile for business-to-business networking and communications with people with whom I am familiar and trust … gone (for the moment).

Needless to say, when I got back to my laptop later I was able to login on a larger screen without issue, and spot how to rescind a sent invitation. By that time, only a few near-strangers had accepted my inadvertent request and I was able to undo nearly 300 others. Whew!

What does LinkedIn gain by having so many tangential contacts of mine so easily added to my network? Well, be assured, I dug deeper into settings to undo any LinkedIn syncing of contacts I had had with my phone and email accounts.

So, more or less, one inadvertent mobile on-the-go mistake was undone. And my business-to-business LinkedIn network is more or less restored. Well, a little less restored.

Do you ever have those digital or mobile moments where a “submit” or “return” or “enter” button just mysteriously sets itself off? Sometimes, a back button or Control Z gets a return to normal without incident.

Wrap it up. When my credit card bill comes for my online Christmas shopping, I’m certain there will be a few more regrettable miscues with my thumb!

I hope they were Happy Holidays for all!

The ‘Algorithmification‘ of Everything

If I had asked any of my schoolmates what an “algorithm” was, their eyes would have glazed over and they would probably have asked me what I had been smoking. Fast-forward a few decades and we’ve got the algorithmification of everything, including marketing.

If I had asked any of my schoolmates what an “algorithm” was, their eyes would have glazed over and they would probably have asked me what I had been smoking. Fast-forward a few decades and we’ve got the algorithmification of everything, including marketing.

Those glazed looks would’ve happened a long time ago, long before Facebook was a glimmer in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye and he had started to bring together the more than 2 billion people who log in at least once a month. That Facebook population is now what Evan Osnos of the New Yorker says, were it a country; “ … would have the largest population on Earth … [and] as many adherents as Christianity.” When they log in, they are shaking hands with unnumbered algorithms and putting into those invisible fingers their faith and their data to be parsed, analyzed and manipulated, and hopefully not stolen.

What is an algorithm? Programmers like to say it is a word used by them when they don’t want to bother explaining what they do.

And because algorithms have become so ubiquitous, we seldom give them a thought — except when our IT colleagues start telling us why making any small change in our marketing program will take weeks or months and cost a bundle, or until something goes badly wrong as Facebook and others have discovered about their hacked data.

Our legislators, not usually well-versed on technology matters, have now started making a lot of noise about regulations: They are closing the server door after the data has bolted — an unlikely way to solve the essential problems.

Automation has always been the Holy Grail for marketers; not surprising when the ability, speed and relatively low cost of using artificial intelligence (AI) to number-crunch and manage segmentation of media and analysis of data gets better and better every year. eMarketer reports that: “About four in 10 of the worldwide advertisers surveyed by MediaMath and Econsultancy said they use AI for media spend optimization. This is another application of AI that is increasing among marketers as their demand-side platforms add AI features to increase the probability that a given programmatic bid will win its auction.”

Where is it headed? No one knows for sure. It’s all in the hands of the algorithms and they appear to be multiplying like rabbits. If you revere Darwin, as I do, you’ll expect them to get better and better. But before you totally buy into that, you would do well to read Melanie Mitchell’s thoughtful New York Times article “Artificial Intelligence Hits the Barrier of Meaning.”

There are more and more times when we applaud the use of the algorithms and can see that if properly created, they offer many benefits for almost every area of our marketing practice, as well as other areas of our lives. We really don’t have to panic (yet) about the machines and their algorithms taking over. As Neil Hughes wrote here last month; “The reality is that machines learn from systems and processes that are programmed by humans, so our destiny is still very much in our own hands.”

Machines screw up just like we do; and all the more so, because they are doing just what we told them to do.

All this machine thinking doesn’t come without dangerous side effects. Sometimes, when we try to communicate with inflexible AI systems supposedly designed to simplify and ease customer interactions, the “I” in “AI” becomes an “S,” replacing “A-Intelligence” with “A-stupidity.”

If, as defined, “an algorithm is a procedure or formula for solving a problem, based on conducting a sequence of specified actions,” we can only optimistically hope that the specified actions will take into account individual customer differences and make allowances for them. The moments when they don’t are when we start screaming and swearing; especially if we are on the customer end of the transactions.

As The New York Times wrote in a recent article: “The truth is that nobody knows what algorithmification of the human experience will bring.”

“It’s telling that companies like Facebook are only beginning to understand, much less manage, any harm caused by their decision to divert an ever-growing share of human social relations through algorithms. Whether they set out to or not, these companies are conducting what is arguably the largest social re-engineering experiment in human history, and no one has the slightest clue what the consequences are.”

However important algorithmification may seem to us, our marketing efforts and our use of AI and its algorithms are not very significant in the greater scheme of things outside of our limited business perspective. But don’t dismiss their growing impact on every facet of our future lives. As data guru Stephen H. Yu opined in his recent piece “Replacing Unskilled Data Marketers With AI”:

“In the future, people who can wield machines will be in secure places — whether they are coders or not — while new breeds of logically illiterate people will be replaced by the machines, one-by-one.”

You had better start to develop a meaningful relationship with your algorithms — while there is still time.

Generational Marketing: Gen Z Goes to College

I’ve taught in colleges since 2005, and have shared my observations about Millennials in several Target Marketing blog posts. Recently, I realized that most of my current students aren’t Millennials, so my curiosity about psycho-demographics has me trying to observe the generational marketing characteristics of this new cohort of college students, arbitrarily defined as those born starting in 1997.

I’ve taught in colleges since 2005, and have shared my observations about Millennials in several Target Marketing blog posts. Recently, I realized that most of my current students aren’t Millennials, so my curiosity about psycho-demographics has me trying to observe the generational marketing characteristics of this new cohort of college students, arbitrarily defined as those born starting in 1997.

Of course, changes in generational attitudes don’t occur overnight, and so I didn’t walk into class one semester and say, “Wow, these kids are different!” The oldest Gen Zers were freshmen in 2015 and because the lines between the generations aren’t always distinct, I don’t have a large sample on which to base my generalizations. But here are some of my initial observations based on some recent classroom encounters.

Technology and Ageism

Unlike the students of five-plus years ago, the current group does not automatically assume that older people (myself included) are digital idiots. Perhaps that’s because their parents are more technologically savvy and their grandparents have social media accounts. Although most identified their grandparents as laggards when it came to smartphone adoption in a recent assignment on the Diffusion of Innovation Theory, they don’t automatically assume that older people are technologically clueless. (See my post from 2016 on “Millennial Microagression”).

Financial Awareness

The cost of their education is always top-of-mind. It comes up frequently in classroom discussions about their consumption habits. Their formative years were marked by a time of economic uncertainty. In a recent marketing class at Rutgers, we were discussing how the economic environment affects marketing strategy and tactics. When I referenced the financial crisis of 2008, I realized that most of the students were in elementary or middle school during that time. Whether or not they experienced a parent’s job loss or home foreclosure firsthand, most understood that times were difficult and the financial future was not always assured.

Social Media-Cautious

In a recent assignment about retargeting, I asked them to cite examples of how their online activity led to seeing ads about things they posted or searched. Most referenced Google searches, and one student claimed that she was disadvantaged in coming up with examples because she has no social media accounts. Some have abandoned Facebook and, while they use Instagram, most keep their accounts private. By contrast, my experience with Millennials is that they were, and continue to be, much freer with their social media activity.

Look for more about Gen Z in upcoming posts.

Ditch the Call to Action in Your Cold Email Strategy

Think about the last time a salesperson piqued your interest with a cold email, then stopped. They didn’t try to coerce or steer you. Instead, they were silent … acknowledging your right to choose to engage or walk away.

Think about the last time a salesperson piqued your interest with a cold email, then stopped. They didn’t try to coerce or steer you. Instead, they were silent … acknowledging your right to choose to engage or walk away.

We often walk away. But think about a time you chose to continue. Because you were curious, you asked for more details … to fully grasp what sounded intriguing.

Why did you make that choice? Probably because you were offered the chance to choose.

Now think about the last time a seller piqued your interest but told you what to do next.

That’s what a call to action is. It’s a directive, a guide. It’s a tool marketers use to tell the customer what to do next.

Ask yourself, as a sales person: What does giving directive do for you — in a cold email outreach context?

It directs the prospective buyer. It tells them what you want them to do next.

This is exactly why, in many cases, avoiding a call to action is the best way to provoke a conversation with decision-makers.

Psychologists and neuro-linguistic programming geeks have long studied the power of acknowledging the other side’s right to choose. You should too.

PDFs and Web Links Don’t Work

The use of PDFs and web links are usually applied in a persuasive context. Bad idea for cold sales email messages.

“I’ve attached a brief presentation explaining our value.” Or, “Please consider enrolling in this free demo of our tool …” are calls to action. And in most cases, they’re calling for action in ways working against the sales rep.

Your PDF should not out-sell you. The goal of your cold email should be to spark a conversation, not get your PDF reviewed, nor earn a demo or trial.

That’s a marketing outcome.

Generally, introduction of marketing constructs into cold sales email messages is proving disastrous. Mostly because decision-makers are, in comparison, open to having their curiosity piqued about a problem to be solved, or issue they’re grappling with.

They’ve had enough marketing shoved at them — from marketers and, lately, sales people who push marketing messages and calls to action.

Give Them a Choice

Letting the other side choose to engage or not allows both sides to mutually qualify if a discussion is worthwhile.

“The problem is choice.” It’s one of my favorite movie script lines. Indeed, in The Matrix, choice is the problem for Neo, the pesky Anomaly in The Architect’s tyrannical system. Yet for sales reps the removal of choice is the problem!

Think about it. Removing choice is the ultimate marketing outcome. The way it’s executed is persuasion. A call to action fit right in with that kind of bold, brash technique.

Grab attention — then direct it. Hurry, before the customer figures out a way to wriggle off the hook.

But calls to action rarely fit the cold sales email context. You cannot tell a customer to engage or meet. You must help them want to meet — if there is justification to meet.

I’m often told, “Jeff I need a better email message — to grab attention, gain credibility and convince a prospect to talk with me.”

Wrong. That model eliminates choice. It attempts to persuade and then coerce a decision. Result: A few meetings happen but with reluctant prospects.

Also, consider your decision-maker is bombarded with meeting requests — all asking to give sellers the chance to persuade them!

Instead, let the other side choose to engage or not. This allows both sides to mutually qualify if a discussion is worthwhile.

Acknowledge your prospects’ right to choose. This begins the process of helping customers to convince themselves to speak … if, in fact, the decision to engage is what they need.

Quick Example

Below is an actual example of how I helped Ben, a sales rep for a retail data analysis company targeting branded manufacturers of textiles and shoes. His original cold email call to action was not working … it was typical:

Do you have 15 mins to hop on a call so we can see what your needs are and how we can help?

We quickly created a curiosity-sparking way to structure the middle and end of an effective cold email — without a call to action. It’s working!

I have an idea for you. Not sure if it’s a fit. Ralph Lauren is using an unusual tactic to ensure price alignment, drive demand and increase revenue ~31%. Are you open to hearing how they are doing it?

Best regards,
Ben

No marketing-esque call to action. Pure provocation, focusing on the amazing story Ralph Lauren (Ben’s client) is creating for itself.

This technique is resulting in far more discussions for Ben. All without a call to action.

1 More Reason to Avoid a Call to Action

Context. Cold email arrives without any context. Your prospect has no expectation of the email. Unlike a marketing email, where the reader has opted in, the reader is not expecting nor giving permission to be told what to do.

A call to action is out of context — because there is no context in a cold email.

Your cold email is fresh, new, unexpected; however, it’s also assumed to be delete-worthy (by default).

Think about your own inbox. If a sales person’s subject line “pushes a pain” you are presumed to have — delete key. If it requests a meeting — delete key. Offers a free demo — delete key.

These are the easy-to-spot, unsolicited come-ons plaguing inboxes of decision-makers. The more we all experience these patterns, the easier it is to delete without opening.

Remember: Most sales outreach is pushing self-centered marketing copy and ending with a cheesy call to action. This creates lack of distinction for sellers who use this approach.

You blend in.

Beware: “Is this of interest?” or “Would you like to learn more?” are soft calls to action that often fail too!

Bottom line: Calls to action are bossy. They either tell or suggest what the recipient should do. They eliminate choice and that’s the problem.

Eliminating customers’ choices works in marketing (sometimes) but never in sales.

Earning more conversations, faster, demands you avoid best practices. Literally. Instead, choose emerging “next practices” to create a modern, effective sales outreach strategy.

What has your experience been?

Video Q&A: What Marketing Processes or Tasks Will AI Eliminate?

There’s a lot of loose talk around the potential for AI to change the nature of the marketing game, but beyond the buzz it can be hard to tell exactly how marketers will be using it to improve their businesses.

There’s a lot of loose talk around the potential for AI to change the nature of the marketing game, but beyond the buzz it can be hard to tell exactly how marketers will be using it to improve their businesses. In a series of video Q&A’s, marketing AI practitioner and BrainTrust Insights co-founder Christopher Penn will explain how marketers can actually use AI.

Penn will be leading the keynote session at the FUSE Digital Marketing Summit this November.

Check out Penn’s previous videos:
Q: Early on, what data-related problems will AI solve for marketers?

Q: What marketing processes or tasks do you expect AI to help speed up or eliminate?

A: “The answer to this question is maddeningly vague, yet incredibly specific — and that is anything that is repetitive. Artificial intelligence, machine learning specifically with all of its categories (deep learning, reinforcement, learning, etc.) is really good at learning repetitive processes. So anything that you do in marketing is a candidate for replacement by AI if it’s a repetitive task.”

“Consider the process of, for example, scheduling social media posts. This is a very repetitive thing. At BrainTrust Insights, we use code that I wrote to help with a lot of the analysis of what content to share and the creation of the files to batch upload for the framework of social posts.”

“I have worked at other firms where there’s some poor person, usually the most entry level person, who is copying and pasting between spreadsheets for clients or customers for their social media, which is a soul crushing job. That is 100% up for grabs for machines to take over. And rightfully so — it’s really not work that helps leverage the true power of the human mind. Reporting is another candidate for AI. Have you done this job before” Sure, have: copy paste, copy paste, copy paste. That’s a candidate for AI to speed up or eliminate entirely.”

Hear Penn’s full answer to the question of what tasks AI will speed up or eliminate for marketers in the video above.

See Christopher Penn present the keynote session Using AI & Deep Learning to Generate Marketing Results at the FUSE Digital marketing Summit.

Nike, Where Are You Going With Your #JustDoIt Marketing Campaign?

With Colin Kaepernick being the face of #JustDoIt, Nike stock is at a record high. Unlike most corporations desperate to stay out of the highly partisan political environment, Nike went all-in. In response, President Trump tweeted “What was Nike thinking?”

With Colin Kaepernick being the face of #JustDoIt, Nike stock is at a record high. Unlike most corporations desperate to stay out of the highly partisan political environment, Nike went all-in. In response, President Trump tweeted “What was Nike thinking?”

One answer is that Nike was thinking Kaepernick was standing up for what he believed in and that it was in-line with Nike’s own beliefs. However, that answer seems a bit naïve if you know anything about well-managed brands.

Since this latest #JustDoIt campaign, the Internet’s been flooded with conspiracy theories. I thought I would provide three theories on what Nike was really thinking.

Theory One

Nike is reading the tealeaves and is positioning itself accordingly. A high-value brand like Nike does its consumer research and its leaders evidently believe that history will be on the side of Colin Kaepernick.

Sure, Nike has taken risks before, when it launched campaigns to support causes such as gender equality or fighting ageism. While avant-garde, the campaigns did not have anywhere as much political heat as the NFL “taking a knee” controversy does. Even for Nike, this was bold and a decision like this would certainly have been backed by exhaustive research. In the end, Nike is not taking sides on the full political war, but it is on this one important issue.

Theory Two

Nike is planning to play both sides of the divide. The next campaign might involve a conservative talking point. Maybe the larger message of the campaign is that the country should be a bit less vitriolic about opposite viewpoints or that we all share a love of sports.

Admittedly, this is a long-shot theory, but one I find more digestible vs. a future where the labels on our shirts or shoes lump us in with one faction or another, which takes us to Theory Three.

Theory Three

Nike decided to fire a segment of customers (avid Trump supporters) because picking a political side is more profitable.

I have seen many companies hesitate to fire any customer. If they do, it is usually at an individual level, based on specific behaviors; such as frequently returning merchandise or driving losses in some other way.

In the rare cases where companies have guts to fire whole segments, it is usually done by simply ignoring the segment — not poking them, like this #JustDoIt campaign.

In the case of Nike, they vocally picked a political side. When other brands have been pushed into politically partisan positions by their founders, such as L.L.Bean, Under Armour and Chick-fil-A, they have quickly tried to claw back to neutral ground, claiming that the founder’s position was personal and not reflective of the brand’s.

Because this is a branded campaign featuring Kaepernick, Nike has no cover of plausible deniability. Nike unambiguously chose a political side and has so far been successful.

In the End Zone

Based on this, we may see more brands pick political sides. In the future, there may be even more politically aligned brand,s but I certainly hope that is not where we are headed.

Many of us in business try to keep our personal politics out of business. This has left our professional lives as a place where we all can find some sorely needed common ground. Yes, there are issues in every generation that prick our conscience enough to force our hand, business etiquette be damned. Those rare issues aside, for those of us who don’t want our opinions spoon-fed to us by political parties or talking heads, highly political brands are a very dystopian future.

Among the three theories I presented, I hope the third one is very wrong.