A Map or a Matrix? Identity Management Is More Complex By the Day

A newly published white paper on how advertisers and brands can recognize unique customers across marketing platforms underscores just how tough this important job is for data-driven marketers.

As technologists and policymakers weigh in themselves on the data universe – often without understanding the full ramifications of what they do (or worse, knowing so but proceeding anyway) – data flows on the Internet and on mobile platforms are being dammed, diverted, denuded, and divided.

In my opinion, these developments are not decidedly good for advertising – which relies on such data to deliver relevance in messaging, as well as attribution and measurement. There is a troubling anti-competition mood in the air. It needs to be reckoned with.

Consider these recent developments:

  • Last week, the European Court of Justice rendered a decision that overturned “Privacy Shield” – the safe harbor program that upward of 5,000 companies rely upon to move data securely between the European Union and the United States. Perhaps we can blame U.S. government surveillance practices made known by Edward Snowden, but the impact will undermine hugely practical, beneficial, and benign uses of data – including for such laudable aims as identity management, and associated advertising and marketing uses.
  • Apple announced it will mandate an “opt-in” for mobile identification data used for advertising and marketing beginning with iOS 14. Apple may report this is about privacy, but it is also a business decision to keep Apple user data from other large digital companies. How can effective cross-app advertising survive (and be measured) when opt-in rates are tiny? What about the long-tail and diversity of content that such advertising finances?
  • Google’s announcement that it plans to cease third-party cookies – as Safari and Mozilla have already done – in two years’ time (six months and ticking) is another erosion on data monetization used for advertising. At least Google is making a full-on attempt to work with industry stakeholders (Privacy Sandbox) to replace cookies with something else yet to be formulated. All the same, ad tech is getting nervous.
  • California’s Attorney General – in promulgating regulation in conjunction with the enforcement of the California Consumer Privacy Act (in itself an upset of a uniform national market for data flows, and an undermining of interstate commerce) – came forth with a new obligation that is absent from the law, but asked for by privacy advocates: Companies will be required to honor a browser’s global default signals for data collection used for advertising, potentially interfering with a consumer’s own choice in the matter. It’s the Do Not Track debate all over again, with a decision by fiat.

These external realities for identity are only part of the complexity. Mind you, I haven’t even explored here the volume, variety, and velocity of data that make data collection, integration, analysis, and application by advertisers both vital and difficult to do. As consumers engage with brands on a seemingly ever-widening number of media channels and data platforms, there’s nothing simple about it. No wonder Scott Brinker’s Mar Tech artwork is becoming more and more an exercise in pointillism.

Searching for a Post-Cookie Blueprint

So it is in this flurry (or fury) of policy developments that the Winterberry Group issued its most recent paper, “Identity Outlook 2020: The Evolution of Identity in a Privacy-First, Post-Cookie World.”

Its authors take a more positive view of recent trends – reflecting perhaps a resolve that the private sector will seize the moment:

“We believe that regulation and cookie deprecation are a positive for the future health and next stage of growth for the advertising and marketing industry as they are appropriate catalysts for change in an increasingly privacy-aware consumer environment,” write authors Bruce Biegel, Charles Ping, and Michael Harrison, all of whom are with the Winterberry Group.

The researchers report five emerging identity management processes, each with its own regulatory risk. Brands may pursue any one or combination of these methodologies:

  • “A proprietary ID based on authenticated first-party data where the brand or media owner has established a unique ID for use on their owned properties and for matching with partners either directly or through privacy safe environments (e.g.: Facebook, Google, Amazon).
  • “A common ID based on a first-party data match to a PII- [personally identifiable information] based reference data set in order to enable scale across media providers while maintaining high levels of accuracy.
  • “A common ID based on a first-party data match to a third-party, PII-based reference data set in order to enable scale across media providers while maintaining high levels of accuracy; leverages a deterministic approach, with probabilistic matching to increase reach.
  • “A second-party data environment based on clean environments with anonymous ID linking to allow privacy safe data partnerships to be created.
  • “A household ID based on IP address and geographic match.”

The authors offer a chart that highlights some of the regulatory risks with each approach.

“As a result of the diversity of requirements across the three ecosystems (personalization, programmatic and ATV [advanced television]) the conclusion that Winterberry Group draws from the market is that multiple identity solutions will be required and continue to evolve in parallel. To achieve the goals of consumer engagement and customer acquisition marketers will seek to apply a blend of approaches based on the availability of privacy-compliant identifiers and the suitability of the approach for specific channels and touchpoints.”

A blend of approaches? Looks like I’ll need a navigator as well as the map. As one of the six key takeaways, the report authors write:

“Talent gaps, not tech gaps: One of the issues holding the market back is the lack of focus in the brand/agency model that is dedicated to understanding the variety of privacy-compliant identity options. We expect that the increased market complexity in identity will require Chief Data Officers to expand their roles and place themselves at the center of efforts to reduce the media silos that separate paid, earned and owned use cases. The development of talent that overlaps marketing/advertising strategy, data/data science and data privacy will be more critical in the post-cookie, privacy-regulated market than ever before.”

There’s much more in the research to explore than one blog post – so do your data prowess a favor and download the full report here.

And let’s keep the competition concerns open and continuing. There’s more at stake here than simply a broken customer identity or the receipt of an irrelevant ad.

Video Advertising Perspectives from Tim Hawthorne, an Entrepreneur Long Before Streaming Video

I thought it would be a wonderful idea to talk to one of the original greats in video advertising, Tim Hawthorne, founder of Hawthorne Advertising, who will be bestowed a “Lifetime Achievement” honor by Marketing EDGE as part of its EDGE Awards.

While we all hunker down, work from home, and stream video content, I thought it would be a wonderful idea to talk to one of the original greats in long-form video advertising, Tim Hawthorne, founder of Hawthorne Advertising. On June 1, Tim will be bestowed a “Lifetime Achievement” honor by Marketing EDGE in New York as part of its EDGE Awards. Here, he shares valuable perspective on a video advertising career in an increasingly rich, ubiquitous medium for consumers, brands, and marketers.

A ‘Love Story’ for Film

Chet: Tim, first of all, congratulations! I’m so happy to see you recognized by Marketing EDGE – with its mission of marketing education and professional development, bringing the best and brightest into the marketing field. When you graduated from college – Harvard University no less, in 1973 (really, I mean, “Love Story“) – did you have any inkling that you would build a career of first in direct-response television (DRTV) and video advertising?

Tim Hawthorne, founder and strategic advisor, Hawthorne Advertising (Fairfield, Iowa), will be honored on June 1, during Marketing EDGE’s EDGE Awards in New York.

Tim:  No, I had no idea in 1968 as I matriculated to Harvard that I would eventually become a pioneer of direct response television marketing. (First of all, yes, “Love Story” for sure. I was wandering through the Harvard Yard in the fall of 1969 when they were shooting exteriors. Not sure, but I might be one of those students hurriedly rushing to class in the background.)

It was turbulent times while I attended Harvard – 1968-1973.  (I’m actually Class of ’68 but took a year off after my sophomore year to teach school in Ethiopia with the Harvard Africa Volunteer Project, so I graduated in ’73.) Initially, I intended to study chemistry, then switched to social psychology, influenced by the turbulent social times in the late 60s. But after getting my hands on a still camera in Ethiopia, I decided I’d take a still photography/documentary filmmaking course when I reentered Harvard in the fall of ’71. I was fascinated with the process of editing film, and then determined I’d pursue a career in filmmaking.

Searching for a job post-graduation in my hometown of Minneapolis, I was fortunate to be hired by the investigative documentary unit of the local CBS station, WCCO-TV. I worked there for almost five years, advancing from production assistant to editor to cinematographer, learning the craft of long-form storytelling. Our unit produced amazing documentaries that were often the No. 1 rated television programs in the Minneapolis/St. Paul market and won multiple awards, including the du Pont-Columbia and Peabody awards. I then became a producer/director/writer when I moved to the NBC affiliate in Philadelphia and eventually worked for a number of LA-based network primetime reality-based shows such as “Real People” and “That’s Incredible.”

Chet: Did you grow up having a love for industrial films of the 50s and 60s – which I think were a great precursor to the infomercial age and video advertising?

Tim:  No, I didn’t have any particular love for industrial films (which in the 50s, 60s, and 70s were the height of boring and simplistic video communications!) It’s my background in documentaries – telling a long form story on people and subjects – that seemed a natural basis on which to pioneer telling long-form consumer product stories.

Like many consumers, I’ve never liked being “sold” especially when I’ve felt manipulated. And of course, short-form TV commercial brand selling is very much about manipulating emotions (via humor, poignancy, excitement) and associating strong positive images (sex, strength, beauty) with a product – a very subtle and often deceptive way of selling.

Infomercial or long-form advertising has always been based on factual selling – the exposition of features and benefits – of course, in as entertaining a way as possible. But at least the channel is up-front about its message:  Here’s a product, here’s what it can do, and here are the benefits to you. This “truth in advertising” has always appealed to me. Producing documentaries is also about discovering the truth about a person, group, or issue.

In 1984, having moved from LA to Iowa for lifestyle reasons (wanting to raise our daughter Jessica in the Midwest where I grew up), I was open for new opportunities.  A local real estate investment entrepreneur heard of my background and approached me about producing a long-form commercial. It would be an hour long … and a challenge. That was November 1984, one of the first infomercials on air. Within 12 months, the infomercial had grossed more than $60 million dollars and dominated the long-form air waves. Fairfield Television Enterprise was the company I formed to market the infomercial and over 18 months we revolutionized long-form TV direct response.

Chet: How did early success stories translate to business growth? Were there mentors you paid close attention to? (Alvin Eicoff comes to mind).

Tim:  Eighteen months after launching Ed Beckley’s real estate investment infomercial, I became disillusioned with the way the company was moving forward. I resigned in April 1986 and took a couple of months off before starting Hawthorne Communications, later to become Hawthorne Direct, and then become Hawthorne Advertising. In late June 1986, I was a one-person company with the goal to persuade Fortune 500 companies to add long-form TV commercials to their marketing mix. We were the first infomercial ad agency in the world and I was confident that virtually all products had, somewhere at their hearts, a fascinating story we tell and hold viewers’ attention for 28 minutes and 30 seconds.

The agency had a singular focus: TV long-form advertising. There was no road map for the industry. We invented it as we went along. Certainly Al Eicoff was the reigning master of DRTV (and his book “Or Your Money Back” a short-form DRTV bible) but his company focused on short-form DRTV (2 minutes or less). So I and my growing team began to innovate, and I began to write about and present the long form story to marketing groups and corporations literally around the world. There was no road map; we were the trailblazers.

A Litany of Firsts and Video Advertising Innovations

Chet: Trailblazer indeed. What are some of the innovations you have brought to the field of DRTV, infomercials, and more recently digital video programming? How has digital disruption affected the traditional DRTV and broadcast channel, from a marketing perspective?

Tim: I’ve been called a “leading architect” of the DRTV industry by producing an impressive string of “firsts”:

  • Co-founder and president of the first infomercial direct marketer to break the $50 million revenue per year mark, Fairfield Television Enterprises
  • Founder and chairman of the first infomercial advertising agency, Hawthorne Communications
  • Produced the first infomercial for: a Fortune 500 company – Time Life; a major music company – Time Life Music; a major credit card company – Discover Card; a major health insurance company – Blue Cross Blue Shield; and a retail driving campaign for a brand name product – Braun
  • Infomercial Agency of Record for the first infomercial for: a major computer company – Apple Computers; and a major weight loss company – Weight Watchers
  • Infomercial Agency of Record for the first “promo-mercial” – a half-hour promotion for a primetime TV series (NBC’s “JAG”)
  • Published the industry’s first newsletter: “The 1-800 Report”
  • Published the industry’s first hard-bound textbook on infomercials: “The Complete Guide to Infomercial Marketing”
  • Created the first long-form TV media buying computer analysis system – “Time Track”
  • Purchased the first long-term cable TV bulk media contract: Discover Network, for $50 per half hour, six hours per night
  • Established the first infomercial agency/traditional agency alliance with Earl Palmer Brown

As for innovations to digital video, Hawthorne was one of the first agencies to actively use video promotion on websites (late 1990s) and we pioneered the “drive online direct sales” with short-form TV commercials, which were designed to motivate new visitors to our web-based clients.

Yes, the digital economy has significantly disrupted DRTV, as it has the television entertainment model as a whole. With a 35% drop in primetime adult (18-49) viewership from 2015-2019, the era of aggregating mass audiences on broadcast TV is long over.

A Family Affair – and an Investment in the Future

Chet: Was it a great leap – or expansion – from Fairfield, Iowa (hey, I’m from Nebraska) to Los Angeles? What brought Hawthorne Advertising to LA (and beyond)? Was there a talent pool you needed there?

Tim: From the beginning, Hawthorne was somewhat disadvantaged being a national advertising agency headquartered in a small Iowa town. We did have a small LA office (two staff) from the early 90s to keep in touch with our West Coast clients. But when Jessica (my daughter) came on board in March 2007, she brought an energy and vision to the company previously unknown.

Her goal was to build the LA office and lead the company into a digital future. And she has done that in spades, making LA our headquarters, while our Iowa office strongly administratively supports LA to this day. Our LA office certainly had access to talent we always struggled to persuade to move to Iowa, as you, being a Nebraskan, are probably aware of. It was a brilliant move by Jessica which has allowed the company to continue to thrive going into our 35th year.

June 2011 Cover - Response Magazine
Tim Hawthorne and Jessica Hawthorne-Castro share the cover of Response Magazine (June 2011) on the 25th Anniversary of the Hawthorne Advertising agency.

Chet: Well now we know why Marketing EDGE named Jessica Hawthorne-Castro a 2015 Rising Stars honoree. (You must be very proud!)

Tim: Yes, I’m very proud of Jessica’s ownership and leadership of the company. And it wasn’t by design. Jessica was a thriving talent agent at Endeavor, one of the few women agents at that male-dominated business with six years’ tenure. But she recognized that industry was missing certain business and spiritual values important to her. In February 2007, I coincidentally asked her if she had time to monitor a commercial talent audition in LA that we needed someone to attend. She did it, enjoyed it, and said she would be open to coming on board at Hawthorne. Over the next five years she soaked up the business, brought much-needed youthfulness to our efforts, advanced from client service associate to CEO, and built our LA office to 50-plus employees, while transforming the agency to a digital foundation.

Chet: As an author of several business books on DRTV and infomercial formats, and likely a bevy of company alumni in the field today, you’ve contributed so much to the professional development of data-driven marketers, marketing measurement, attribution and the like. What part of giving back to the field do you find most gratifying? Is there a particular “lifetime” achievement you’re most proud of?

Tim: My greatest achievement? Creating a company that has endured for 35 years and allowed hundreds of staff to learn, thrive, and grow in marketing knowledge and experience, while realizing greater personal achievement and confidence. We created a company that was a home for our staff to do great work amid friendship and respect. Undoubtedly my greatest achievement, far beyond any creative work for a client.

Thank you Tim – and we’re so happy to celebrate your contributions at the EDGE Awards come June 1.  And much more video success ahead!




Do Marketing Influencers Really Influence? Or Do Brands?

The critical role of marketing influencers on driving sales and loyalty for brands in both the B2B and B2C space is nothing new. We marketers have been “influencing the influencers” for decades. But the game has changed and continues to do so at a rapid pace.

The critical role of marketing influencers on driving sales and loyalty for brands in both the B2B and B2C space is nothing new. We marketers have been “influencing the influencers” for decades. But the game has changed and continues to do so at a rapid pace.

Now, with all of the technology available, anyone can create videos on any topic, spark viral marketing campaigns, and get instant fame, likes, and tweets on social media and start influencing others in some fashion at some level. As a result, “influencer marketing” is much more complex, hard to define, and much harder to nail. Yet it is also painstakingly more important than ever.

To succeed at influencing influencers to influence purchasers, we need to step back and review some of the basic fundamentals:

First, what really is an influencer who is worth is influencing in today’s market, when just about anyone can pin on that name? It used to be we could identify influencers by the numbers of followers they had on social media. Well, that’s not so easy in an age where likes and followers can be bought, and often are. There are now many other characteristics of “influence” that marketers need to address.

According to an Influencer Marketing post from Feb. 1:

An influencer is an individual who has the power to affect purchase decisions of others because of his/her authority, knowledge, position, or relationship with his/her audience. An individual who has a following in a particular niche, which they actively engage with.

Given this definition, who are the top influencers today?

Well, according to MediaKix, an influencer marketing agency that aligns brands with social media influencers ruling YouTube and Instagram, the top influencers in the world are young adults who have mastered the ability to entertain millions of followers by making fun of life as we know it today. They comment on beauty or fashion trends in ways that entertain and inform, or engage followers in game activities. Seriously, most of you reading this post will find little if any value in their trendy, narcissistic, and often meaningless tweets; but somehow, these people are influencing millions daily by just doing nothing but ranting or raving on video channels that anyone can access and use.

Yet these influencers with little talent compared with mainstream entertainers who cross over the big screen to the little screen, sell. MediaKix posts examples of influencer marketing campaigns that engaged these “influencers” in marketing campaigns for clients like Kenneth Cole. The marketing influencers show results that include social reaches of tens of millions, story views also in the millions, high levels of social engagement rates, and, of course, increased sales for sponsoring brands.

Marketing Influencers Seriously Influence Sales

Geometry Global and gen.video released a report in 2017 at VidCon that showed 90% of social media users are influenced to make a purchase after seeing content. Categories most influenced by social media content are consumer electronics, fashion food/beverage, health/beauty, and travel.

Quite importantly, they also learned that social media influencers are now the “most effective and trusted source at driving sales, 94% more than friends/family, and more than six times more than celebrities.


When you look at those numbers, its hard not to wonder how traditional broadcast channels are still able to get advertising dollars.

B2B influencers on social media have far few followers than pop culture influencers, who have as many as 80 million followers on Instagram. Yet, the followers they do have pay attention to every word and every idea. B2B influencers ruling social media are those who share their wisdom, ideas, and help others learn from them, without asking for anything in return, other than maybe a follow or like.

By “influencing” others with their intellect and stories that followers can relate to and actually emulate in their own jobs, they have anchored themselves as thought leaders beyond just their tweets or posts. They are authors and speakers. They are executives at companies who are changing the world as we know it, or some aspect of the business world. The leading B2B influencer on social media, Tim Hughes of London, has fewer than 200,000 Twitter followers, which pales in comparison with the consumer influencers who entertain with short, often raunchy, episodes about their daily lives, or jokes about others’ lives. Instead, he tweets his expertise and insights on digital marketing and social selling, and provides tidbits about his personal life. And people look forward to reading everything he says.

The key to a successful influencer marketing campaign for businesses is exactly the above. Make your tweets so relevant and valuable that people look forward to reading your posts and learning from your every word. Another key factor is to spur influence among all areas of your business, not just your leadership. You can light up social media much faster with multiple influencers than just highlighting your leadership and their ideas.

The first step in influencer marketing is to recognize the “influencers” in your own ranks. That’s your staff at all levels, not just the top. Note that many of the top influencers are employees of companies vs. owners or founders. They tweet about what they do, what they learn, and what moves them within the context of their brands and their own personal visions.

Successful employees have a passion for what your business does, and what they do to further your business. And they have intellectual capital and experiences that are worth sharing. As the marketing lead for your company, you can direct social conversations and get people talking about your company, your insights, your value propositions, and even a day in the life of your business.

Here are five ways you can start influencing people at all levels of your industry:

  1. Identify a Theme a month with which you want to align your company’s expertise. Define talking points that support your position, and potential social media themes to help get those talking points read and shared.
  2. Build Relevant Content for your employees to share on their business and even personal accounts. Align the content with what matters most to your audiences and write it in a way that creates anticipation for subsequent posts. It’s not that hard, if you know what’s on the mind of your audiences and have even basic writing skills.
  3. Enable Employees to set up social media accounts, specifically to tweet about your business and industry. Break down those security firewalls and encourage employees to play around on social media on the job and tweet within the guidelines you set.
  4. Set Guidelines about what can be said, and not per compliance and proprietary issues, and ask employees to tTweet about it.
  5. Use the Business Pages on Social Sites to Reflect Your Top Leaderships’ Thoughts and Insights, and post regularly. Encourage employees to share those thoughts with the network they build within their peer circles.

By setting up employees at all levels to be influencers among peers at all levels, the awareness and buzz about your brand will grow exponentially. And as we have learned from recent political elections, awareness gets more attention and action than just about anything else. People won’t necessarily remember every tweet, comment, position you take, or every insight or idea. But they will remember your name when it comes to “voting” for brands or partners to consider for business deals.

Social Video Standards Need to Look More Like TV

Current social video measurement presents no way to standardize views cross-platform, which means publishers with large social video audiences are held back from full revenue because they can’t prove the complete picture of their audience.

Every month, 14.9 million creators (including media and brands) upload 100 million new videos, generating more than 2 trillion views across YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Twitch. Social video keeps expanding as a viable means to grow global business for both brands and publishers, alike. But without measuring the content similarly to the way TV inventory is evaluated, it’s hard to tap into those same billion-dollar budgets.

This ever-changing media environment has been pushed along by sweeping technological advances. Audiences are more global, mobile, and social than ever before. And anyone can be a creator, whether they’re traditional or digital-native publishers, brands or influencers, or building up media empires from scratch.

Because they’re shareable in nature, social videos have previously been evaluated along the lines of likes, comments, and views. Those metrics remain part of the conversation, sure. But relying solely on them is what holds social video back – especially as these platforms are progressing toward more premium inventory.

Mismatched Metrics

Current social video measurement presents no way to standardize views cross-platform; some platforms have adopted IAB and MRC standards of at least two consecutive seconds, while others have not. For Facebook and Instagram, it’s three seconds. YouTube counts video views once play is initiated, but ad views are counted differently (30 seconds, or the duration of the ad). That leads to inconsistency from platform to platform, plus there’s no way to deduplicate audiences or gain further insights about their viewing habits.

Content creators are forced to grade their own homework, relying on mismatched metrics and small panels that don’t reflect digital realities. Publishers with large social video audiences are held back from full revenue because they can’t prove the complete picture of their audience – which today includes social – to advertisers.

Establishing Social Video Value

It’s time for an evolved approach to measuring social video. To show social video audiences at parity with those of traditional media channels, there need to be uniform market standards that attach similar values regardless of global location, screen, or platform. Deduplicated audience engagement and time-based metrics like total and average watch time normalize attention and reach globally, clearly reflecting how an audience cultivated through social platforms can stand toe-to-toe with some of traditional media giants… and how agile traditional media companies keep pace digitally.

With trillions of video views generated across the world’s largest social platforms, it’s essential for the buy- and sell-side to have TV-like time-based metrics to transact on and deliver ROI with confidence. On TV, metrics like watch time, average minutes watched, and unique viewers have long been a staple of how money (and lots of it) exchanges hands. When these standards grow into essential social video measurements, combined with audience demographics and location, what’s truly stopping all of this video content from being viewed with the exact same revenue capabilities in mind?

Social video doesn’t have to stop being itself. It has advantages inherent by design, just as traditional TV does. But in order for social video’s strengths to be valued on par with TV’s, measurement needs to look more similar. Known standards will give publishers and brands access to a massive audience (and resulting revenues) they’ve previously missed out on because they’ve lacked a way to understand that audience and model ROI.

Rihanna and Amazon — Marketing Perfectly Together

Rihanna’s second Savage X Fenty lingerie show will be a highlight of New York Fashion Week, with its inclusive line-up of models representing all body types. Last year’s show was available to anyone on YouTube. But “this year’s Savage X Fenty Show will be available to stream exclusively on Amazon Prime Video.”

Rihanna’s second Savage X Fenty lingerie show will be a highlight of New York Fashion Week, with its inclusive line-up of models representing all body types.

Last year’s show was available to anyone on YouTube. But “this year’s Savage X Fenty Show will be available to stream exclusively on Amazon Prime Video in more than 200 countries and territories worldwide, beginning Friday, September 20,” according to Deadline.

So why limit access to the 100 million Amazon Prime members, instead of letting anyone view the show?

It’s a win for Rihanna, because those 100 million Prime members are excellent e-commerce prospects. Why not take advantage of their ability to shop the new collection and buy with a single click? And it’s a win for Amazon, which iis interested in making further forays into the fashion world as traditional department store retail sales wane.

Wired reports:

“Amazon isn’t exactly the most stylish place to shop for clothes. Most of its top-selling women’s fashion items are simple pieces: easy dresses, spandex workout gear, socks, and underwear — a lot of it from brands you’ve probably never heard of … Now, Amazon is experimenting to attract a new, more fashionable segment of consumers: social media influencers and the people who love to follow them.”

With 93 million Twitter followers (fourth highest), Rihanna certainly fits that bill.

What’s more, Rihanna can expect to benefit from Amazon’s targeting capabilities. Who’s purchased similar lingerie lines? Who’s purchased Rihanna make-up, perfume, clothing, and music in the past? Who are the big spenders? What else have they bought? When are they likely to buy?

Dazed writes:

“The Amazon Prime stream will include behind-the-scenes footage of the show and the making of the collection, allowing us a peak into Rihanna’s creation of an inclusive lingerie brand for all women.

“What can we expect from the lingerie brand’s second show? Last year, a diverse group of models hit the runway, while a heavily pregnant Slick Woods walked the catwalk in nothing but pasties and a bodysuit. No bombshell bras and mermaid hair here.”

How I Cut the Cord and Learned to Love OTT

Just how many months — no, years — does it take for a logical, clear-headed, money-conscious, well-informed consumer to overcome inertia, cut the cord in his home television habits, and move to OTT?

Just how many months — no, years — does it take for a logical, clear-headed, money-conscious, well-informed consumer to overcome inertia, cut the cord in his home television habits, and move to OTT?

I’ll let you know when it happens.

Yes, I’m one of those Americans — a dwindling number, but we’re still a force. Being charged a couple hundred dollars every month with our stripped-down, no add-ons triple-play (phone/TV/Internet) packages, because there’s no cable competition (in my building) and Spectrum knows it. We don’t even have access to Verizon or AT&T, or RCN, either. Such a dilemma.

Thank goodness for Mom and Dad. They don’t pay my bills. But they donated to me their Roku device when they upgraded their own TV sets. They also added me to their Netflix account as a gift, and now my viewing habits — finally — are changing. Scheduled television via cable at home is clearly on the wane. On linear TV via cable, I watch local news and live sports, mostly — and even some of that I can stream.

As stuck as I am in my ways … I’m about to go bold. And do the deed. Snip! (Well, we’ll see.)

In the meantime, advanced television is clearly on the rise.

“Ad spend on over-the-top (OTT) streaming video will increase 20% this year to $2.6 billion, according to a Winterberry Group study of U.S. ad spend data,” reports eMarketer. “Despite OTT’s surge, it’s still small — compared with the $69.2 billion that Winterberry Group estimates U.S. advertisers will spend on linear TV. For some advertisers, measurement challenges prevent them from investing more in OTT.”

A recent Direct Marketing Club of New York program included a panel of experts who parsed some of the challenges. With OTT, you have two worlds colliding — traditional television and traditional digital — and the user (me) has an expectation that online video, if I’m to watch it as programming, had best carry the quality of linear television. I even want my online video advertisements — hey, it’s ad-financed content on many platforms — to carry the quality of a TV ad, rather than a GIF. Still, I’m open to new ad formats here — I’m starting to enjoy 6-second ads, thanks to digital training. And I’m actively searching and browsing, often on a second device concurrently, some of it prompted by content and ads.

We Need Industry Standards …

What metrics matter to whom? Audience reach and eyeballs may coo the traditional TV media buyer (and seller), who simply wants those same or similar metrics digitally. And that may be fine for CMOs who live and breathe “passive” awareness, but addressable television’s real prize is data: user data, dwell time — and demographics — that shed light on a brand’s customers, one device or cross-device, and one view or continued view (start viewing a program on one device, and finish viewing on another) at a time. Here, “active” engagement metrics matter, such as clickthroughs, conversions, and attribution. These data drive the algorithms that target and tailor the advertising.

And remember the Big Data “ouch” when mobile, social, and local users flooded the market? Same goes here: “Data is overabundant, non-standardized, and non-harmonious,” said one panelist. We need to codify, standardize, and become screen-agnostic in our reporting. Certainly, people expect viewing on a TV to be different than viewing on a smartphone. Marketers need to know device use metrics to see how ad delivery may need to differ. Yet the user metrics do need to be agnostic — audience and engagement metrics need to be settled upon for the marketplace to trust, verify, and grow. That’s because in OTT and Advanced Television, “data is the most important ROI.”

I didn’t have to finish my blog at any particular time today — thanks to TV on demand, anywhere. Oh wait a minute, I gotta shut my laptop: the season finale of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” starts in 10 minutes, and I’ve been looking forward to it for two weeks! Inertia, indeed.

How 5 Aspects of Storytelling Influence Your Brand

Stories work because throughout history, in every culture and place, human beings have had one thing in common: We love great storytelling with compelling characters.

Stories work because throughout history, in every culture and place, human beings have had one thing in common: We love great storytelling with compelling characters.

Over time, the ways we tell stories may have changed, but the reason why we tell stories remains the same. We all want to hear and feel something meaningful and emotionally true.

The good news for brands is that we’re all hard-wired to respond to storytelling devices.

MRI studies show that the human brain literally lights up when confronted with information told in story form.

Most of us have seen reports and studies about the number of marketing messages we receive each day — some peg it between 4,000 and 10,000. If that range is accurate, then directly connecting with your audience is harder than ever. And if it’s harder to reach your audience, then using a technique that’s faster, more effective and more powerful seems like the easy choice. That’s where storytelling comes in.

Storytelling for Marketing

The technology to make an accessible video — a very compelling way to quickly tell emotional stories — has enabled brands to touch the heartstrings of their customers. Beyond video, however, is a host of marketing communications techniques that brands need to access so they can best resonate with their audiences.

When building a messaging framework to write the copy for a web page, landing page, mailer, email, etc., businesses have numerous options and resources. Just Google “Messaging Frameworks,” and you’ll see what I mean.

Marketing firms and agencies have done a good job sharing their approaches to garner more web traffic and authority, so the secret sauce of how to build a good framework is not-so-secret anymore. It’s just how your marketing team best fits its skills and talents into an approach that works for your business.

For a storytelling approach to messaging, there are tons of resources to help with this, ranging from Donald Miller’s business StoryBrand, to Jonah Sachs’ “Winning the Story Wars,” to all of the on-line videos about how to tell a good marketing story. What I’ve outlined below isn’t new. But what I hope it does is challenge your team to better understand how to meaningfully engage with your audience.

The 5 Universal Aspects of a Story

  1. The Hero: From Gilgamesh, to Elizabeth Bennett, to Luke Skywalker, to Carol Danvers, the hero is to whom we attach ourselves. We follow heroes through their struggles, hopes, and their desires to somehow transform their lives. Your hero is your customer. What does s/he struggle with? What is s/he motivated by? What kind of transformation is your customer looking for?
  2. The Villain: The best villains represent something bigger than themselves. In “The Grapes of Wrath,” the villains were shown as police, farmland holders …and most importantly, the system. It was The System that uprooted the Midwestern grasslands. The System planted nutrient-draining cotton, which depleted the soil, and helped cause the great Dust Bowl. The System ended up forcing the share-cropping farmers to migrate. The villain is what your customer/hero has to overcome. Is it high prices for poor service? Is it lack of confidence? Inconvenience? The gap between the increase of the cost of education vs. the increase in wages? This is your team’s hard work. You need to deeply dig into who or what the villain is.
  3. The Mentor: All stories have a guide or mentor, some kind of facilitator who steps in to help the hero. The guide helps lay out the path. The hero has to do the actual work. It’s the independent work of the hero that makes the journey worthwhile. As every parent knows, children learn and grow and gain confidence when they do it themselves. You and your business are the mentor. You help show the customer-hero how to overcome obstacles and get to a place they want to go.
  4. The Journey: This is how the hero actually transforms. In fiction, the journey could be physical, psychological, emotional or all of the above. It’s the path the hero takes that results in a transformed state of living … happier, healthier, stronger, wiser … all of the things we want to be. Every human wants to become more than they are. We have an innate desire to improve and grow. Your customer-journey is the plan, the path, that you lay out for them. You, as both mentor and business, show the customer what the journey looks like, and so facilitate his or her growth.
  5. The Transformation: This is the golden reward, the place the customer wants to go. Like I explained in “3 Types of Brand Stories,” this can be a functional, emotional or moral transformation. It is a clear and hopeful resolution, when confronting and besting the villain. As a business, you need to make the transformation extremely clear for the customer, so s/he can see how life will be better because of trusting you as a mentor and following your suggested path.

I recommend you Google “Storytelling for Marketing” and explore two or three pages deep into the rich set of helpful resources and firms that have outstanding advice. You become their hero, they become your mentor, and these resources help you best the villain of audience attrition on your journey to transform into a stronger storyteller and brand professional.

I hope this helps, and as always, I welcome your feedback.

storytelling secondary art

5 Multichannel Video Marketing Tactics to Engage Holiday Shoppers

Utilizing a multi-pronged holiday video marketing approach enables marketers to take their seasonal performance to the next level by increasing visibility through social media platforms and search, while also boosting the brand’s and its products’ popularity among shoppers during the critical holiday season.

It’s the time of year again for marketers to kick their holiday marketing efforts into high gear. As consumer buying behaviors and media consumption continue to change, it’s crucial for marketers to understand that shoppers increasingly use a variety of channels to find inspiration and make purchases, and therefore marketers must align their messaging across channels to effectively engage customers at optimal touchpoints along their purchase journey. Once they grasp the basics of these channels, marketers can start to utilize more advanced strategies as part of a holistic approach during this critical time of the year.

Among the channels consumers seek out when considering purchases, social videos have become a staple of product research and consideration. Social media marketing puts products right where consumers spend their time, and consumers expect product videos from brands, with many shoppers searching for a product video before visiting a store. Marketers often use social video ads to capture demand throughout the year, but during the holidays, they should be more proactive. By leveraging a multi-channel approach with targeting precision to be more assertive, they can take greater control in driving demand and expanding their results.

Retail marketers should consider the following tactics for developing a multi-channel holiday marketing strategy centered on social video ads to better align marketing with the customer journey.

Utilize Video Across a Variety of Social Platforms

There are many places marketers can reach their target audience, so investing holiday budgets by leveraging video ads across multiple channels generates more opportunities to create impressions and engage with shoppers.

After establishing which social channels target audiences frequent most, marketers can better determine what type of content and video ads to plan and post to offer a seamless experience between preferred platforms and capitalize on different stages of the holiday shopping experience.

Fostering Interest on Pinterest

Pinterest remains a popular destination for consumers to visually interact with brands and discover new products. With many users flocking to the platform to create lists for the holiday season and aid in their gift purchasing decisions, it’s vital for marketers to get their products and brand on the platform immediately.

The ability to showcase branded videos on the platform received a boost just in time for the holidays with the rollout of wide-format promoted video ads, driving efficient costs-per-view and lifts in brand awareness. With 67 percent of Pinterest video viewers saying videos on Pinterest inspire them to take action, there’s ample opportunity for marketers to capture interest for their products heading into the holidays.

Pinterest users’ inspiration period can start up to three months prior to an actual purchase; therefore, it’s important for marketers to reach customers early with video ads to cultivate their interest and move users toward conversion. Marketers looking to land on shoppers’ holiday radars should utilize Pinterest as a visual catalog. For example, a toy retailer could leverage video ads on the platform to reveal the hottest toys of 2018 or a clothing retailer might showcase their winter apparel line as customers look for inspiration for their holiday party attire.

Once they’ve captured interest through Pinterest video ads, marketers need to consider engaging customers by retargeting and remarketing to push their customer even further than the purchase funnel.

Tap Into the Enduring Influence of YouTube

YouTube continues to be a driving influence when it comes to making purchases, especially around the holidays, with mobile watch time for product review videos on YouTube growing each year.

As part of marketers’ holiday strategies, they should leverage YouTube TrueView followed by bumper ads to target prospective audiences and new customers. The best part is marketers only get charged when a user chooses to watch the full 30 second ad – a win, win!

Utilizing companion banners to drive click through rates (CTRs), bumper ads exist as a reminder to customers to purchase specific products. These products should be served via remarketing lists and similar audiences to maximize efficiency and reduce cost per impressions. Additionally, with Google’s mobile-first focus, these ads will serve in a format that is easily viewable for customers on-the-go.

Marketers should also consider running a brand lift study alongside these video ads to measure impact on metrics like brand awareness, ad recall and purchase intent. By doing so, marketers can tweak their strategy within the first week of results to better connect with audiences and more effectively drive results throughout the holiday season.

Leverage Facebook and Instagram for Merchandising, Not Just Branding

Aside from being among the most popular social networks, Instagram and Facebook both command a greater interaction frequency than YouTube. Undoubtedly, video ads on Facebook and Instagram serve the purpose of effectively stimulating a marketer’s target audience on highly actionable and engaged channels. On Facebook alone, views on branded or sponsored video content increased 258% in 2017, with the highest numbers generated around the holiday season as shoppers sought inspiration for gift ideas. Facebook Carousel ads are a favorite among retail marketers because they encourage consumers to interact with their ads and allow greater opportunity to showcase products through images and videos with the potential for several different calls-to-action.

Instagram also recently expanded its ad offerings to more marketers with its Collection ad units, enabling online retailers to add the Shopping Bag icon within their Stories for the holiday season. The images and videos used within the carousel display can link to the brand’s site or product pages to drive e-commerce purchases.

Targeting users that have shown an interest or interacted with holiday topics across Facebook properties should be a key consideration in marketers’ holiday strategies. Marketers can utilize dynamic product ad offerings as an effective way to get in front of new customers with specific product sets or SKUs; for example, targeting users interested in a holiday sweater, gift wrap or children’s toys, or leveraging parental or relationship targeting to hone in on those most likely to convert.

Complement Video Strategies With Highly Relevant Keywords

Driving the desired targeted traffic that converts requires a varied strategy designed for a marketer’s specific brand and product set. To capitalize on the demand social videos generate across channels, marketers should create highly-relevant holiday-specific keywords as consumers who watched a video and are searching for the brand or products by name are likely deeper within the sales funnel. Marketers should develop and expand coverage on relevant keywords that reinforce messaging from their videos to include search terms like “gift ideas,” “best,” “kids,” and “holiday deal,” along with brand and product-specific terms.

Likewise, leveraging remarketing lists for search ads with proper messaging helps ensure marketers can reach customers in their exact moment of need to foster engagement and move them through the purchase funnel with greater precision to drive better results.

Utilizing a video-centric, multi-pronged holiday marketing approach will better enable marketers to take their seasonal performance to the next level by increasing visibility through Pinterest, YouTube, social media platforms and search, while also boosting the brand’s and its products’ popularity among shoppers during the critical holiday season.

The Insider’s Guide to Strategic B2B Webinar Campaigns

Webinars have been increasingly used as an interactive, visual form of content marketing, both educational and promotional. In fact, about 60% of B2B marketing teams make webinars a key part of their content strategy, as it’s easy to control the message that is communicated to your customers. That’s where strategic B2B webinar campaigns come in.

Webinars have been increasingly used as an interactive, visual form of content marketing, both educational and promotional. In fact, about 60% of B2B marketing teams make webinars a key part of their content strategy, as it’s easy to control the message that is communicated to your customers.

However, just because something is popular doesn’t mean that it is working; engagement rates for most webinar watchers are pitifully low, dipping to 15% in some cases. Getting your audience interested and invested in your message has always been a challenge, but capturing their attention is essential for growing conversion rates.

An unengaged audience is not likely to convert into customers. So you need to ensure that your watchers are actually listening and interacting with your webinar, especially while it’s in progress. Here are a few strategic B2B webinar pointers on how to do that.

Understand Who You Are Talking to in an Audience

Knowing your audience through and through is always the first step to a successful marketing strategy, and it’s no different when it comes to webinars. Using a webinar as a B2B marketing tactic is going to be different than a traditional approach, simply because of the kind of people who will be watching.

B2B customers are not your typical day-to-day consumer. B2B audiences are more motivated by relationships with a business and the measurable value that a product or service provides than saving money or buying the newest thing in the market.

In many cases, the people you are marketing to are upper-level executives who are highly knowledgeable in their industry (and, therefore, less easily swayed by standard pitches). Additionally, you will likely have to appeal to multiple people within an organization, rather than just one, as you would in B2C marketing. It follows that your webinar content should be highly focused on providing top-notch information and clearly demonstrate how your product or service will have a significant impact on the customer’s business.

Invite Your Audience’s Active Participation

Webinars must be interactive if they are going to drive engagement. If your customers wanted to tune in only to learn more about your company, then they could choose to do so from umpteen other channels, the simplest of them being your website. They choose to participate in a webinar because it is one way to interact with your business on a personal level while contemplating whether your product would work for them.

According to Bizibl’s “2017 Webinar Benchmark Report,” the most effective engagement tool during a webinar is a Q&A session between the speaker and the audience. You can collect these questions before the webinar begins through email or social media, or in real time on the webinar platform, which probably lets the audience post questions via a live chat. Answering these questions spontaneously is akin to creating personalized content or providing individual customer service.

Credit: Bizibl Marketing

A webinar should not be the same as a seminar, per se. Just listening to a speaker drone on for an hour (even when they are an interesting orator) can get fairly boring. Webinars provide you and the audience with the opportunity to have meaningful discourse, so make sure that your program is set up to promote two-way conversation.

Show, Don’t Tell

In general, most people tend to be visual learners, especially when it comes to marketing. Eight out of 10 customers would prefer to watch a video demonstration of a product, rather than read about it on a website. Plus, studies have found that when people learn online using visual aids such as video, they are far more likely to remember the information shared therein.

Again, show your customers exactly what you are talking about with live demos, rather than just explaining what your product can do. A webinar solution like ClickMeeting lets you use real-time screen sharing, file sharing, polls, private chats with simultaneous translation, and various collaboration tools to help guide your customers through a step-by-step process that helps them achieve their goals.

Credit: ClickMeeting

By sharing insightful tips and techniques live on webinars, your business can establish itself as a credible resource and an authority in your industry. Top B2B decision-makers are highly influenced by this type of hands-on thought leadership; an Edelman survey found that 48% of C-Suite executives cited educational content as the reason they did business with a brand.

Have a Plan Before, During and After

The entire process of creating a webinar as a part of your marketing campaign must be carefully planned from start to finish. First, you must determine why you’re putting together a webinar in the first place:

  • Is it to establish authority by discussing a technical topic?
  • Does it aim to educate your customers by explaining a complicated process?
  • Is it focused on brand awareness and top-of-the-funnel growth?
  • Is it a push for higher conversion rates from already engaged consumers?

Once your goals have been established, there must be a plan in place to ensure that your webinar brings in positive results. The number of attendees can vary greatly depending on a few small details. For example, people are far more likely (Opens as a PDF) to watch a webinar in the middle of the week (Wednesdays and Thursdays are best). Also, more people will attend a live webinar if they are informed of it a week or so before, rather than further in advance.

Credit: ON24

You also want to monitor audience sentiment before, during and after a webinar. Tracking ROI from marketing campaigns in general is always a challenge, but measuring results from webinars is the most difficult of all. Be sure that your team knows how to properly translate analytical data from the event and that they have the right tools to do so. Look into audience development tools, such as AmpLive, in conjunction with Google Analytics and on-site event tracking software for a better chance at determining ROI from webinars.

Once your webinar is complete, you can make the videos available as part of a resource section of your website, as well as on your YouTube (or Instagram) channel. Digital marketing and competitive intelligence solutions can do this effectively. (Disclosure: the author works for SEMrush, which is one of these tools.)

Video marketing has seen tremendous growth in the past few years, and the engagement numbers are staggering. Branded content video viewership has grown by 258% on Facebook, and 64% of consumers have bought an item after they viewed a video on social media. What’s more, webpages and social media posts with video will keep a user’s attention 2.6 times longer than those with just text or images, thus increasing engagement levels significantly.

Over to You

Webinars provide B2B companies with the unique opportunity to engage with audiences through an interactive and informative process. No other marketing platform can provide something quite this in-depth. However, this does not guarantee success: webinars require a lot of strategic planning.

Make sure that you understand who your audience is and the type of content they are looking for. Fully integrate webinars into your marketing mix. Set goals and put in place tools and systems that will help you achieve your target ROI. Remember, webinars should be informative and educational, but they should also be engaging and fun. Keep things interesting by soliciting and answering questions. And do throw in a liberal helping of humor while you’re at it.

Why Embedded Video Does Not Work in Cold Email

There’s no shortage of reasons why embedded video should work in cold sales email. Sadly, they amount to lazy fantasies of inside- and field-sales reps who should know better. Cold email is work. Real work. Research. Creativity. Resisting. Not caving to urges to be cute or funny.

There’s no shortage of reasons why embedded video should work in cold sales email. Sadly, they amount to lazy fantasies of inside- and field-sales reps who should know better.

Cold email is work. Real work. Research. Creativity. Resisting. Not caving to urges … to be cute or funny. Most of all, it’s tough to not “go for it” in the first, second or even third email. I get that.

However, it’s far more effective to use text. Words. Text-based emails work best to start discussions. Because text-based cold email provokes questions … so you can answer customers, yourself in real time.

Customers don’t want what you’re pushing in embedded video. But they will gladly be provoked and consider asking for more details… if they are primed for it.

3 Reasons Why Embedded Video Content Doesn’t Work

Time, expectation and assumptions. Video almost never starts conversations (in cold email) because your target doesn’t have time to watch.

When customers see “aah, a business-oriented video” the expectation is “this will take too long getting to the point.” Kind of like a webinar. You can be 10 minutes late, not have missed anything on arrival… and you’ve invested those 10 minutes productively!

From a customers’ point of view, video is also expected to persuade, based on what you think their pain is. Video is, essentially, a monologue.

Perhaps most convincing, video content often produces no useful action (response) in the client… even if viewed.

Why the love affair with video? One of my students broke away from my guidance for video. He sells for a global B2B publisher selling exclusively to lawyers who, “receive more emails in a day than any professional I’ve encountered,” said my student.

His reasoning was, “Lawyers, if they get 10 emails by text, and one by video, which one stands out?”

Standing out is important. This quality often makes a cold email successful, at the core. But how you appear unique decides response (and conversation) rate. Video does not seem to be working beyond the promise of vendors who sell it.

No Time Left For You

With rare exception, a “first touch” cold email (with integrated video) is a non-starter. Instead, short, pithy provocations are the way forward. Campaign data shows: You have 8 seconds or less to earn attention of a VP, director, owner or C-level decision maker.

Your provocation must generate a short, pithy reply. I use the word provocation purposefully. Targets are on their mobile devices, clearing email. Deleting the deluge of unsolicited messages from reps like you… 90% of whom:

  • ask for meetings too soon,
  • try to convince prospects (of needing a solution) using quoted research,
  • boast about Gartner ratings and client lists,
  • ask questions designed to elicit qualification-driven responses.

60 seconds? 90 seconds? 3 minutes for a video clip? You must be kidding.

You have less than 20 seconds for targets to read, consider and respond to a provocation. Anything more is unrealistic.

Your Ugly End Game

Customers know your end game before you even get started with video-embedded email messages. Video content is often structured to convince and qualify clients. They assume this the moment they see it. It is also one-directional. A broadcast, not a conversation.

In my (and my students’ experience), it’s not what they’re looking for. It’s what they love to delete.

You may think video is a new, unique way to separate from the other wolves. But it’s not. We’ve all seen business video shorts… and know what to expect. We know why they’re being shoved at us.

Embedded video clips usually play on a presumed need, pain or goal… in an attempt to garner a response that makes the buyer vulnerable to a pitch. At best, they’re designed to qualify the viewer. Convenient for sellers, not for viewers.

Video tends to reveal your true end game: to speak at, not with, clients.

Video amplifies your willingness to look like another spammy push-marketers. Not to mention being too lazy to get cozy with them. Instead, you expect video to do the heavy lifting (qualification) for you.

My former student defended his decision to abandon text-based emails for video this way:

“Through video you can show your enthusiasm,” he said. “You show that the email is hyper personalized and not templated, and if done correctly, you can start to build trust from first contact.”

“If done correctly” is perhaps the most over-rated, over-used, disingenuous phrase I read online lately. Aside from this observation, it’s true… you can, as a seller, personalize and avoid a templated message using video.

However, if it’s not effective (for the reasons I’m discussing here) how can you justify using it?

Outcomes Produced

The best outcome of a cold email is to spark curiosity in your words. Never to convince or persuade a client. Qualification (of you) is also too big an ask, too soon.

In this age, human beings are hard-wired to run from (delete) anything that smells promotional. Videos are promotional.

Most cold emails using video aim to convince and persuade. Instead, earn the right to speak with prospects… so they may convince themselves of their need.

This is a worthwhile outcome. This is a realistic outcome. Relying on a video within an email to help prospects qualify you or your solution? Unrealistic in most B2B selling cases.

Cold email must be provocative. Provocation takes research, creative application of words (mental triggers) and diligence on follow-up. There are no short-cuts.

Most importantly, video is asynchronous. Text-based email is, too. Both embedded video and text do not encourage synchronous conversation. Email, in general, not encourage customers to engage rapid-fire, freely, quickly.

But with practice pithy provocations can produce quick exchanges that pique curiosity in buyers… resulting in requests for more deep conversations.

I’m curious… what has your experience been with video? I’m open to your experience being educational for me!