WWTT? Bud Light Won’t Give Up the ‘Corn Syrup’ Bit

The “Corn War” has been going on since the Super Bowl, when Bud Light used its very expensive air time during the Big Game to call out its competition for using corn syrup in their beers. And the brewer doesn’t show signs of stopping, despite a judge’s ruling.

The “Corn War” has been going on since the Super Bowl, when Bud Light used its very expensive air time during the Big Game to call out its competition — Miller Lite and Coors Lite — for using corn syrup in their beers.

[brightcove videoplayer=”5999581959001″ width=”100%” height=”100%” autostart=”false”]

The back and forth between the brewers escalated,with MillerCoors parrying Bud Light’s attacks, but decided enough was enough in March and sued Bud Light’s parent company, Anheuser-Busch InBev, alleging the ads are false and misleading.

In late May, a Wisconsin judge ordered AB InBev to stop advertising that MillerCoors’ light beers contain corn syrup, though the order does not affect all of Bud Light’s advertising — it was ruled that the “Special Delivery” ads premiered during the Super Bowl could keep airing. According to the preliminary injunction granted by U.S. District Judge William Conley for the Western District of Wisconsin granted, AB InBev would be temporarily prevented from using the term “corn syrup” without providing more context in ads.

MillerCoors was pleased with the initial ruling, and on Sept. 4 Judge Conley modified the ruling. The court stated:

“Following additional briefing and factual submissions by the parties, the court will now modify its preliminary injunction to cover packaging, but will allow defendant to sell products using the packaging it had on hand as of June 6, 2019, or until March 2, 2020.”

But none of this has really stopped Bud Light, since the brewer has new 15-second ads ready for the start of football season.

https://youtu.be/kyzXk4U7GiM

While the “brewed with no corn syrup” statement is still made, it’s a bit more subtle than in the past. AB InBev is appealing the judge’s ruling, but seems to have thrown caution to the wind with the new ads.

What do you think marketers? Are you sick and tired of the Corn War, twitching whenever you hear “corn syrup” or are you sitting back and enjoying as the Big 3 breweries fight it out while craft breweries continue to focus on brewing quality, quaffable beverages? Let me know in the comments below!

The Truth Is, There Is No Truth — Let Alone in Advertising

Think about it. Most of what we consume as information about our world, society, events, and brands is “second-hand” reality — let alone in advertising. We didn’t really see what happened in protests covered on national news. We were not live audience members at a political rally.

Think about it. Most of what we consume as information about our world, society, events, and brands is “second-hand” reality — let alone in advertising. We didn’t really see what happened in protests covered on national news. We were not live audience members at a political rally. Or we didn’t experience the results firsthand that a customer claims to have experienced from a company’s products or services.

So can we really trust or should we believe what others “report” to us? The answer to this is widely debated on Facebook and news stations as we face all of the “fake” news we get daily, and as we become more aware that so much of what we see and hear is just that: fake. We are finally being made aware of the fact that many propogandists will overlay someone’s face on another person’s video image to “fake” that someone in the public eye said something harming that, in most cases ,they never did. Scary. We are also learning that so much of the posts we see on social media — Facebook, especially — were created by propogandists and posted to our accounts because of the demographic profile Facebook created from our past posts and those of the “friends” connected to us. We’re really starting to get it, whether we face it or not.

One thing we marketers need to also face is the how the “truth” we are putting out there is being received. As consumers are starting to watch the “news” and read social media with a different lens than before, we need to look at how that new lens affects their vision for our marketing messages. Here’s just two examples.

Testimonials

These have been the foundation of marketing since the beginning of time. They’re claims from one customer at a time about how products or services changed their worlds. We’ve used them, believing prospects will believe them if we attach them to a real person. Perhaps not so much anymore. Celebrity endorsements have been decreasing in influence rapidly for the past few years. We all know celebrities can be bought for the public appeal of their personal image, and that many are willing to put their mouth when the money is, and so these appeals don’t influence our purchasing choices like they used to. The same is holding true for ordinary people testimonials. Especially as more brands offer to reward us for posting reviews about them.

A testimonial is only true for the person speaking, and at the time they wrote the testimonial. Their truth may not apply to someone else, and it may not be true anymore, due to subsequent experiences with the brand involved. Testimonials can also backfire, as the prospects will expect to be just as delighted as those customers they believed, and the reality is that this is not likely the way it will go. Ever. As all customers’ needs, expectations and experiences are as different as the individual using the product or service. We see and judge life’s experiences through lenses of our experiences, culture, expectations, social situations, life’s challenges, and so much more.

Product Claims

Time to drop the hype. We’re so used to making self-proclaimed endorsements of our competitive advantages, product quality, results generated, and so much more. If anything has come out of the “fake” news movement, it’s that we are learning not to believe hype and claims that can’t be substantiated. We marketers need to start writing more like journalists were trained to write decades ago, before they cared more about ratings than news or truth. When I attended to journalism school as an undergraduate, our work was thrown out if we used adjectives or made suggestions that were not attributed to quotable sources. This needs to become the new norm for marketers, many of whom were raised to use big words, project big claims, and spark curiosity, and then explain later.

Many consumers today have become jaded, skeptical, and cautious to trust, and for good reason. They have been bombarded with “fake news,” “fake promises,” fake claims,” and more “fake” truths. Generation Xers, Millennials, and the up-and-coming generations are learning not to believe more than believe. There are a lot of reasons for them not to trust what they hear or see. TV and digital and print news can be manipulated with Photoshop and other special effect tools. Video and comments from spokespeople can easily be taken out of context and, in reality, we are learning to expect that they are more often than not.

What Marketers Can Do About Truth

Marketers can overcome this jaded vision of the world and brands in business today by addressing truth firsthand. You can do this by creating more interaction between your brand and consumers online and in the real world. Let customers experience what you are all about — your products, your persona, your values — more than reading your carefully crafted statements. Apple’s stores are a great example of how this can be done. The atmosphere is open and engaging, not stiff and overwhelming with merchandise and sales signs popping out in front of you at every corner. They simply ask how they can help, educate you about their technology and your options, and let you explore and experience the products for as long you want to, in an engaging, no hype, no hard-sell setting.

In short, “truth” is not in the written word or video snippets, but in the actual experience of each customer. Creating personal realities that are meaningful and relevant should be every marketing team’s top goal.

As Amped-Up Ad, Data Privacy Laws Near, Self-Regulated Programs Matter More

As we prepare ourselves for federal (and state) legislation around privacy and advertising, it’s worth taking account of our own industry’s self-regulated programs — both those here at home and worldwide.

As we prepare ourselves for federal (and state) legislation around privacy and advertising, it’s worth taking account of our own industry’s self-regulated programs — both those here at home and worldwide.

Why? Because even in an age of regulation, self-regulation — and adherence to self-regulatory principles and ethics codes of business conduct — matter. One might argue that legal compliance in industry is good enough, but business reputations, brand equity and consumer trust are built on sterner stuff.

Having a code of conduct is exemplary in itself, but I’d like to address a vital component of such codes: enforcement.

Self-Regulated programs
Transparency & Accountability in Advertising Self-Regulation Matter Greatly. | Credit: Chet Dalzell

Credibility in Codes Requires Peer Review & Accountability

Behind the scenes, every day, there are dozens of professionals in our field who serve — as volunteers and as paid professionals — to monitor the ethical practice of advertisers, who devise and update the codes we adhere to, who educate companies that proactively reach out to them, who work with companies and brands that go astray to resolution, and who enforce and refer non-compliant companies to government agencies, when necessary.

They may take complaints directly from consumers, competitors and industry observers. They may employ technologies and their own eyes and ears to monitor the marketplace. They may meet regularly as volunteers as a jury to deliberate on any need for corrective action. And, usually, they have a “contact us, before we contact you” operations effect: brands and businesses can proactively ask ethics programs questions about the “right” way (by the consumer) to execute a marketing practice, so it doesn’t prompt a formal query after a mistake is made after the fact.

Importantly, credibility depends, too, on reporting publicly on outcomes — potentially to “name and shame,” but most often to work cooperatively with businesses and to serve as an industry education vehicle in the reporting of correction and the resolution process. Generally, “punitive” is when a non-cooperative company is referred to a government agency for further action. Government agencies, for their part, tend to wholeheartedly welcome any effective effort to keep the marketplace aligned with the consumer. It helps when brands and consumer interests are in sync.

Accountability Programs Deserve Our Industry’s Expertise & Ongoing Financial Support

All told, these important players in our field serve us well, even as we face what might be referred to as co-regulation (government regulation on top of self-regulation). While any potential business mishap — for example, in the handling of consumer data or the questionable content of an ad — has its own set of facts and ramifications, a demonstration of good-faith efforts to adhere to ethical business practices might be seen as a mitigating factor, even as a brand finds itself needing to take a corrective action.

Agility, flexibility and responsiveness … these are all attributes of successful self-regulation — as well as successful accountability. Effective self-regulation serves to keep pace with innovations in our field, and “point the way” for other companies, as issues arise. (The rigidity of laws rarely can accommodate such innovations.)

While industry professionals may serve as volunteers on juries and review panels — it can be fascinating to serve on such panels — there is almost always an infrastructure of programs and staffs underpinning self-regulation success. Trade associations may finance some of these efforts with membership dollars — but usually businesses can lend their own resources directly, too. It’s great to have a seat at the table.

Marketing Ethics & Self-Regulation Programs — A Partial Listing

In all likelihood, there are potentially many more codes of conduct — particularly in vertical fields (pharma, travel, non-profit, retail, etc.) — but here is a brief listing of advertising-related codes and programs that may be helpful to catalog, bookmark, research and support, with some of which I’ve had the honor to be associated:

Please feel free to use the Comments section to suggest others. And thank you to every volunteer and staff person who serves or has served in an industry accountability capacity. It makes a world of difference, with marketplace trust of advertising and advertisers being the ultimate goal.

10 Must-Attend B2B Marketing Conferences for 2019

It’s encouraging to see a resurgence in the quantity and quality of B2B marketing conferences and trade shows these days. For a while there, I was worried, as event after event went dark. Part of the upturn is due to the growth of the proprietary client conference.

It’s encouraging to see a resurgence in the quantity and quality of B2B marketing conferences and trade shows these days. For a while there, I was worried, as event after event went dark. Part of the upturn is due to the growth of the proprietary client conference, where B2B companies host clients, and often prospects, with an array of educational and schmooze opportunities.

Sirius Decisions, Terminus and Marketo are prime examples. But other events have emerged, too, to support marketers seeking information on martech, data, personalization, ecommerce, social media and other challenging topics.

Here’s a lineup of top-quality conferences scheduled in the remainder of 2019:

Mostly B2B, featuring a keynote by thought leader Matt Heinz, and sponsored by ON24.

Organized by Demandbase, with a free livestream of the keynotes for those who can’t attend in person.

Worth a jaunt across the pond.

Now folded into the Adobe Summit, this event has grown to 15,000 marketers. Wow.

Chaired by Scott Brinker, focused on technology tools for B2B and consumer marketers. Martech East runs in Boston, September 16-18.

Digital marketing and e-commerce for manufacturers and distributors. Where industrial marketers meet.

Covers the gamut, from product management to channel marketing, and everything in between. Plus, a touch of start-up and innovation content.

Featuring popular speakers like Gary Vaynerchuk and Geoff Ramsey, with an emphasis on brand and advertising topics.

This lively show continues to grow and thrive. Not 100% B2B, but just about.

My favorite. It claims to be “The best B2B marketing conference on the planet,” and as a frequent speaker and attendee, I can attest.

Save the Date for Next Year

 

A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Marketing Training in the Language of Customer Persuasion

In my keynote sessions, marketing training classes and even in past posts for Target Marketing, I’ve asked a critical question of marketers representing all levels of expertise over the past several years: “The 4 Most Powerful Words for Closing Sales?”

In my keynote sessions, marketing training classes and even in past posts for Target Marketing, I’ve asked a critical question of marketers representing all levels of expertise over the past several years: “The 4 Most Powerful Words for Closing Sales?”

To-date, no one has gotten this question right. Yet it is the most important concept to understand if you want to write direct marketing, advertising, social media copy and compelling content that sparks downloads from your website, Live Chats, sales inquiries and repeat sales.

If you read one of my posts from a couple years back, you know those four words to which I’m referring: If not, you could guess all day and likely not get it right. It’s because these four words are not associated with creating a sense of urgency, promising instant gratification, promising elevation in social status, beauty contests, coolness scores and many other things we promise in marketing copy. They are simply words that communicate trust, respect, dignity and personal power.

They are simply:

But You Are Free.

In a market where media and marketing experts suggest we are exposed to more than 4,000 advertisements a day, ads and all the strategies to inspire impulsive behavior continue to lose effectiveness.

Consumers are wise. Many know when they are being played, and they know what to believe and what not to believe, and when to walk away. They don’t fall for those empty promises of smarter, better, faster, prettier, richer, if you buy a given product.

What we do fall for are words that make us feel powerful, independent, respected, individual and a little closer to living a purposeful, actualized life than we were before. “But You Are Free (BYAF)” does just this. When a salesperson provides us information to help us make a decision, or provides us with a choice, and then tells us we will still be respected and valued, and offered help in the future, no matter what we chose, we feel many of the things mentioned earlier. And when we feel powerful, respected, wise, we tend to align with those who make us feel that way. This is where persuasion occurs. Not with intimidating, anxiety-enducing statements like, “One seat left at this price,” “Limited Time” and “This offer won’t last long.”

The BYAF concept was discovered through studies first conducted in 2000 by social psychology researchers, Nicolas Gueguen and Alexandre Pascual, who sought to understand what resulted in the greatest compliance for doing a simple task. They asked subjects on a city street to give money to a cause and were only able to get 10 percent of those asked to comply. When they added the phrase, “but you are free to accept or refuse,” nearly 48 percent complied, and in many cases, the amount of the gift donated was greater than before. Subsequently, they found that by using these same words to get people to take a survey, the compliance rate was also substantially higher.

The key here is the simple old adage of, “people like to be told, not sold.”

When we are being told something and then told we are respected for the choice we make, we respond differently than when we are simply being sold. This is where content marketing has taken off so successfully. It is the act of informing and establishing mutually respectful relationships vs. pushing for a sale.

In short, successful marketing, and the language of persuasion, is not the choice of words we make, it is the information shared and choices we provide without consequence to those with whom we are building brand relationships. Words that inform, enlighten, engage, followed by words that support and respect personal choice and empowerment create the greatest language of persuasion.

For more insights on BYAF, refer to my post dated April 2016. You are free to read it or not, and regardless, I’ll still post on this same topic next month!

The Importance of Using Social Media in B2B Advertising

While most marketers are aware of the value of social networks in B2C campaigns, they often overlook social media as a key component of B2B advertising efforts. Dispelling the myth that Facebook (and others) cannot be a utility for B2B advertisers starts with understanding the role social plays.

While most marketers are aware of the value of social networks in B2C campaigns, they often overlook social media as a key component of B2B advertising efforts. Dispelling the myth that Facebook (and others) cannot be a utility for B2B advertisers starts with understanding the role social plays. Facebook, Instagram Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn all have their place and purpose in B2B brand building; after all, business decision-makers have social lives and social accounts, too. While users may not immediately be in a business mindset when using Facebook or Instagram, tailored content that serves as an introduction can unobtrusively spark interest.

Of course, when designing a B2B social campaign, advertisers must take a few considerations into account. First, budgets and campaign goals will determine which, if not all, platforms get play. Second, the strategy and what the advertiser is trying to accomplish will determine the rest. Finally, advertisers must have KPIs that make sense; using cost-per-acquisition (CPA) or ROI to measure the performance of social initiatives in a B2B context is illogical. Instead, employ engagement, or reach measurements to gauge effectiveness.

Seeing Through the Personal to Identify and Engage B2B Decision Makers 

Like many people, business decision-makers have active social accounts in some form or another. And while we use those accounts in different ways, it’s likely that most social media users aren’t out there to actively seek out business solutions. However, adjusting that mindset to unobtrusively make an introduction is a beneficial approach.

Start by casting a wide net of curated content, which can be an inexpensive way to deliver reach. Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, etc., can all exceed the reach of most B2B media, but the reach behemoth is Facebook. To keep the cost-per-thousand impression (CPMs) low, stick with broader targeting and a broader message, capture those who engage and retarget them with more specific messages. How-tos and tips do well in this regard and can serve as a logical entry point. This content could be the advertiser’s own blog posts, videos, etc.; anything low-penetration and with a somewhat native feel that offers quick information that’s relevant to their business can pique their interest.

With that in mind, sponsored organic posts are likely to be more effective than run-of-the-mill ads at delivering content that the desired audience cares about. For example, a cyber security company may provide content that speaks to the risk of cyber hacking, or about whether standard firewalls and antivirus software is enough to keep most companies out of risk. This content is pertinent, educational, easy to absorb and potentially solves a business problem.

Once established, relationships can be grown and nurtured in other ways. Engagement metrics can be used to hone-in-on individuals who expressed interest in the advertised product/service by clicking through the content to your website.

LinkedIn’s Expanding Role in B2B Advertising

Social media extends beyond the Facebooks and Twitters of the world. Sites like LinkedIn can be especially powerful in B2B social advertising. While sites like Facebook and Instagram are the right place to push low-penetration content that grabs attention, LinkedIn is better for in-depth content like whitepapers and thought leadership, as users are likely already in a business mindset and thus further down the funnel. Whitepaper downloads can be an effective way of acquiring new customers; if a consumer is imbibing content, then they are actively seeking information and/or solutions.

Of particular note, Bing Ads recently announced LinkedIn profile targeting for text ads, shopping campaigns and dynamic search ads, meaning LinkedIn data on company, job function and/or industry can now be leveraged in Bing Ads to enhance targeting. These audiences can even be layered on to less efficient search campaigns like competitor campaigns that serve as great conquesting tactics, but oftentimes are too inefficient for an evergreen strategy. Layering on enhanced audiences from LinkedIn can mitigate waste and improve campaign viability.

This data integration is unique to Bing, meaning the data can’t be accessed and used in Google to enhance the effectiveness of search campaigns there. While third-party providers can provide similar information, it’s not LinkedIn data specifically, which is self-reported and usually very accurate. With this integration, it’s likely that Bing’s market share with B2B advertisers will increase given this impressive new value proposition.

Considerations for a Social B2B Push

Considerations for a social B2B advertising push include the usual aspects associated with almost any type of digital campaign: budget, overall strategy, the business’ industry, and platform limitations. But beyond those, here are social B2B advertising considerations that should remain front and center:

  1. Know your target consumer. Use Facebook Audience Insights to understand who your customers are and what kind of media they consume, and if there are any topics or interests that would interest them. This includes knowing what kind of business problems they have for which your product can solve. Consider targeting via industry, job title, interest in particular trade publications or affiliation with organizations closely related to your solution.
  1. Understand the platforms. Learn how to leverage the various social platforms to achieve your marketing objective and how to measure the results (clicks, downloads, etc.). Leverage Instagram, Facebook and Twitter to introduce your product/service to net new customers. Leverage LinkedIn for more in-depth content like white papers and thought leadership.
  1. Go native. Understand how content promotion varies by platform. The key is engaging the audience as natively as possible. Use visual-focused content for Instagram; link to strong content for Pinterest; making everything easily digestible for Facebook.
  1. Build the relationship: Use engagement metrics to hone, refine and qualify audiences. Present the refined audiences with different content that helps push them further down the funnel and builds upon the recently-established relationship.

Busting the B2B Social Media Myth

While social media may not seem like the most natural method for engaging business decision makers on the surface, it’s short-sighted to believe that social channels cannot be effective for B2B advertising. The desired consumer exists on these platforms — after all, most of them use social media just like the rest of the world; the key is determining the best way to engage them based on their platform of choice.

Instagram, Facebook and Twitter can be effective platforms to introduce business decision makers to your brand through content that discusses information they’d likely find useful, in a format that feels native to the platform. From there, retargeting lists can be generated with users who engaged with the content to further build the relationship and move them down the purchase funnel.

Media Outlook 2019: Spell Marketing with a ‘D’

The January marketing calendar in New York has included for the past decade or so a certain can’t-miss event of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. In 60 fly-by minutes, 100-plus advertising and marketing professionals hear a review of the previous year in marketing spend, a media outlook for the current year and macro-economic trends driving both.

The January marketing calendar in New York has included for the past decade or so a certain can’t-miss event of the Direct Marketing Club of New York. In 60 fly-by minutes, 100-plus advertising and marketing professionals hear a review of the previous year in marketing spend, a media outlook for the current year and macro-economic trends driving both.

Bruce Biegel, senior managing director at Winterberry Group, keeps everyone engaged, taking notes and thinking about their own experiences in the mix of statistics regarding digital, mobile, direct mail, TV and programmatic advertising.

“We will be OK if we can manage the Shutdown, Trump, China, Mueller, Congress and Brexit,” he noted, all of which weigh on business confidence.

Suffice it to say, marketing organizations and business, in general must navigate an interesting journey. Biegel reports estimated U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 2.3 percent in 2019 down from 3 percent in 2018, while total marketing spending growth in 2018 had dipped below its historic level of exceeding two times GDP growth.

In 2019, we are poised for 5.3 percent growth in advertising and marketing spending a slight gain from the 5.2 percent growth of 2018 over 2017.

Watch the Super Bowl, By All Means But Offline Dominance Is Diminishing

Look under the hood, and you see what the big drivers are. Offline spending including sponsorships, linear TV, print, radio, outdoor and direct mail will spot anemic growth, combined, of 0.1 percent in 2019. (Of these, direct mail and sponsorships will each post growth of more than 3 percent, Winterberry Group predicts.)

But online spending growth display, digital video, social, email, digital radio, digital out-of-home, and search will grow by 15.5 percent. Has offline media across all categories finally reached its zenith? Perhaps. (See Figure 1.)

Figure 1.

Credit: Winterberry Group, 2019

Digital media spend achieved 50 percent of offline media spend for the first time in 2018. In 2019, it may reach 60 percent! So who should care?

We do! We are the livers and breathers of data, and data is in the driver’s seat. Biegel sees data spending growing by nearly 6 percent this year totaling $21.27 billion. Of this, $9.66 billion will be offline data spending, primarily direct mail. TV data spending (addressable, OTT) will reach $1.8 billion, digital data $7.85 billion, and email data spend $1.96 billion (see Figure 2.)

Figure 2.

Credit: Winterberry Group, 2019

Tortured CMOs: Unless She’s a Data Believer

Marketing today and tomorrow is not marketing yesterday. If marketing leadership does not recognize and understand data’s contribution to ad measurement, attribution and business objective ROI, then it’s time for a new generation to lead and succeed. Marketing today is spelled with a D: Data-Driven.

Unfortunately we don’t have all the data we need to manage Shutdown, Trump, China, Mueller, Congress and Brexit. That’s where sheer luck and gut instincts may still have a valid role. Sigh.

Customer Control Creates New Phase of Apologetic Marketing

In a customer-centric marketing ecosystem, brands need to be more self-aware than ever before. Brands must accept that customers control their reputation, and customer satisfaction should become a top KPI for every company.

In a customer-is-in-control ecosystem, brands need to be more self-aware than ever before. They need to open up honest, meaningful conversations with their customers — and understand that we no longer push advertisements to customers through media, but rather engage and communicate with them. Brands must accept that the customer controls a brand’s reputation, and customer satisfaction should become a top KPI for every company.

For years now, customers have controlled the way brands are perceived in the marketplace. Today, that leverage is only growing. Companies can no longer hide behind big brand campaigns, just as marketing can no longer put a good spin on a problematic or dated company. If they try, consumers will either ignore it altogether (because they recognize the idealized corporate-speak) or, worse, they’ll attack in social media. Then, what started as a small problem can get out of control quickly.

Marketing executives need to work with the entire c-suite to make sure brand promises and customer experiences are consistent throughout the entire journey. They need to ensure the brand pillars are not only communicated, but also embraced across every component of the organization. And they have to make sure every team in the company can live up to the vision presented in the marketing.

Over the last year, we’ve seen the disconnect play out on a grand scale for companies like Uber, Wells Fargo, Facebook and unfortunately many more. By not aligning the brand platform with their internal values and customer experience, these companies have had to publicly recognize their faults and apologize for missteps. They each faced distrust among their customer base and, even though that trust was lost in a second, it often takes years to gain back.

So How Can Companies Learn From These Brands?

In today’s marketplace, companies need to do three key things:

  • Be transparent. Customers don’t expect companies to be perfect. But today, customers aren’t just immune to, but are also appalled by corporate-speak and over-hyped, insincere brand promises. Customers want brands to be real, to mean something and to associate with their beliefs and values. Companies today need to be humanized so customers can connect with them.
  • Align departments across the organization. Customers perceive companies as one entity and they expect that, whether they’re in a store, on the site or calling customer service, they’ll have the same experience across the board. Companies, however, are made up of different departments, with different bosses (who have different beliefs), and are often measured against different (sometimes opposing) KPIs. Today, corporate structure needs to embrace customer expectations. Politics and personalities have to take the back seat to the unified brand vision.
  • Companies need to embrace their customers. They can no longer lay out their corporate vision and marketing plans without fully understanding what the marketplace needs — both today and tomorrow. They need to understand what customers are looking for and shape their products and their company accordingly. Most companies hate hearing this, but they also need to narrow their audience and focus their company. Very few brands can and should appeal to all consumers. Too many brands try to satisfy everyone, remaining conservative so they don’t alienate any prospective customers. In doing so, however, they don’t resonate with anyone. Brands that take a stand, know who their audience is and what they want, and mold their company around that always win. Even if they outrage a part of their base, they inspire and resonate with their core, turning them into passionate advocates who reinforce the brand and allow more organic growth.

What Can You Do When It’s Too Late and You’ve Lost Consumer Trust?

While it’s a situation nobody wants to be in, companies need to be honest, fall on their sword and open up to the gaps they have. Just like Facebook’s WSJ ad and Wells Fargo’s TV campaign, they need to promise to do better. But again, it needs to be more than a marketing promotion; it needs to be a genuine re-set, one that all departments and the entire c-suite embrace. If it’s not, it’s only a matter of time until you’re back in the hot seat.

Warning: Marketing Data Policy-Making Ahead in the U.S.

U.S. data policy-making efforts make certain assumptions about marketing. It’s as if there’s a sign coming, saying: “Data Is a Weapon.” But what if lawmakers instead assumed data was a force for good?

U.S. data policy-making efforts make certain assumptions about marketing. It’s as if there’s a sign coming, saying: “Data Is a Weapon.” But what if lawmakers instead assumed data was a force for good?

Certainly, when dealing with the European data protection community — who may seek 4 percent of your global profits — it is wise to be deferential, even praiseworthy.

Apple CEO Tim Cook, in his speech last week to European data commissioners that hearkens back to President Eisenhower’s warning in 1961 about the “military-industrial complex,” identified commercial data collection interests as a “data-industrial complex” that has “weaponized” the collection and monetization of data with great efficiency.

Reading of this, one might extrapolate that all data collection is worrisome, and that this so-called trade in data amounts to “surveillance” that is inherently harmful.

To some, this might be 1961 all over again — or 1984, for that matter.

https://youtu.be/axSnW-ygU5g

In reality, some may be singing from the choir book brought to us by European Parliamentarians. Every time I see a cookie notice on my U.S. website visits, I’m reminded, perhaps gently, that our sovereignty is being visited upon by foreign lawmakers. Europe’s leaders are trying to remake the Internet in its image — while China’s leaders do the same — and the world may be a lot less friendly toward each other as a result.

Considerations of a Healthful Policy Debate

As consumers, we may welcome privacy and security in our nation’s Internet public policy debate. All is not the same, however. We must handle our own policy-making with utmost care. Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is one model — but is this European law really the right fit for the United States or, for that matter, other regions of the world?

In the private sector:

  • Consider the role that ad-financing (read, digital data) plays in ensuring quality journalism necessary for a healthy democracy.
  • Consider what consent restrictions (read, opt-in) would play in diminishing the ability of start-ups and mid-sized companies to compete with established companies — competition in the digital economy.
  • Consider an appreciation of the long-tail of the Internet — and the diversity of content and niche interests that meet consumer demands, made available through small publishers.
  • Focus on who is at the center of privacy restrictions — the citizen, digital user and the consumer. In every aspect, what are the trade-offs that individuals would experience when responsible data flows are effectively shut down?
  • Appreciate that all data are not the same. Are there data collection scenarios where there is a greater likelihood for harm? Are there categories of personal and user data that are more harmful than others — to the interests of that individual? In the United States, we already highly and wisely regulate such data as credit, health, children’s data, government identification numbers and more.
  • And importantly, understand how private sector use of data — and public sector use of data — differ. How should the two exchange, and not exchange, data between them?

Globally and certainly here in the United States, data enables commerce, consumer choice and diversity of content. Truly, the commercialization of data drives incredibly powerfully beneficial social aims. Such aims deserve recognition as policymakers weigh measured regulation.

Some global business leaders, for whatever motivations, heap praise on GDPR, but there’s danger in assigning “one size fits all”-type regulation. “Surveillance,” too, is a very loaded word — especially where responsible data collection and use represent an unparalleled force in the private sector for good: jobs, economy, competition, ad-financed content and services, and much more. Even governments package public records for beneficial use in the private sector. Remember the only reasons businesses exist is to create and serve a customer.

Where Surveillance Is a Material Concern

On the other hand, where surveillance truly is not a loaded word is where the public sector gathers and uses digital and mobile information to monitor citizens. Or where a government, foreign or domestic, demands the handover or censorship of such information from and of the private sector.

Here, I applaud close – very close – attention to what our government, or any other government, does with digital data, including that which exists in the private sector. Within the U.S., warrants, court orders and subpoenas should be demanded before private sector entities satisfy any government requests for information (and/or deletion of information). As government indeed has honest objectives — combatting fraud, terrorism and other crimes, or advancing public safety or health, for example – then it is wise to provide for independent judicial overview as a necessary check and balance to validate such laudable goals.

Data is a weapon only when it’s perversely used to disserve a consumer, a voter or a democracy. Let the private sector freely use information responsibly for all else, for it unleashes forces for good that serve consumers, the economy and robust discussion.

Is College Outdated? Should It Teach Real-World Marketing Skills?

On one hand, many universities could be doing a better job giving students opportunities to practice real-world marketing skills. On the other, universities are not meant to be training departments for digital media agencies, and it’s unrealistic to expect faculty members who don’t work in the field to keep up with the rapidly changing dynamic of media planning and buying.

Shay Rowbottom of Margle Media posted a video rant on LinkedIn a few weeks ago about a recent college grad she interviewed who had no digital media buying experience. She blames colleges and universities for not keeping up with the times. Knowing that I do a lot of teaching at the college level, Paul Bobnak tagged me asking what I thought. I think it’s complicated.

On one hand, many universities could be doing a better job giving students opportunities to practice real-world marketing skills. On the other, universities are not meant to be training departments for digital media agencies, and it’s unrealistic to expect faculty members who don’t work in the field to keep up with the rapidly changing dynamic of media planning and buying.

Despite being an advertising and marketing major at a large university, the only media buying experience Shay’s job candidate had was in traditional media, specifically billboards and newspaper. She condemns higher education for not keeping pace with the current state of media buying (and shows her ageism fangs in the process):

“You know what, kid, if you land a job at an old company that’s ran (sic) by 60 year olds who still don’t want to transition any of their media dollars to social media then good, good, good. I’m glad you learned the billboards.”

Shay says that something is wrong if a newly hired college grad has to be trained by her agency’s digital media buyer, a college dropout who’s a highly skilled practitioner, self-taught on the Internet. To that I say, “Who better to learn from than someone who does it every day and is really good at it?”

Shay makes a valid point that too many institutions are behind the curve when it comes to integrating real-world skills into their curriculum. But her expectations are valid only if you believe that colleges and universities exist to provide job training. I’ve worked at Rowan, Rutgers and Temple universities. They each hire industry professionals for full- and part-time teaching positions in advertising and PR. But the full-time faculty members at these institutions don’t do media planning every day, so they can’t possibly keep up with the innovations in a rapidly changing field.

Learning the mechanics of media buying is a vocational skill. Universities are not designed to be vocational schools. The ones where I’ve taught deliver a solid grounding in the principles of marketing and advertising; that’s what they do best. They provide value, because most of the underlying principles of marketing and advertising remain stable — even as the dynamics of the media world shift. Media planning and placement are best taught by practitioners who stay current by doing it.

Fortunately, there are several programs where college students can gain real-world experience in a competitive environment; specifically the Collegiate ECHO Marketing Challenge run by Marketing EDGE, the National Student Advertising Competition from the American Advertising Federation and the Google Online Marketing Challenge. These competitions are underutilized by academic institutions and employers, alike. More colleges and universities should offer and support these programs, more students should participate and more employers should seek out graduates who have had these experiences.