Competition: Another Big DC Week for Tech (Where Do We Go From Here?)

When the leaders of Amazon, Apple, Facebook, and Google come to Washington, you know there’s going to be a lot of posturing – and it’s usually not (just) from the witnesses.

The focus this past week was the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Antitrust Law rather than privacy, security, and foreign influence – topics of previous high-profile hearings. Yet the out-sized attention on these leading executives and companies – all of them U.S.-based – is actually a testament, in my humble opinion, to the power of data, information, and innovation at work advancing the American and global economy. Has this exercise and accumulation of power been benign, beneficial… or harmful?

I’ve not been shy to tout the conveniences and benefits that we’ve accrued and enjoyed as a result of responsible data use. Yet I do not dismiss an investigation of harm, unintended or otherwise. Simply, I ask that in our zeal to rein in questionable practices, let’s flash a sign to policymakers: “Handle with Care.”

The world has embraced the Information Economy. It just so happens, not by accident, that the United States has both many global leaders (four of them visiting DC) and – it must be said – a long tail of innovative companies that want to grow, prosper, and potentially join the ranks of the next big, successful data-driven entities.

As Americans, we should do all we can to recognize our own advantage, and to encourage such business ingenuity – for a better world.  Transparency, control, and civil liberties must be protected… that’s all.

There’s a part of me – with my direct marketing heritage – that’s utterly in awe of what these companies have achieved, each of them forging their own paths to business success, and doing so in a way that has cultivated and curated data – marketing and otherwise – to create in each a global powerhouse. Digital has always been “direct marketing on steroids” (please let me know who coined this phrase), and many of these companies achieved their success through a fervor for measurability and accountability.

But the question of the day – antitrust – is a very serious charge. 

Practically every business revolution in the age of capitalism – oil, banking, computing, communications, digital, among others – have had to grapple with the question, how much power is too much? What constitutes “too big” in the Information Economy? Though no one has gone there yet, could there ever be a concept in the digital world as Wall Street’s “too big to fail” – in reference to our banking giants?

I myself don’t have these answers, but I do think it’s worth looking (again) to our digital and direct marketing heritage for some guidance. Certainly any new federal laws and regulation, such as for privacy, ought to be pragmatic in their approach – rather than overly prescriptive. We have a blueprint for a federal privacy law in Privacy for America, for example, which seeks to discern reasonable from unreasonable data uses.

Some consideration, please.

  • What if we held out that data collected for marketing use should be used for marketing purposes only? What non-marketing uses – product development and design possibly – might also be acceptable?
  • Should personally identifiable data collected for marketing use ever or always be anonymized for non-marketing use? Certainly, let’s make sure we can recognize consumers as they jump from device to device and across digital and offline platforms, if for no other reason than marketing or fraud prevention purposes. These aims grow the economy, serve consumers, and finance vital social aims such as news reporting.
  • Under what circumstances should private-sector data be handed over to government sources? What legal protections should govern such handovers – subpoenas and otherwise? It’s a borderless world. What access should foreign governments have to such data, about U.S. citizens or from other jurisdictions? It’s a fine line – or even a fuzzy blur – between anti-terrorism and unwanted surveillance of ordinary people.
  • And of course, there’s anti-competition. Data enablement and data sharing should grow the economy, foster competition, and serve consumers. Laws – whether anti-competition or privacy – should seek the same, and not undermine innovation. For example, the current demonization of third-party data feeds a frenzy that concentrates first-party data collection and power in “walled gardens” – where knowledge about customers’ marketing preferences often becomes incomplete and clouded. Could policymakers use their pen unwittingly to diminish the long tail of ad tech to detrimental effects? Even (some) Europeans have questioned what they’ve done.

As far as bias is concerned, add my voice to those who wish to do our utmost to minimize and eliminate protected-class discrimination in our algorithms and artificial intelligence – gender, race, religion, sexual preference – as we practice the art and science of commerce.

All the same, I have deep sympathy for this same task regarding political free speech: when and how we would ever attempt to define and remove political bias is dangerous territory. What is a lie? What is hate speech? What is a conservative or liberal bias?

There are no easy answers here. But I look forward to this public investigation, all the same. We need to understand fully where the Information Economy may overstep, overreach, restrict free speech, or undermine competition – even if these grievances are found to be remote.

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.

WWTT? Yeti+ Launches for Earth Day, Offers Unique ‘Streaming’ Content

This past Wednesday was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Despite dealing with a pandemic and quarantines, a number of brands put out campaigns to celebrate the environment, including Yeti’s launch of Yeti+.

This past Wednesday, April 22, was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. Despite dealing with a pandemic and quarantines, a number of brands put out campaigns to celebrate the environment, but the Earth Day campaign that caught my eye the most was from Yeti.

The Austin-based brand, known for its outdoor lifestyle products, created Yeti+, along the same vein as Apple+ or Disney+. But unlike those streaming video subscriptions, Yeti+ is free (though available for only a limited time), and has some pretty great content to watch, especially during these super stressful times.

Yeti offers Yeti+ streaming service to celebrate Earth Day
Credit: Yeti

What sort of goodies can you watch? Some fun nature documentaries? Action-packed outdoor events? Nope. You can watch streams be streamed.

The site copy reads:

We’ll be back outside before we know it. Until then, kick back, grab a cold one, and wet your appetite for the wild with one of our streams.

Click on any of the options, the video goes full screen, and you’re treated to the calming serenity of simply watching a stream — literally a body of water (each one runs about 10 minutes). If you’ve ever been to a holiday party where someone puts on a festive Yule Log video, then you get the picture.

But where the holiday Yule Log videos are often more about kitschy ambiance, I think the video offerings of Yeti+ are not only clever, but honestly, good relevant content.

They’re soothing. They’re beautiful. They take us out of our homes and transport us to a place of calm. Maybe to a place we’ve never been before. And though many of us may still be able to go outside and exercise while maintaining our stay at home rules, not everyone lives someplace this beautiful, green, and lush. Or is even physically able to go outside at all, for whatever reason.

Yeti+’s website copy may be a little tongue-in-cheek, but I think their Earth Day campaign offers a much-needed escape from the harshness of this world. And in my opinion, every little bit helps. We talk about how important it is to offer value to our customers and prospects. Well, I think Yeti+ nailed it.

What do you think, marketers? Leave me a comment below!

When ‘Customer Service’ Makes Things Worse

When a customer has to contact customer service, you’ve already messed up. When that customer service is lacking, lazy or downright stupid, it might as well be an ad for your worst competitor. And this weekend, a Windows 10 glitch and bonehead customer service nearly sent my household to the waiting arms of Apple.

When a customer has to contact customer service, you’ve already messed up. When that customer service is lacking, lazy or downright stupid, it might as well be an ad for your worst competitor. And this weekend, a Windows 10 glitch and bonehead customer service nearly sent my household to the waiting arms of Apple.

So, the situation was this: With the latest updates, some Windows 10 computers are running into an issue where the PC suddenly stops recognizing the mouse and keyboard. This isn’t even a new issue, some users have been experiencing issues with this since the upgrades started. And this weekend, that happened to my home desktop (right in the middle of my wife using it, too). Both devices worked fine in the system boot menu — so the issue wasn’t with the hardware or USB drives — but once Windows started … nothing.

Smash computer gifSince our desktop does not have a touchscreen, voice interface or mind-reading attachment, it was effectively bricked. All I could do was restart it and access the boot menus during start-up, and the only useful thing there was a full hard drive factory image rest. (This was also how I found out Windows 10 no longer has the old reliable safe mode.)

OK, I know this game. I need to go find a driver or something and figure out a way to install it with a rescue disk of some sort. … I’m never, ever getting this time back,  but I should be able to find what I need to fix it.

To the Googles I Go!

(Side note: Don’t mistake that for a chipper mood. There is no wasted time I resent more than time wasted fixing a computer problem the OS created.)

One of the trends that’s emerged in customer service, especially around computing, is the customer service forum. Rather than man countless customer service lines, a manufacturer sets up a forum where it hopes customers will help each other with their problems. It may even staff the forum with CSRs (perhaps AI CSRs).

So I find my way to the Microsoft forum where at least a few other users are running into the same problem. And the reply from the Microsoft support person is to launch the hardware device troubleshooter by pressing the Windows Key and X. …

Remember, this is to fix a computer where the keyboard and mouse are not working.

Oh, but he has other advice: Uninstall and reinstall the keyboard and mouse drivers … Also by pressing Windows Key and X …

After some incredulous replies, another Microsoft rep posts a different answer: Perform a “clean boot” (apparently this replaced safe mode) by … using the mouse to pull up the system configuration menu and navigate around that to start the clean boot.

Now, I’ve been a lifelong Windows user at home. I’ve used Apple machines at work for years because that’s what publishers tend to provide for the creative teams, but at home I’ve been a pretty loyal Windows user. I even have an Xbox.

And I swear by the time I was done this weekend, I was pricing out Macs for my home. I’ve never seen a more effective ad for Apple products in my entire life than the idiocy of some of the Windows customer service.

So, I did the only logical thing and performed a hard disk factory image restore via the manufacturer’s boot menu (not Microsoft) … And now I am once again the owner of a Windows 7 machine.

This is not the outcome Microsoft wanted.

So, my advice to all marketers, especially IT marketers, is mind your customer service. Because it only takes a few stupid customer service replies to make a loyal customer rethink your entire ecosystem.

‘Truth’ — The Secret Marketing Ingredient

It’s getting harder and harder to watch the news and come away with any sense of what is “true,” what is “fake” or what is somewhere in between. I can’t help but wonder if this climate of disbelief isn’t going to seriously undermine our marketing practice; especially where the liberty of exaggeration is permitted to run a bit wild.

truth in marketing
“truth,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Jason Taellious

It’s getting harder and harder to watch the news and come away with any sense of what is “true,” what is “fake” or what is somewhere in between. I can’t help but wonder if this climate of disbelief isn’t going to seriously undermine our marketing practice; especially where the liberty of exaggeration is permitted to run a bit wild.

Watching CNN the other evening, in one of its endless self-promotional breaks, the screen showed a simple, ripe apple. A quiet voiceover explained that this was an apple. It went on to say that perhaps some people would say it was a banana and even some would believe it. But the fact is, it concludes, this is an apple. Facts matter.

CNN is to be congratulated. I cannot imagine a better modulation of all the noise out there, of all the serial lies emanating from Trump, his White House colleagues and thousands of talking heads filling the airwaves with every possible version of the “facts.” The point is that “truth” is so hard to find anymore that Big Brother can broadcast almost anything as a fact and a certain number of people will be willing to swear that a ripe round apple is in fact, a banana.

A blogger, writing some time ago in Balihoo about “roles that truth, disclosure and deception play in the modern marketers’ world” and how they affect marketing strategies and campaigns, focused on the danger not to a single sale but rather the lifetime value of the customer. Rightly, he cautioned, “just how dangerous outright deceptive marketing campaigns would be for your business as it centers around your dependence on customer retention, repeat purchases and ‘trust’ buying.” There is that word “trust” again.

In the Wharton School’s fascinating book, “Driving Change,” the authors analyze why some business partnerships are successful and some are not and argue that “trust is the basic ingredient of any of these networking or cooperative arrangements. You need a good contract outlining the deal; but without trust, the contract will mean nothing.” The degree of trust needed by a consumer obviously depends, to some extent, on the value of the purchase or its use. How are marketers to gain the trust of consumers at a time when skepticism is high and growing and we don’t know whom to believe for what reason.

Not surprisingly, the Balihoo article echoes the lament of marketers everywhere that presenting a totally unvarnished picture of most products would be a complete turnoff for prospects. Imagine an airline promoting economy seating by showing what it is really like when it is even close to full? Or imagine a software marketer telling the truth about how long it will really take to get the damn thing to work properly and to learn how to take advantage of all its bells and whistles?

As marketers migrate to talking directly to well-segmented prospects, a bond of trust can be built, communication-by-communication. And if the product or service performance lives up to its promise, the essential trust can be maintained.

But it’s getting harder and harder. Not only do we live in a world where chaos is increasingly trumping order, promiscuity — personal and commercial — is on the rise. Brand loyalty in the face of attractive competition is a diminishing asset. And despite the continuing surge in Internet purchasing, watching the explosion in hacking and fraud (don’t just think Equifax and the 143 million stolen files; even the CIA and NSA can’t seem to protect their most sensitive data). For how much longer are consumers going to want to complete personal data sign-ins?

There may come a time in the not-too-distant future when the best marketing has more real facts, less hype and when all consumers can agree that an apple is truly an apple.

A Fount of Knowledge About Fonts

Get ready, we’re going to get a little geeky here — about fonts. Specifically, OpenType fonts and how they add so much flexibility and readability to any project. What’s even better is that you don’t need the latest designer tools or applications to add interest and impact to your work.

Get ready, we’re going to get a little geeky here — about fonts. Specifically, OpenType fonts and how they add so much flexibility and readability to any project. What’s even better is that you don’t need the latest designer tools or applications to add interest and impact to your work.

Got Microsoft Word? Get set to make everything more professional and legible, while simultaneously adding that “Wow” factor. But first, a brief history of font types:

PostScript Type 1 Fonts

Introduced by Adobe in 1984, PostScript Type 1 fonts are encoded outline font specifications used for professional digital typesetting. They were not widely recognized until Apple came out with its first LaserWriter in 1985 — which at that time had fonts residing IN the printer, using bitmap outlines on the computer in different sizes.

TrueType Fonts

After the introduction and implementation of PostScript Type 1 Fonts, Apple and Microsoft developed an outline standard in the late 1980s that has become the most common format for fonts on both Macs and PCs. This generation of fonts is referred to as TrueType Fonts. TrueType Fonts improved upon PostScript Type 1 Fonts by giving developers better control of how their fonts are displayed at all font sizes.

OpenType Fonts

And finally, OpenType Fonts were developed in the early 1990s. OpenFonts improved upon TrueType Fonts by increasing readability, facilitating different writing systems more effectively, and even adding typography tricks! (That’s the simple description. The geeky one is you’ll have more powerful typographic formatting and simpler font management, with better cross-platform support and portability.)

Of course, you knew that already, right? So check out this animated GIF below, detailing some of the features of OpenType fonts:

Play with the above Demo at Ricardo Magalhães Blog
Play with the above Demo at Ricardo Magalhães Blog
  • Ligatures: Simply stated, a ligature occurs where two or more letters are joined as a single glyph. Why use them? They help keep letters from overlapping and can really improve legibility.
  • Oldstyle and Lining Numerals: The default in almost all fonts is aligning numbers perfectly with each other, which works very well in charts, spreadsheets or anywhere math is involved. But there are some Oldstyle fonts with a default perfect for if you are just using numbers within normal text. Why care? You can now choose which number format to use in any font. Lining numbers tend to stand out in body text because they all stand tall like capital letters. Oldstyle numbers look more like upper and lower case characters, creating a more blended appearance within the text. This is one of my favorite benefits of OpenType fonts, as they improve readability and aesthetics. In an earlier post — “3 Type Facts You Don’t Know, But Should“ — I explain both ligatures and Oldstyle numbers in much more detail if you would like to learn more.
  • Contextual and Stylistic Alternatives: Think of these as accessorizing your fonts, like adding cool jewelry to your type with extra letters and swooshes.
  • Fractions: Now you can choose to use true fractions actually designed for the font, instead of squishing numbers together separated by a solidus. A definite plus for look and readability.
  • Ordinals: In the same way as fractions, ordinal characters are designed for the font rather than programmatically created, increasing legibility.

Remember, these added features are only found in OpenType fonts. This means when purchasing any new fonts, it is important to pay attention: TrueType fonts are still sold. Make sure you are buying an OpenType font.

Flaunt Your Fonts

Ready to get in touch with your inner type-geek? Study this tutorial by Magpie Paperworks first on how to turn on these extras in Microsoft Word.

Whatever the project may be, OpenType fonts could make the difference between so-so and so much more impressive.

Can You Feel the Love Tonight? (It’s in Your Inbox)

Happy Day After Valentine’s Day! Known in some circles as “Singles Awareness Day Part 2,” “50% Off Candy Day” and the “National Flag of Canada Day.”

Happy Day After Valentine’s Day! Known in some circles as “Singles Awareness Day Part 2,” “50% Off Candy Day” and the “National Flag of Canada Day.”

Whatever Feb. 15 means to you, one thing is certain: Even the staunchest V-Day nonbeliever on Earth would know what yesterday was just from a quick peek in any email inbox. It’s like every shade of pink and all iterations of “feel the love” and “we heart ______” were having a massive mixer in there.

To be honest, I’m into it. I like pink, I like hearts, and my cat is the only valentine I need to enjoy the holiday. So please, join me on this frolic through some of the standout Valentine’s-themed promos that shot their arrow through the heart of my inbox.

  • Bath & Body Works
  • Line: Ready for this? You’ve truly hit it big with an EXTRA $10 off!

bbworksThis was a fairly long HTML, I think you get the idea from this top section alone. The more classic Valentine’s Day imagery works for what B&B Works is all about, and those blossoms (sweet pea I think?) fit the theme while invoking some of the store’s most popular aromas. The subject line is good — it went outside the holiday language and straight up told you the deal you’d find within: Heart!

  • Apple
  • Subj. Line: Apple gifts say it best.

appl1On the other end of the spectrum, check out Apple’s simple, subtle nod to the season of romance. The message is simple: Nothing says romance like the cool, metallic touch of a rose gold iPhone. All kidding aside, the short copy with a focus on staying in touch and sharing puts just the right spin on things.

  • Hallmark Cards
  • Subj. Line: Valentine’s Day is just 5 days away. Don’t forget the people you love.


05-FEAT-A-8903vAThe cynics will tell you: Valentine’s Day was invented by Hallmark to sell cards. Whether or not you agree, it wouldn’t be right to do a Vday Marketing Roundup without them. And if this email is anything to go by, they rightfully earned their claim to the holiday. That subject line is just the right blend of “gentle reminder” and “subtle guilt-trip,” and the creative gets right to the point by reminding you when the big day is. The animation gives a nice glimpse of your options without being overbearing, and we have a bright, direct CTA. Hallmark can have my X’s and O’s for this one.

  • World Wildlife Fund
  • Subj. Line: Save a Rose, Send Some Prose

WWFCardsValentine’s Day isn’t just for retail! Check out how the WWF took the opportunity to create these adorable e-cards, available for you to send after making any size donation to the fund. Love this idea — after all, you could donate the same amount you’d spend on a card anyway, and have it go to a great cause. That’s my idea of spreading the love! Bonus points for the awesome subject line.

  • Justice
  • Subj. Line: We ❤ you! Join us this weekend!

justiceSo we’re back to retail, but still on animals. I just thought this design was so cute, absolutely eye-catching. It’s a little more of a unique spin than much of the Valentine’s Day imagery I’ve seen. I do have to admit, I’m not a huge fan of this font. It’s a fitting style, but not the most readable; I kept thinking it said “We’ve got the pun” (which I’d be all for, to be honest). Two paws up for the romantic pup, though.

  • Lush
  • Subj. Line: For that special Valentine…


I always like Lush’s emails. Here’s another company that tends to not slam you over the head with whatever the theme or message might be. The colors are muted, copy is short and punchy, and it was nearly impossible not to click “read article” about anything that claims to be “better than chocolate.”

  • Sally’s Beauty Supply
  • Subj. Line: Love Is In The Air: Take $5 Off $25

sallySo many beauty product companies in this post. Can’t say I blame them for using this approach though, it’s so easy to make the connection between beauty products and Valentine’s Day, both in concept and in design. I mean, look how nice it looks to have that arrangement of pink/red/purple products behind the heart. This design also went with the classic dotted-line as a border for the heart, which totally screams “elementary school valentine”, I love that. Plus: another example of an upfront subject line, what you read is what you get.

  • Zoya
  • Subj. Line: Valentine’s Day Bogo ❤

zoyaOK, I saved this one for last because I love it, I honestly love it. (Yes that was meant to be read in Olivia Newton John’s voice.) LOOK AT THIS DESIGN, JUST LOOK AT IT!!! It’s nail polish, but like, in a HEART-SHAPED POOL. I wish I had a technical explanation for what’s so great about this. I don’t, really, it’s just so aesthetically pleasing and strangely satisfying to me. Two Valentine’s Day colors, because it’s Buy-One-Get-One, AND they’re making a heart, because Valentine’s Day … who knew nail polish could be so nuanced? Also, it’s a good sale. If you’ll excuse me, I’ve got some nail polish to buy…

I hope you all had a great month, and a great Feb. 14, whatever the day represents for you! If you need to get any discount candy off your hands, you know where to find me.

XOXO 4ever,


Millennials, Music and Marketing

Music is a powerful marketing vehicle that fits neatly into the social media space. Big brands have aligned with celebrity artists to reach Millennials in their native social media milieu. Taylor Swift is the face of Keds and Diet Coke. Impresario JayZ has a multi-million dollar deal with Samsung, and Katie Perry is on board with H&M to name just a few. Music festivals have become mega-marketing events with a complex web of social sharing opportunities.

Music is a powerful marketing vehicle that fits neatly into the social media space. Big brands have aligned with celebrity artists to reach Millennials in their native social media milieu. Taylor Swift is the face of Keds and Diet Coke. Impresario JayZ has a multi-million dollar deal with Samsung, and Katie Perry is on board with H&M, to name just a few. Music festivals have become mega-marketing events, with a complex Web of social sharing opportunities.

This relationship between big brands and celebrity musicians is symbiotic: For the brands, music can be the relevant tie that binds them to an audience that’s skeptical of traditional advertising. For celebrity musicians, brand endorsements are not only a lucrative revenue stream, but also an important platform for extending their reach.

But it wasn’t always this way. In the 1970s, most boomers would have called a rock star who endorsed products a sell-out. You would never see anything like The Grateful Dead endorsing Fritos back then, but now we even have Bob Dylan on TV for IBM’s Watson.

The evolution of music into a marketing vehicle has been a long, strange trip. Music has always been a shared experience, but there’s a huge difference in the way young people share between Millennials, the current largest generation, and boomers, the previous largest generation.

From my teens through my 30s, it was cool to have a high-fidelity stereo system (tuner/amp, three-way speakers and turntable) to play vinyl records at high volume and fill a room full of friends with music. Music listening was a social thing, something to be shared live and in-person. The listening unit was an album side, usually start to finish, but occasionally someone would take the trouble to play an individual cut, carefully using the turntable lever to drop the needle in the space between the grooves of the spinning vinyl platter. These precious vinyl disks were handled very carefully to ensure that they didn’t collect oily fingerprints, or God forbid, noise-producing scratches.

Back then, creating a playlist was not a drag-and-drop task. It was a longer-than-real-time event. Using a reel-to-reel or cassette tape recorder plugged into the same amplifier as the turntable, the playlist maker would push the record button, drop the needle for each track, play it through, pause the tape, carefully change out the vinyl record, and then record the next track. The advent of the compact disc made this a bit easier, but it was still a real-time event.

For Millennials, music is still a shared experience, but it’s shared on social media rather than in-person. Rather than being an onerous task, the easily generated playlist is now a common unit of listening. People share playlists through Spotify and Pandora, and can instantly share snippets of music they’re listening to on Spotify or Apple Music using Facebook Music Stories. And music consumption is high. A study by Vevo found that Millennials spend an average of 25 hours per week streaming music.

But rather than filling a room with music, much of music listening today is a solitary activity, using earbuds and mobile devices. High-fidelity systems are a thing of the past – people 18 to 34 are about half as likely to own a receiver/amplifier as those 55 to 64 according to MRI+ data. And while 11 percent of 55 to 64 year olds still have a turntable, only 2 to 3 percent of Millennials own one. Meanwhile, Millennials are about 50 percent more likely to own an mp3 player docking station (with tiny little speakers) and 40 percent more likely to own earbuds than their older counterparts.

The biggest change, however, has come in the area of music festivals. Last year, 14.7 million Millennials attended music festivals. Face-value for Coachella tickets was $349. The festival grossed over $84 million. And brands like Coca Cola, Red Bull and TMobile pony up about $1.4 billion annually in festival sponsorship money. Why? A study by live promoter group AEG and branding company Momentum Worldwide found that 93 percent of those surveyed stated that they liked the brands that sponsor live events. Eighty percent said that they will purchase a product following a music festival experience, as opposed to 55 percent of those who were not in attendance, and those who attended a music festival with brand sponsorship walked away with a 37 percent better perception of the company.

By contrast, Woodstock, the watershed music festival of 1969, was attended by about 500,000 people. Not all of them had the three-day festival ticket that sold for $18. Corporate sponsors? Really?

New Ways of Thinking About Marketing in 2016

What are you to your customers? A vendor? A catalog? A funny commercial mascot? For many brands today, there’s a chance to be so much more. The key is in how you think of what you are to them.

What are you to your customers? A vendor? A catalog? A funny commercial mascot? There’s a school of thought that says that’s all you should be; that customers will say “I don’t want a relationship with my cough drops, I just want them to fix my cough.”

GrumpyCatParadigmFor many brands, new ways of thinking about marketing offer the chance to be much more. With today’s tools (social media, websites, apps, etc.), your brand has the chance not just to sell products and services, but to entertain your target market, help them make friends, or even reach their goals. The key is in how you think of what you are to your customers.

Here are four new ways of thinking about your marketing that could open a whole new world of customer connection. I’ll go into one in depth, and hit the others briefly. If you’re interested, let me know in the comments and we’ll explore them in more detail.

The Undiscovered Country
The biggest difference between online media and offline is space. Your marketing content is not constrained by air time, page counts or the budgets to get them. When a new prospect finds your company, your entire online presence is a vast new space to explore. Give them something to discover!

The Undiscovered Country is really about content, and it works best when your products or services have interesting nuances and details to talk about and stories to tell, because your goal is to get the audience to spend a lot of time exploring it. Content marketing does a lot of great things, but usually we focus on it as a way to improve SEO, or to generate leads. Here you’re using content as a way to earn prospect and customer mindshare and become an online destination.

By creating a deep content destination with articles, videos and other content that defines your space, you give fans a place to come and hang out. A place to spend time thinking about the hobby, job or task your products are used in. You become like Disney: The first brand that comes to mind and one that’s associated with entertainment and good times.

In the B-to-B space, you can see this done well by the marketing automation companies like HubSpot and Marketo. They educated marketers about lead generation, nurturing and the other marketing tactics their tools enabled through extensive blogs, downloads, webinars, studies and other content. Those things gave their audience new ideas, and exploring those ideas paid off by making that audience better at their jobs. And all of it promised there’d be more to discover if they bought into the products.

In the consumer space, think of what Red Bull does with its content marketing, completely owning certain areas of extreme sports and providing hours of discoverable, bingeable content on Red Bull TV. Or what Maybeline does with makeup tips. Or what Home Depot does with home improvement project ideas.

People spend an unbelievable amount of time looking at content online, they might as well be looking at that content with you.

What Are Some Other Ways of Thinking?
I’ve seen marketers using other strategies that I think qualify as “new ways of thinking.” And I’d be very interested to hear of ones you’ve spotted, too.

One I’ll call The Tribe is when companies use social media and the reach of online marketing to create branded communities (on their own websites, as well as on the relevant social networks) where their prospects and customers can meet like-minded individuals and discuss things related to that market. Like The Undiscovered Country, the goal is to become a destination for your target audience and earn mindshare. But it’s access to like minded individuals that brings them and keep them coming back. This works well when your product is in a niche with strong enthusiasts, especially if they’re geographically dispersed. The social sharing enabled by companies like Nike, which uses online tracking to allow runners to connect and compare their achievements, is a good example.

When I look at companies like Salesforce, or Apple when Steve Jobs was alive, I really see them leveraging what i would call The Movement. They’re not just selling a product, they’re selling a new way of approaching the world and getting adopters to evangelize it to other users. They hold huge events to build devoted fanbases that really believe (perhaps correctly, I don’t mean to be cynical about any brand using these tactics) that they’re using better tools in better ways than everyone else. Unlike The Tribe, The Movement uses live events and spaces (conventions, Apple Stores) to bring followers together to celebrate The Movement, its new products, and to have a good time with like-minded individuals. It’s a powerful tactic, and you can probably think of someone in your life who’s been swept up in one.

Finally, it’s not hard to look at what a company like Tom’s Shoes is doing and see The Mission. The Mission is about taking the focus off of the transnational aspect of your relationship with customers, and proving to them that by doing business with you they’re making the world a better place. Tom’s famously donates a pair of shoes to children for each one you buy. Jessica Alba’s Honest Company isn’t giving anything away, but they are spearheading a movement to have open, honest, simple ingredients in cleaning and beauty products people use. You could look at what Ben & Jerry’s has done for years as an example of exactly this kind of strategy (not all of these ways of thinking grew on the Internet). All of them put the focus on selling their mission, and sell products almost as an afterthought.

Take a look around at the companies that grab your attention and the potential they may or may not be cashing in on. What are some other ways of thinking to add to this list?