Marketers’ New Year’s Resolution: ‘I Will Give Customers More T-R-A’

The turning of the calendar may mean a new fiscal year for many marketing organizations, but there is one constant that remains paramount for customer-centric enterprises:  TLC (tender loving care) and how we demonstrate such sentiments to our prospects, customers, and donors — whomever applies.

The turning of the calendar may mean a new fiscal year for many marketing organizations, but there is one constant that remains paramount for customer-centric enterprises: TLC (tender loving care) and how we demonstrate such sentiments to our prospects, customers, and donors — whomever applies.

According to its most recent survey of more than 13,400 C-suite leaders, IBM is recommending data users to pursue another approach in their efforts to build consumer trust: T-R-A, as in transparency, reciprocity, and accountability. See the IBM report, “Build Your Trust Advantage: Leadership in the Age of Data and AI Everywhere” (Opens as a PDF)

The report states:

“To satisfy the modern requirement for trust, leading organizations are adopting three basic principles as their guide: transparency, reciprocity, and accountability. Each provides assurance to customers, but is more than good marketing. These principles are the scaffolding that supports the modern enterprise, remade to propagate trust.”

In a time when trust is increasingly harder to earn — and where consumers question the data-for-value exchange — one may think to shun the data quest. But that is not the correct course of action, nor a viable option, at all. Instead, the answer is to triple up efforts — to seek out and ensure higher quality data sources, to ensure chain-of-trust on permissions and consumer controls, and to hold ourselves and data partners accountable for results.

According to IBM, enterprise leaders — “torchbearers” — have fused their data and business strategies as one. “The torchbearers defy data fears, enhancing the trust of customers.”  Eighty-two percent say they use data to strengthen customer trust, compared with 43% of “aspirational” enterprise data users.

So what does T-R-A entail?

Transparency

“Customers demand transparency of data associated with the products and services, and, in the case of personal data, assurances that it’s used in a fair manner and kept safe,” the report states.

Three Keys to Consumer Love: Transparency, Reciprocity and Accountability. | Credit: Pexels.com

And it’s not just about data used in marketing — it’s also about data regarding how products are developed and manufactured, for example, and user reviews and recommendations. Any data that informs the customer journey, and enables the brand promise, really.

Reciprocity

“C-suite executives understand that to get access to data, they have to give something meaningful in return,” the report states. “The challenge? Organizations often don’t know what their customers would consider a fair exchange.”

That’s a fair assessment — as most consumers say they are skeptical about data-sharing benefits; particularly where privacy is concerned. So it is incumbent upon us to discover — probably using data — what truly motivates consumers’ sense of trust and value. I don’t think we do as good a job as we could as brands, and perhaps as an industry, in explaining data’s value to the consumer. Thus, we must do better.

Accountability

“Accountability is synonymous with brand integrity,” the report opined. “To succeed in retaining trust while growing business or expanding into new marketers, marketers need to establish governance and policies to combat cyber risk and protect consumer trust and brand.”

To me, accountability extends beyond data security — and the lawsuits and brand erosion that may follow data breaches. Data governance is closer to the accountability mark: making sure our data supply chains are “clean,” and that they adhere to industry ethics and best practices.

Here’s Wishing You T-R-A in 2020

So I’m hoping my New Year and yours has a lot more T-R-A in the offing. If the consumers equates sharing of data with a loss of privacy, then no one wins — especially the consumer.

 

 

 

Marketing Pros Provide Advice for Peers

When marketing pros provide advice, marketing practitioners listen. One of the high points of the New York marketing community calendar each year is the Silver Apple Gala hosted by the Direct Marketing Club of New York. The fete toasts the business and industry leadership success of honored individuals.

When marketing pros provide advice, marketing practitioners listen. One of the high points of the New York marketing community calendar each year is the Silver Apple Gala hosted by the Direct Marketing Club of New York. The fete, held this year on Nov. 7 near Times Square, toasts the business and industry leadership success of honored individuals, and at least one corporation or organization.

Each “Silver Apple” recipient has contributed for 25 or more years to our field, and since 1985, there have been 248 such honorees, including these four individuals in 2019:

Marketing, Career Wisdom They Share

So when more than 200 of your friends, family, and peers come together, what pearls of wisdom do you have to share?

Carl Horton, IBM

“The ability to execute against the dream in real time,” is what excites Carl Horton, Jr., in his current position in B2B marketing at IBM. Horton credits colleagues who have placed “personal investments in me” and dared to let him take crazy ideas (artificial intelligence applications don’t seem so crazy today) and make them reality, as well as the unconditional love of family.

One key takeaway from Horton:

“The importance of diversity in leadership and innovation: The NextGen of innovation may come from someone of experience, income, race, gender, gender identity, very different from our own.”

Here, here, we need to foster it.

Britt Vatne, ALC

Britt Vatne, who leads the data management practice at ALC, talked about a career pivot 15 years ago, when she worked with a nonprofit client for the first time, March of Dimes, and it showed to her how critical acquiring, retaining, and growing donors are. She also credited industry luminaries, such as the late Bob Castle and the energetic Donn Rappaport (in the room) – as well as her father, who came to America from Norway, never finished primary school, and taught her “there is no substitute for hard work.” She was the first of her family to go to college.

“Being human, being respectful, and having integrity are non-negotiable,” she said. “Be a positive role model, and you’ll have the love and loyalty of family.”

And probably, quite a few colleagues and clients, too.

Joe Pych, NextMark & Bionic Advertising

Joe Pych, who is the startup founder of two companies — NextMark and Bionic Advertising, says his “go-to metric is sales growth.” CRM [customer relationship management] is so much more of an opportunity than simply managing costs, he says. Set a goal, uncover an idea, execute, and measure results.

”I feel selfish standing alone with so much support I’ve received over the years,” he said, referring first to his mother, who put four children through college on an electrician’s salary – and then went and got a masters herself.

He also thanked many of his client data businesses that helped make his first company take off — companies, such as MeritDirect, ALC, Worlddata, and Specialists Marketing Services (SMS), among others – who took a chance on a Hanover, NH-based enterprise. To his wife, Robin.

“Those missed vacations, I’m sorry … again.”

Gretchen Littlefield, Moore DM Group

Gretchen Littlefield, CEO of Moore DM Group for the past two years, also served at Infogroup for 14 years, where she helped develop its nonprofit, political, and federal government marketing practice – which propelled her into her current role atop Moore.

In 2018, she co-founded the Nonprofit Alliance, where she serves as vice chair, to advance in Washington the interests of nonprofit and charitable organizations.

“I fell into this business like everyone else,” she said, starting from data entry and advancing to “getting data [insights] out of the industry.”

She thanked many industry leaders among her mentors and influencers, among them Jim Moore, Larry May, and Vin Gupta.

“It seems as if on every innovation, we are working together and competing all the time. Coopetition,” she said. “The flow of data – from list rentals, to coops, to marketing clouds. We share data for growth.”

Littlefield also emphasized investment in education, citing Marketing EDGE and Direct Marketing Club of New York, for their respective roles in attracting bright students to the marketing field.

“Time goes by faster than we expect — Joe [Pych] and I were Marketing EDGE Rising Stars back in the day. I’m just as excited today as my first day in direct marketing, but mostly grateful for the friendships.”

In addition, there were three special honors bestowed, among them a first-time “Corporate Golden Apple” to Marketing EDGE for its more than half-century of creating and connecting market-ready college students for careers in marketing. And two Excellence Apples:

  • 2019 Apple of Excellence, Advocacy:
    Tony Hadley, SVP, Regulation and Public Policy, Experian (Washington, DC)
  • 2019 Apple of Excellence Disruptor:
    Mayur Gupta, CMO, Freshly (New York, NY)

There’s more to share – but that likely will be another post! Stay tuned …

A Human Writes This Blog … For Now

“Our machines should be nothing more than tools for extending the powers of the human beings who use them,” Thomas Watson Jr. That quote, from IBM’s founder, is on the site of IBM Watson. I’ve spent this past week admiring artificial intelligence (AI) — or “cognitive business” as IBM positions itself…

Our machines should be nothing more than tools for extending the powers of the human beings who use them.
Thomas Watson Jr.

That quote, from IBM’s founder, is on the site of IBM Watson.

I’ve spent this past week admiring artificial intelligence (AI) — or “cognitive business” as IBM positions itself — and the achievements happening in the world of machine learning. IBM Watson Chief Marketing Officer Stephen Gold presented at Marketing Idea eXchange, telling us of the marvels of computing today. If we think our current daily data output of 2.5 quintillion bytes is a flood, wait until the 44 zetabytes data tsunami that’s just around the corner gets here, every day.

Now, 88 percent of this data is unstructured — speech, video, social, according to Gold, much of it beyond the realm of most present-day database analyses and analysts. We know from McKinsey, IBM and even DMA studies that’s there’s not enough talent in the world, never mind the U.S., to analyze it all — to find the patterns and make sense of it, and then to apply that knowledge in faster and faster time.

Enter, AI. IBM is not alone in this quest. Watson may have had its early fun (and success) on Jeopardy, but IBM Watson today has learned a lot since then — how to converse, how to discover, how to optimize decisions, how to personalize and how to analyze. Google DeepMind’s GoAlpha is making its own statement with a Go human challenge — chalk another one four up for the machine. Most certainly Amazon, Oracle and others — anyone with a cloud — are making their way into your mind.

There are implications for society and for marketing. (Is Siri really after my job?)

A former colleague of mine at Harte Hanks used to tell me that automated analytics software is like dynamite — very useful, but only in the right hands. But like Mr. Watson says, it’s only a tool.

We will still need a marketing discipline that is sure-footed, astute-crafted and red-blooded — with young men and women who need to be smart with data, and even smarter with data tools. Marketing success in our business has always been about data, but wow, how that data has changed in volume, velocity and variability!

So I leave with three questions to ponder, for comment and to keep my job a little longer:

Question 1: Can Artificial intelligence fill the talent gap in the world of marketing? I believe the answer is yes.

Question 2: Is AI indeed like dynamite — needing to be handled with care, only in the hands of professionals? (Or is it a democratizing tool, best used in the hands of everyone?) The verdict is still out for me here.

Questions 3: How will AI enter the marketing suite? And which C-level officer will be the first to introduce it in the C-suite? It’s always via the CFO, isn’t it?

Underscoring all of this are ethical implications, too. Much of what we know about risk and data governance comes from a more structured world, but what will we find when we collect immense amounts of unstructured data, and start finding and applying patterns there? Let’s plan for the positive, because there are so many tremendously socially valuable needs which AI can serve (and is serving). Let’s fence the negative, because individual respect, democracy and universality must be preserved, too. And let’s keep humanity in control of the process – because that’s how machines learn in the first place.

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gpsVax8h7gw

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.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwh1INne97Q

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?

Are ‘Geeks’ Re-Invigorating Brands? In a Word, Yes

As we learn to access, integrate and apply data insights, the ad business is getting more quantitative than it’s ever been — let’s pick up the pace.

As we learn to access, integrate and apply data insights, the ad business is getting more quantitative than it’s ever been — let’s pick up the pace.

One of the keynotes I enjoyed from the Direct Marketing Association’s &Then 2015 was IBM’s John Iwata and his announcement that “Cognitive Business” is the company’s new brand positioning. According to Iwata, this replacement for “Smarter Planet” (which I will remember fondly) reflects the realities that are happening when applied technology and artificial intelligence revolutionize a number of fields which IBM serves — including marketing. Take a bow, IBM Watson.

Or how Owen tells his techie friends and family that he now has a job with GE. A venerable brand makes a very data-love statement, and instead of joining a startup, its new commercial hero chooses a job at one of the great champions of the industrial and post-industrial era.

Some may already know many quants have come storming into ad tech, an alternative path to careers on Wall Street. Algorithms are desperately needed to connect relevant content to individuals across devices. The same types of formulae drive programmatic media and audience buying, increasing efficiency and lift.

Our friends at Marketing EDGE — fresh from its Annual Awards Dinner — launched the I-MAX Program [Interactive Marketing Analytics Xperience] in 2013 specifically to build student awareness for careers in marketing data and analysis. Certainly, this is rewarding for students — and it’s a great deal for marketers, too, eager to hire.

There really is a chance for these professionals to create positive impacts, drive innovation in markets — and connect people to the products and services they desire using insights from data as a differentiator. Instead of moving money around in investment banks, they are moving along a global economy (perhaps the same ends in a different way).

GE and IBM certainly captured my attention, so has National Geographic. Merit wins the race: And so we have a competition among us to find, attract, hire and cultivate STEM stars as an integral part of strategic marketing teams. There may not be enough Owens for all of us, so perhaps that’s where Watson may step in. Brands and their advertising partners, in fact the entirety of the marketing field, need to keep doing their quantitative best … Help wanted.