5 Hottest Trends in Digital Out-of-Home Advertising Right Now

Digital out-of-home advertising (DOOH) is one of the fastest growing and interactive forms of advertising around. When done correctly, digital out-of-home advertising is accepted more than any other type of advertising due to its advancements. It is not only a selling tool, but a way for advertisers to interact with their clients.

New York City crossroads digital advertising display
New York City crossroads digital display | Credit: Brooklyn Outdoor by Candice Simons

Digital out-of-home advertising (DOOH) is one of the fastest growing and interactive forms of advertising around.

When done correctly, digital out-of-home advertising is accepted more than any other type of advertising due to its advancements. It is not only a selling tool, but a way for advertisers to interact with their clients.

With digital advertising, comes the concern that audiences will be able to turn off the advertisement. However, with DOOH this is not the case. These types of advertisements can’t be turned off and are hard to ignore.

Digital out-of-home offers innovative technology and powerful software that makes digital out-of-home ads a force to be reckoned with.

Here are the most noteworthy trends to keep an eye out for:

1.Data-Driven Advertising

Integrating live-streaming into digital displays gives clients with the ability to provide audiences with real-time information. Giving updates on events such as the scores of sporting games or voting polls, gives audiences a clear picture of the “now.”

Although traditional out-of-home advertising is the top medium used to create lasting impressions with clients, DOOH takes this to the next level. Combining data and technology with a general marketing campaign takes advertisements from visual to experience.

2.Visual Experiences

When companies make the mistake of not incorporating out-of-home into their marketing campaign, they miss out on a great way to deliver strong visuals.

People are incredibly receptive when it comes to visuals. For this reason, digital ads care a captivating way to provide direct experiences for consumers.

Out-of-home gives clients the ability to reach audiences at bus stops, in taxis and on their routes of daily commute. This has a major impact on consumers as they are exposed to OOH ads so often, they unconsciously influence them. This is especially true when paired with mobile advertising.

3.Smart Ads Through Smart Phones

Statistics show that nearly 70 percent of Americans are smart phone users, making them the most convenient way to connect with audiences. The way to do this, is through installing beacons on digital advertisements.

Beacons are real-world data generators that give clients the opportunity to turn advertising locations into signals that market directly to their target audience. By integrating beacons into DOOH, brands can engage in real-time with consumers.

4.Brand Building the Right Way

Taking advantage of new technology and measurement platforms is an accurate way to analyze brand data and allows consumers to connect with the right audience. Out-of-home advertising is the catalyst of brand building by giving brands the ability to reach large target audiences by marketing to their specific behaviors.

5.Ads That Mean Action

OOH advertising is a tried and true method in getting audiences to take action. Engaging with consumers through a combination of OOH and mobile devices, means engagement is at the fingertips of target audiences.

Consumers are always turned on and on-the-go. This gives OOH the unsurpassed ability to bridge the gap between audiences and brands that drives action from consumers. It is without a doubt that anyone who includes OOH into their marketing mix will surely benefit.

Thank You, Arthur Blumenfield, Joyful Storyteller

This past week, we bid farewell to a gentleman and a marketing pioneer, Arthur Blumenfield. For those of us in the New York marketing community, who revere data and data-driven marketing and media — as well as the camaraderie of our community — Arthur truly was a leading light.

This past week, we bid farewell to a gentleman and a marketing pioneer, Arthur Blumenfield.

For those of us in the New York marketing community, who revere data and data-driven marketing and media — as well as the camaraderie of our community — Arthur truly was a leading light.

Arthur was full of stories, and he was a masterful storyteller. He was also joyful, and one couldn’t help feeling the warmth when you were with him. One of my favorite stories was a visit he had taken to Jerusalem, where the locals told him to get a room at the Yimcah Hotel. Up and down he rode the bus route, having to remind the forgetful bus driver a couple of times to drop him off at the stop nearest to the hotel. Peeling his eyes along the route, looking for the hotel — back and forth, as other riders jumped in to say the bus had passed the hotel. Really? Finally, when he actually had the correct stop, he exited the bus and wandered about, finally discovering the Yimcah Hotel, otherwise known as the Y-M-C-A.

That was it, you never knew if it was urban lore — or a true experience. But it really didn’t matter, it was Arthur sharing a tale, and earning a laugh.

He loved his regular OGLE meetings — Old Guys Lunch Experience. Last summer, I received a coveted invitation.  And Arthur truly had a plan for inviting me there. There were plenty of folks in our field — with wisdom a-plenty — with their own stories to be told, and shared. He shared with me Eddy Boas’s book, “I’m Not a Victim, I am a Survivor — how one of our industry’s own endured the Holocaust in a camp with his family, only to survive, rise and build a career in Australia and beyond as a direct marketer. Arthur’s career crossed paths with many such personalities, most of them colorful like himself.

His accomplishments professionally preceded him:

  • He invented the de-duping processes for mail data files, as well as “Me-Books” — that’s personalized print and storytelling coming together;
  • He served as longtime treasurer for the Direct Marketing Club of New York, earning both Silver Apple (1994) and Golden Apple (2013) honors. The company he founded, BMI Global OMS, a family business, was a Silver Apple corporate honoree itself last year;
  • He was a founder of Direct Marketing Days of New York;
  • He cared deeply for the education mission of DMCNY — and our collective support for the future of our field;
  • He developed an order management system first used by the Direct Marketing Association (now Data & Marketing Association) for its conferences; and on and on.

He loved his craft, he loved our field, and loved most of all his family — husband, father, grandfather.  You know when you were invited to a summer outing in Easton, Conn., it was an extended family affair.

Thank you, Arthur, for your warmth, stories and achievements — all of which you so readily shared. We are all the better for it, and — in your spirit — I’m hopeful that any of us can pay it forward at least half as good as you did, with that ever-present smile. That would be remarkable.

Should Your Direct Mail Campaigns Be Lean?

First of all, what is “lean”? It is a systematic way to reduce waste without sacrificing return on your investment. So how can we apply the lean concept to direct mail campaigns?

First of all, what is “lean”? It is a systematic way to reduce waste without sacrificing return on your investment. So how can we apply the lean concept to direct mail campaigns?

First, you will want to look at both customers and employees. Lean is a great fit, because you can save money with a lean direct mail approach. Reduce internal costs and increase customer response. The more you save, the more you make. Are you ready to apply the five lean principles to your next direct mail campaign?

5 Direct Mail Lean Principles

  1. Define the Value: This is extremely important. You need to determine what value your product or service has for your customers and prospects. Look at your company from the eyes of your customers. When you can easily identify all of the benefits to them, you are able to convey your value. Your customers and prospects buy the value of what you sell, not the product or service you are selling.
  2. Value Stream: Now that you have identified the value, you need identify all of the steps it will take to create the best direct mail piece to target the values. You can create a map of what needs to be done and who will be doing it. Ideally, you can identify any congestion points and plan around them before you execute your campaign. This will decrease the amount of time and frustration with actual campaign creation.
  3. Flow: After you have identified all of the potential waste points and worked out a plan, you are ready to make sure the plan will flow smoothly without bottlenecks or other issues, both internally and for customers receiving the direct mail pieces. The quicker you can start the campaign, the sooner you are making money. You should also create flows for each campaign stream, such as retention, acquisition, and events that trigger marketing communication to customers and prospects.
  4. Pull: This is where it gets fun; you have created the system to expedite your direct mail campaigns. Therefore, you are ready to provide mail pieces as people are ready for them. You can have triggering events that have you send mail to your customers and prospects, such as when a product or service is about to change or customers reach a time period which would require them to buy from you again. The customer needs pull the mail pieces to them based on the campaign flows you have created.
  5. Perfection: Now that you have the steps in place, you need to continually work to perfect them. By checking in with people at each step, you can identify more problem areas and ways to improve them. You can then look at your direct mail results and improve them with better data, targeting and offers. This is a continual process to keep your mail performing better and better internally and with customers/prospects.

This process is probably a new way of looking at planning and executing your direct mail marketing. Most of the time, we are running behind and throw mail campaigns together at the last minute, then wonder why we are not getting the response rates we planned on. With this process, you are trying to create more value for your customers and spend less time and money creating it. Are you ready to get started?

Experience Design Benefits Greatly From Behavioral Data

Human-centered design thinking has influenced much of the way that companies think about user and customer experience, and for the better. Because customer experience is becoming an important vehicle through which brand propositions are communicated today, it is worth examining if the way we design customer experiences can be improved. Particularly, is there a way to better integrate data and analytics into design thinking?

Human-centered design thinking has influenced much of the way that companies think about user and customer experience, and for the better. Because customer experience is becoming an important vehicle through which brand propositions are communicated today, it is worth examining if the way we design customer experiences can be improved. Particularly, is there a way to better integrate data and analytics into design thinking?

A well-designed customer experience offers many benefits, such as:

  • increasing the productivity of users and service efficiency.
  • Making solutions easier to use and, therefore, reducing support costs
  • Increased accessibility and reducing discomfort and stress
  • Signature experiences that convey and re-enforce the brand proposition

In order to achieve these results, most experience design processes begin with deep empathy, which entails physically observing, interviewing and surveying customers to uncover unmet needs and pain points.

These methods often help uncover significant opportunities to improve the customer services. Just as often, however, they take companies down unprofitable journeys and fail to identify growth opportunities.

For example, Spirit airlines probably ignores every stated customer desire except price (in most cases), yet it has a very strong business model. Can you imagine the market research that says customers don’t care about on-time arrival, service or cabin comfort and want to be nickeled and dimed for every possible amenity? An examination of behavioral data, however, would show that there is a large market of travelers who consistently shop for the cheapest flight, regardless of service, brand and reputation, and Spirit has learned to cater to this segment very well.

In my view, most experience design projects fail to bring in behavioral data and resultingly miss the bigger opportunity. I have observed many customer experience projects that try desperately to empathize with the customer, but fail to examine if this is the customer they want and what their purchase and usage behaviors truly reveal.

Sometime back, my team and I were asked to identify key factors driving retention and renewal behavior among auto and home insurance customers. Certainly, survey-based feedback was helpful and identified areas of dissatisfaction, such as complicated billing, poor claims experiences and unexplained rate increases. Individual customer interviews yielded even more interesting satisfaction drivers, such as financial trust and need for honest advice. However, looking at behavioral data, such as the types of policies purchased, tenure of the policies and household makeup actually uncovered the deepest insights. Although this is now common knowledge in the insurance industry, customers who bundle auto and home policies are much less likely to switch. Therefore, most insurance carriers try to offer an Auto-Home discount. Other behaviorally observed factors, such as the level of coverage selected and signing up for auto pay are also significant predictors of retention. Surprisingly, none of these factors bubbled up directly in customer interviews or surveys. Furthermore, factors derived from the behavioral data explained 70 to 80 percent of the attrition in any given year.

Despite this example, it would be very wrong to assume that human-centered design principles do not work or that some of the methods employed to develop user/customer empathy are bunk. However, I would say that interviews and experience audits are only one source of customer insight; mining customer behavioral data is another powerful source of customer insights. A well-thought-out experience design should have the benefit of both.

How Direct Mail Is Your Little Engine That Could

Because direct mail is the little engine that could for your marketing funnel, it can sustain you through troubled times. Direct mail is most powerful when used in a long-term, multi-touch plan. The average prospect needs to see your mail piece seven to 10 times before buying from you.

direct mail
“Mailboxes in ivy,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by Ryan McFarland

Because direct mail is the little engine that could for your marketing funnel, it can sustain you through troubled times. Direct mail is most powerful when used in a long-term, multi-touch plan. The average prospect needs to see your mail piece seven to 10 times before buying from you. So a well-planned direct mail program includes multiple drops with various mailers and postcards. Then once the prospect makes a purchase from you, you move the consumer into your customer retention mail program. These types of programs are extremely effective and can be counted on to consistently generate sales.

Are you taking advantage of direct mail programs throughout the year? Do you mail consistently? Do you have a plan? Depending on what you are selling and who your customer base is, it will determine what your direct mail plan should be. The more data you are capturing on your customers, the better you will be able to target them with direct mail.

So what should a basic prospect direct mail plan look like?

  • List — Purchase a multi-use list of prospects based on what you know about your customers such as demographics, psychographics and more.
  • Message — Prospects need to learn who you are, what you do and see testimonials from current customers. You are trying to convert them to customers.
  • Offer — You need to create offers that will resonate with your prospects. What is in it for them?
  • Format — To be most effective, alternate formats for each mailing so that each prospect will get a letter, postcard and self-mailer over the course of your program. You can use formats more than once, but always make sure to add something fresh and new to each mailing. Sending the same thing over and over again does not get you the results you need.
  • Schedule — This will really vary depending on what you are selling, more expensive purchases are made less frequently vs. some items that need to be purchased all the time. The general rule of thumb is once a month to once every other month for high-ticket items and twice a month for more frequent purchases.

So what should a basic customer direct mail plan look like?

  • List Pull as much information as you have on each customer. You can use their purchase history to get your direct mail highly targeted.
  • Message — Customers should get messaging that is applicable to them and what they buy. You can suggest add-ons that complement what they have already bought or items that other people like them have purchased.
  • Offer — Customers love coupons on items that they buy. You can also give them special offers on new items they have not previously purchased from you but are likely to buy.
  • Formats — Just like prospects you should vary the formats of direct mail you are sending to customers.
  • Schedule — Customers should have a more scaled-back schedule than prospects. They know who you are and how to buy from you so send to them less frequently. We recommend at most once a month.

Are you ready to get started planning your ongoing direct mail campaigns? By constantly feeding your pipeline with your direct mail prospects and customers, your marketing funnel will always be generating sales. Get excited about your direct mail programs and create some really fun direct mail pieces. When you get creative you stand out more and get remembered. Make you direct mail campaigns real profit-drivers. Have you had a very successful long-term campaign? We would love to hear about it.

Auto Responders That Knock Your Socks Off

I’m a believer that personality plays an important role in selling. I’m a super Type A person, so I prefer to buy from people and companies that are organized, detailed and competent. But I also like people and companies who have a healthy sense of humor. Silvercar is a great example. A few years ago, my friend Chris and I went to breakfast at a conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. He pulled up in his Audi A4 rental car. “Great car,” I said. Where’d you get it?”

emailI’m a believer that personality plays an important role in selling. I’m a super Type A person, so I prefer to buy from people and companies that are organized, detailed and competent. But I also like people and companies who have a healthy sense of humor. Silvercar is a great example. A few years ago, my friend Chris and I went to breakfast at a conference in Scottsdale, Ariz. He pulled up in his Audi A4 rental car. “Great car,” I said. Where’d you get it?”

“Silvercar. The best rental car company. I use them exclusively now.”

“What makes them so good?”

“Working with them is so easy, and they have a great personality.”

So, I gave Silvercar a try, and they have been my go-to rental car company for the past three years. You may ask, “How does a company have a personality?” Good question. Everything they do is hassle-free, technology-based and fun. My last reservation took one minute and 33 seconds (yes, I timed it). When I got to the lot, I scanned my QSR code on the window sticker, got in and drove away. Easy peasy. No lines. Ever. I actually look forward to getting their marketing emails. They are short, to the point and funny.

Silvercar has taught me the importance of making sure my personality shows through in everything I do, even the way I write my out-of-office emails. I travel a lot for work. I turn on “auto response” before each trip, even if I’m not going to be disconnected much. This messaging is a great opportunity to make someone smile and remind them of my spunk and creativity.

I’ve created a repository of responses that I can choose from based on the time of year and what’s happening in our business. Here’s my latest:


Howdy,

At home working by the fire in slippers and comfys? I wish. Rain check for the week of 12/12 when I return from Texas. I’m going to the birthplace of jazz, casino central (Vegas) and to Dallas to find my friend, a tall cowboy with a six-pack (he’s in need of a hot holiday party date).

If my email has not put you to sleep yet, and you are still in need of things to do to make yourself look busy at work, check these out:

  1. Read the book “Never Eat Alone.” I’m reading it for the third time. Top five on my list of great sales books.
  2. Buy yourself one of these holiday suits. It will help you feel better about yourself and might win you Two-Buck Chuck at your neighbor’s Christmas party. NOTE: They hide curves and fat well.
  3. You really want those new Lululemon pants for hot yoga class, but they are $118. You just don’t have that in your budget. Sounds like you need a raise. Use your boss’s feedback to get promoted. You’re welcome.

BONUS: Do you buy print? Does your team buy print? Want to free up their time so they can focus on other activities? Want to look like a hero? Consider outsourcing your print buying to us. We are pretty cool for being in such a boring industry (at least we like to think so).


Since I’ve started writing fun auto email responders, I’ve been surprised by the increased number of responses. Here’s my favorite response from a prospect, “You are funny. I like the culture you’ve created at your company. It really stands out and makes me want to do business with you. PS: You’ve inspired me to rewrite my out-of-office messages.”

I challenge you to write down five things that make you unique. (Think about your hobbies, activities, books you like to read, etc.) Then, incorporate them into an out-of-office message. After you’ve crafted a message that gets positive responses and motivates prospects, I suggest encouraging each person on your team to write his or her fun and poignant auto responder. I know each team member’s unique personality will shine through. In my humble opinion, that is much better than having one company-wide response. Snore, snore.

The art of people buying from people is not dead.

Caution: You and your team members may knock someone’s socks off.

‘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.

Creating a Persona Menu (for You)

Personas are like menu items, each representing key characteristics of target customers that marketers need to know to push their products.

persona
“93H,” Public Domain license. | Credit: Flickr by saul saulete

I have been writing about the importance of using modeling techniques for personalization for some time now (refer to “Personalization Is About the Person” and “Segments vs. Personas”). If I may summarize the whole idea down to a 15-second pitch:

  • We need modeling because we will never know everything about everybody, and;
  • Selfishly for marketers, it is much simpler to assign personas to product groups and related contents than to have to deal with an obscene amount of customer data and a long list of content details at the same time.

Simply, personas are like menu items, each representing key characteristics of target customers that marketers need to know to push their products.

One may say, “Hey, I just put in SKU-level data into some personalization engine!” To which, I must ask, “Do you also put in unrefined oil into your beloved automobile?” I didn’t think so. Not that ruining some personalization engine will break anyone’s heart. But it may annoy the heck out of your customers by treating them as extensions of their immediate purchases, not as living, breathing human beings.

I’ve actually met someone from a software company at a conference who claimed to be able to create hundreds of thousands of combinations of SKU-level transaction data and content data. If you have a few hundred thousand SKUs and tens of thousands of pictures and creative items, well, the number of combinations will be quite large. Not exactly the number of stars in the universe, but quite unmanageable, enough for marketers to just “let go” and leave it all to the machine on a default setting. So, even if someone automated the process of combining such data (with some built-in rules, I’m sure), how would any marketer – and recipients of messages – make sense out of it all?

That type of shotgun approach is the mother of all of those annoying “personalizations,” like offers of the very same items that you just purchased. For such rudimentary methods, it might actually be a great achievement to offer a yoga mat to someone who just bought a yoga mat. Hey, they are in the same category after all, categorically speaking, right?

The key to humanization of marketing messages is to make them about the customers, not about marketers, products or channels. And that kind of high-level personalization requires, well, a real human touch. That means, each block of information must be bite-sized so that human beings – i.e., marketers – can process and consume it easily.

When I first came to America (a long time ago), it wasn’t so easy to go through menu items in a typical diner. Too many items! How can I pick just “one” of those items that matches my appetite and mood of the day? Now imagine a menu that goes on for hundreds of thousands of lines. And you have to act fast on it, too.

Personas, or architypes as some may call them, are the bridges between obscene amounts of data points and yet another large set of pictures and content. The idea is to have a manageable number of personas to make it easier for us to match the right content to the right target.

I bet most content libraries are not crazy big, but large enough. But on that side, it is what it is. You will not cut out some valuable digital assets just because the inventory got big. So, we have to make the personal data – especially behavioral and transactional data – more compact to facilitate easy assignment, as in “Show this picture of a glass of red wine next to a juicy steak” to a persona called “Wine Enthusiast” or “Fine Dining.” The assignment itself would be as simple as saving a room for persona designation in the content library (if you don’t even have a content library, we need to talk).

Then, how would you come up with the right list of personas for “you”? Having done this a few times for many companies in various industries on a national level, I have some tips to share.

  1. Be Product-Centric: Anyone who has been reading my articles about personalization will be surprised by this one, as I have been screaming “customer-centric marketing” all along. But, in the end, we are doing all of this to sell more of our products to customers. Think about the products you want to push, then think about the types of characteristics that you would love to know about customers to push those products in a relevant way.

Trying to sell cutting-edge products? Then you may need personas such as “Early adopter.” Selling value-based items? You may want “Bargain-seekers.” Pushing travel items? Try “Frequent business traveler” or “Family vacation” personas. Dealing with high net-worth people? Well, go beyond simple income-select and try “Globetrotter,” “Luxury car,” “Heavy stock investor,” etc., depending on what you are selling. By the way, these luxury personas may or may not be related to one another, as human beings are much more complex than their income levels.

  1. Be Creative: Models can be built if you have data for “some” people who have actually behaved in a certain way to be used as targets. That limitation aside, you can be as creative you want to be.

For example, if you are in the telecommunications industry, expand the typical triple-play offering, and dig deeper into “why” people would need broadband service. Is it because someone is an “Avid gamer,” “Heavy VOIP user,” “Frequent international caller,” part of a “Big family,” “Home office worker” and/or “On-demand movie watcher”? If you can differentiate these traits, you don’t have to push broadband Internet services with brute force. You can now show reasons why they need over 100 megabits per second service.

If you are dealing with mostly female customers (who are, by the way, responsible for the bulk of economic activities on a national level), one can imagine categories that start with various health and beauty items, going all of the way to yoga and fitness personas. In between those, add any persona that is an ideal target for the products you are trying to sell, be it “Fashion enthusiast,” “Children’s interests,” “Gardening enthusiast,” “Organic food,” “Weight watchers,” Gourmet Cooking,” “Family entertainment,” etc., etc. The keys is to describe the buyer, not the product.

  1. Start Small, but be bolder as the list grows: In the beginning, you may have to prove that personalization using model-based personas really works. Yes, building a persona is as simple as building a propensity model (in essence, they are exactly those), but that doesn’t mean that you start the effort with 50 persons. Pick the product that you really want to push, or characteristics that you need to know in order to resonate with your core customers, and build a few personas as a starter (say five to 10). You may find some data limitations along the way, but as you go through the list, your team (or analytics partners) will definitely gain momentum.

Then you can be bold. I’ve seen retailers who routinely maintain over 100 personas for just one major product category. And I’ll bet that list didn’t grow that big overnight, either.

Also, when you are in an expansion mode, just add items when in doubt. Think about the users of those personas, not mathematical differences among models. Do you know the difference between Kung Pao Chicken and Diced Chicken with Hot Peppers? Just peanuts on top. But restaurants have them both because customers expect to see them.

Similarly, there may be only slight differences between “Conservative Investor” and “Annuity Investor” personas. But the users of those personas may grab one or the other because of their targeting need at the moment. Or whatever inspired their marketing spirit. Think in terms of user-friendliness, not mathematical purity.

  1. Do Not Go Out of Control: When I was leading a product development team in a prominent data compiling company in the U.S., our team developed about 140 personas covering the entire country for various behavioral categories, including investment, travel, sports (both active participation and being a fan of), telecomm, donation, politics, etc. One of our competitors tried to copy that idea, and failed miserably. Why? It had built too many models.

For instance, if you are building personas for the cruise industry in general, you may need just “Luxury cruise” and “Family cruise” for starters. Those are good enough for initial prospecting. Then, if you must get deeper into cross-selling for coveted “onboard spending,” then you may get into “Adventure-seeker,” “Family entertainment,” “Gourmet,” “Wine enthusiast,” “Shopping expedition,” “Luxury entertainment,” “Silver years,” “Young parents,” etc., for customization of offers.

My old copycats with too many models had developed separate models for “each” cruise fleet and brand. How were they going to use all of that? One brand at a time, with one company as a user group? Why not build a custom model as needed, then? Surely that would be more effective if the model is to target a specific brand or fleet. Anyway, my competitors ended up building a few thousand models, for any known brand out there in every industry, seriously limiting the chance those personas would be used by marketers.

As I mentioned in the beginning, this is about matching offers (or content) to the right people at the right time. If you go out of control, it will be very difficult to do that kind of match-making. If your persona list is just big for the sake of being big, well, how is that any different from using the raw data? You’ve got to know when to stop, too. The key is “not too small, and not too big,” for humans and machines alike.

  1. Update Periodically: Like any menu, persona lists go out of date. Some items may not have been used actively. Some may become obsolete as business models and core product lines go through changes. And models do go stale, as well. You may not have to review this all of the time, and there will be staple menu items, like spaghetti with meatballs in a restaurant. But it will be prudent to go through the menu once in awhile. If not because of the product, then because of people’s attitudes about it changing.
  2. Evangelize: It would be a shame if the data and analytics people did all of this work and marketers didn’t use it fully. These personas are in essence mathematical summaries of “lots of” data in compact forms. They can be used in targeting (for selecting the right target for specific product offers), and for personalization of offers and messages based on dominant characteristic of the target (e.g., show different pictures to “Adventure-seeker” and “Family entertainment” personas, even if they are about to board the same ship). Continuously educate your fellow marketers that using personas is as easy as using any other type of data, except that they are compressed model scores with no missing values.

The personalization game is complex. It may look easy if you just buy an off-the-shelf personalization engine, set up some rules with unrefined data and let it run. While it’s better than sending uniform message to everyone, that kind of rudimentary approach is far less than ideal, not to mention the annoyance factor.

To maximize the power of all available data and the personalization engine itself, we must compress the data in forms of personas. Resultant messaging will be far more relevant to your target audience as, for one, a persona is a built-in mechanism for the personal touch. If you set the menu up as a bridge between data and people, that is.

The 3Ls That Can Kill Your Brand. Forever.

As marketers, most of us pride ourselves for adhering to truth in advertising and being honest in all we say about our products and brands. Copywriter, strategist, social or content marketers, we always tell the truth. Right? Actually you shouldn’t be so quick or sure to answer that question.

"Red Bull Gives You Wings"
This “Red Bull Gives You Wings” image from Michelle Ramey Photography via DeviantArt.com illustrates a brand slogan that cost the company millions.

As marketers, most of us pride ourselves for adhering to truth in advertising and being honest in all we say about our products and brands. Copywriter, strategist, social or content marketers, we always tell the truth. Right? Actually you shouldn’t be so quick or sure to answer that question.

In many cases, we marketers unwittingly lie about our products all of the time.

Remember that adjective in a social post about being the “leading” brand in your category, or claiming that you have a “scientifically proven” solution because one survey with a small sample was in your favor? We can say these things if there is at least one incidence of truth, right?

To many marketers, little claims which can be substantiated in at least one incident, e.g., leading for just one month’s sales reports, or scientifically proven in a study that only covered a small portion of your markets, are perfectly acceptable. Yet to many consumers, these claims are fodder for lawsuits, let alone the lost loyalty from those who don’t sue you.

Here’s a couple of examples from a Business Insider article, March 2016, about how those innocent words or “suggestions” can get brands in big trouble.

  • Tesco, a SuperMarket in the U.K., got caught up in a scandal for using horsemeat in its “beef” products. So the company decided to run an ad explaining how this happened. However, Tesco also chose to imply that this was happening industry-wide. That resulted in the U.K. advertising regulator banning the ad and about a $300 million drop in the brand’s value.
  • Kellogg’s got its hands slapped by the FTC for claiming its Rice Krispies could boost a child’s immunity as the FTC couldn’t find anything but dubious data to back that up.
  • And one of the most interesting lawsuits that actually cost a brand a lot of money and respect was over Red Bull’s tagline claim that their drink could “give you wings” and intellectual energy. Obviously just a fun slogan to most. However, a consumer claimed he had been drinking Red Bull for 10 years and had no wings to show for it, or improved intellect (that last claim rings true). But a judge bought it and Red Bull had to pay out $13 million and $10 to every customer buying its drink in the past 12 years. True story!

If you Google “honest advertising that works,” you’ll get a few articles featuring logic-defying “honest” ads that expose a product’s flaws, almost to the point of dishonesty of how bad something is. These include ads for real estate and hotels saying how awful their places are in ways that are so bad they spark curiosity and make one want to experience the property to see for themselves. So yep, they worked. By being “honest” to the edge of being “dishonest” about your product, some clever copywriters have discovered the power of sparking curiosity to sell products. But there’s a deeper lesson here.

The Battle Between Macro and Micro Marketers

Reading first-quarter reports from a variety of companies, not surprisingly, everything was focused on the “macro” numbers. The totals. Total sales and revenue, total costs, total number of employees, total ROI. That’s what the analysts and shareholders say they want to see. Don’t bother them with “micro” details: These just get in the way of the “big picture” and anyway, it is about time for lunch.

marketers battleReading first-quarter reports from a variety of companies, not surprisingly, everything was focused on the “macro” numbers. The totals. Total sales and revenue, total costs, total number of employees, total ROI. That’s what the analysts and shareholders say they want to see. Don’t bother them with “micro” details: These just get in the way of the “big picture” and anyway, it is about time for lunch.

There is no question that the big picture is important. But all macros are the sum of lots of little micros; and especially, the health of data-driven marketing businesses is determined by the optimization of each of these micro details. When they are summed together, they produce averages. And it is no secret that average is the most dangerous word in all of marketing — especially our data-driven kind.

Imagine 10 men sitting at a bar having a beer. The net worth of five of them is $250,000 and the net worth of the other five is $350,000. It is easy to calculate that $300,000 is the average net worth of the men in the bar. But now another thirsty fellow comes into the bar and orders a beer. His name is Bill Gates and his net worth is measured in billions. Now what’s the average net worth of the men in the bar?

It is perhaps a silly example, but if you are a marketing professional, you know that in working to define the income range of your target audience, the distorted figure you get when Mr. Gates’s net worth is averaged with those of the other men in the bar, it makes the “average” totally useless from a marketing point of view.

Like so many other things in today’s increasingly digital world, fortunately fewer and fewer marketing professionals are talking about average when they have a cornucopia of metrics that invite us to look at each specific person. The end of average is upon us, and we shall not be sorry to see it go.

And yet, even when we operate at a micro level, valuing each action or combination of actions, we can sometimes overlook the proverbial forest for the trees.

Especially if we have a big success, one of the easiest things in the world is to become complacent about it. That’s the direct opposite of “optimization.” Let’s call it lazy minimization.

Recently, a client, working to develop just how much marketing money he could afford to spend in each available medium and the optimum mix, challenged one of the golden rules I had laid down for the use of the Allowable Cost per Order (ACPO) model — never spend more than the ACPO.

The ACPO Methodology is explained in detail in the e-book “Profiting from the Magic of MarketingMetrics,” available from Target Marketing. For a free, short “How to Calculate the ACPO” presentation, just email “ACPO, Please” to pjrosenwald@gmail.com.

Turning away from his computer screen, he posed a very simple question, one that I should have asked myself years ago: “If you never spend more than the ACPO, are you optimizing your profit, or are you just playing it safe?”

While there is certainly nothing wrong with being “safe,” it is hardly the way to drive maximum growth.

When we ranged the different media cells from the lowest cost per order (CPO) to the highest and concentrated on the effect on the cumulative profit, we received a compelling message that our historic focus on not allowing the ACPO to be exceeded was detrimental to profit. I’m still kicking myself for not having asked and answered that question years ago.

Peter's ACPO chart

It’s all in the numbers. Had we eliminated all CPO cells higher than the ACPO of $265, we would have had 707 fewer sales and, therefore, less market share — a shortfall of 35 percent. But we would have spent $248,313 — a savings of $323,337, or 43 percent. That had always struck me as the best strategy.

But in asking the “optimum profit” question, my colleague had opened the door to a whole new way of seeing. Because, as you can easily see in the illustration, the optimum cumulative profit of $429,508 comes with the 13th cell at a CPO of $441, compared to the ACPO of $265. If optimum profit is really the name of the game, which it usually should be, then cutting off at the ACPO would be the wrong strategy.

We see this kind of aggressive thinking more and more and it is exciting. What we see less of, especially in SMBs, is a willingness to grasp the fact that however well things are going today, they could be improved if only management would abandon complacency with the “good” and focus on making it “better.” If only they would insist on getting inside the big macro numbers and look at the micros.

In today’s world, if the aggressive collection and use of the right micro data isn’t part of the core business case of an entrepreneurial company, something vital is missing.

Endit …