How-tos for Generational Marketing to Millennials vs. Gen Z

Millennials and Generation Zers have both broken out of a shell that generations prior were determined to mold themselves to. This fact, along with their closeness in age, have led many to believe that they have a lot of commonalities that can accommodate similar generational marketing strategies.

Millennials and Generation Zers are both notorious for shaking up the status quo in more ways than one. They’ve both broken out of a shell that generations prior were determined to mold themselves to. This fact, along with their closeness in age, have led many to believe that they have a lot of commonalities that can accommodate similar generational marketing strategies.

While they are adjacent generations, the qualities in which they have gained notoriety differ, especially as consumers. The rise of the newest wave of consumers, who make up roughly 40% of all customers in the market, is certainly creating changes as Gen Z’s desires are not perfectly aligned with their older generational neighbors. The people who make up this group were born between 1997 and 2012.

At the same time, this does not imply that advertisers should stop pushing their marketing efforts toward Millennials. Simply put, Millennials largely contribute to the U.S. economic capital with a generational wealth estimated at $24 trillion. This group is made up of people born between 1981 and 1996.

With these statistics in mind, it is important that brands learn how to make the most of both unique generational consumer behaviors. Here are different elements advertisers should keep in mind when targeting a Millennial vs. a Gen Z demographic.

Similarities

Before we break down the differences these two generations have as consumers, it’s important to acknowledge they do still have quite a bit in common. First, both groups are well-versed in social media and the amount of time they spend plugged in doesn’t vary too drastically.

Even at an average of 20 minutes less per day, Millennials were young and impressionable when the age of the Internet came to be and, as such, they are just about as savvy in social media as is Gen Z.

Second, both generations place importance on diversity, equality, and progressive social values. In contrast to generations prior, Millennials and Gen Zers have questioned many social norms that Boomers and Gen Xers have accepted as reality.

Though there are undoubtedly many similarities in the grand scheme of things, these generational differences must also be considered in order for marketers to successfully cater to both.

Attitude Toward Spending

Interestingly, the way Millennials’ and Gen Zers’ finances differ is quite great.

Many Millennials were young adults when the Great Recession hit the U.S. in 2007. Growing up with a poor economy at large taught this group to place value on quality over quantity, as they remain mostly optimistic about their personal finances.

With Gen Z being quite young at the start of the economic downturn, this generation adopted the notion of practicality and financial preparation from an early age.

How Can Brands Successfully Cater to Both Spending Behaviors?

For Millennials, quality over quantity means they are looking to invest their money in brands that create a unique product or experience that will noticeably enhance their quality of living. Millennials are inclined to do significant research before making a purchase, ensuring they’ve found the most beneficial product or experience for them. This is good news for marketers, as Millennials are constantly on the lookout for the next best thing to help them in their everyday lives. All brands need to do is prove they are the ones Millennials should be investing their time and money in, and they may have customers for life.

For Gen Z, it’s best to get right to it. Let the consumer know exactly why the product or experience is the best one for them and why it’s worth the money. As previously mentioned, this generation is very focused on responsible spending as a result of their early memories of the Great Recession. So, if you want to sell to Gen Z, make sure you keep your brand’s feet firmly planted on the ground. Approach selling in a practical manner and make sure your product has a clear purpose for its consumer.

Feeling Connected Through Social Media

It is apparent that both generations are avid social media users, and the feeling of connection that social media creates is well enjoyed by both. However, the ways they best receive those feelings of connection vary.

Millennials feel most connected through the more traditional sharing, pinning, and forwarding; predominantly on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Gen Zers have had social media at their fingertips for the majority of their lives and, as a result, they consume more media on fewer platforms. This group is very visual and prefers rapid consumption, mainly through Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat and, most recently, TikTok.

How Can Brands Leverage Connection in Their Marketing Efforts?

Millennials prefer the more traditional social media platforms and sharing techniques, because they’re easy ways to feel seen and heard. Brands can leverage this in their customer journeys through interaction: asking consumers questions, encouraging them to communicate in comments sections, and more. This creates a space where Millennials feel valued and contributes to their attitude that a brand can better their lives on a deeply personal level.

Gen Z’s short attention span makes their marketing needs exclusively geared toward them. Cut to the chase and get down to benefits of the product — this is the best way to reach them on their preferred social platforms. Utilizing influencers for brand marketing is an effective way to connect to this audience. With 10-second Instagram stories and #sponsored posts, brands can use their preferred social platforms to connect in a unique way that feels authentic to Gen Z.

Embracing Generational Differences as Marketers and Advertisers

As two groups who came one after the other, it’s no surprise that Millennials and Generation Z are very similar. Both known for questioning common ideas the predecessing generations easily accepted, the two generations have redefined marketing in a new era for brands. They value authenticity, social responsibility, and inclusion. But both have different consumer behaviors when it comes to their finances and how they connect. For marketers, it is more important than ever to optimize and strategize based on their ever-changing habits as consumers

For Measurement-Oriented Marketers: The Best of ‘Here’s What Counts,’ 2019

Over the past year, “Here’s What Counts” opined on several topics. But the ones that gained the most traction involved Gen Z’s views on privacy, social media data collection, and 1:1 marketing.

Over the past year, “Here’s What Counts” opined on several topics. But the ones that gained the most traction involved Gen Z’s views on privacy, social media data collection, and 1:1 marketing.

The most popular post, “Have We Ruined 1:1 Marketing? How the Corner Grocer Became a Creepy Intruder,” was reposted on LinkedIn by Don Peppers, co-author of the book, “1:1 Marketing.”  The idea grew out of an assignment I gave my students at Rutgers School of Business in Camden, N.J. The students had to compare the 1996 version of database marketing, as described by Arthur Hughes in the introduction to his watershed book, “The Complete Database Marketer,” with the current state of online direct/database marketing. Hughes likened a marketing database to the Corner Grocer, who kept mental notes on his customers’ names, personal preferences, and family connections. Specifically, the students had to tell me how marketing technology innovations have enhanced database marketing since 1996.

The Takeaway:

While they concede that the targeted ads they experience are usually relevant, several of them noted that they don’t feel they have been marketed to as individuals; but rather, as a member of a group that was assigned to receive a specific digital advertisement by an algorithm. They felt that the idealized world of database marketing that Hughes described in 1996 was actually more personal than the advanced algorithmic targeting that delivers ads to their social media feeds.

It’s not surprising that Gen Zers expect a more personalized marketing experience. As I wrote in “Gen Z College Students Weigh-in on Personal Data Collection — Privacy Advocates Should Worry.”

Some Gen Zers don’t mind giving up their personal data in exchange for the convenience of targeted ads and discounts; others are uneasy, but all are resigned to the inevitability of it.

Student comments included:

Resignation

“I do not feel it is ethical for companies to distribute our activities to others. Despite my feelings on the situation, it will continue — so I must accept the reality of the situation.”

 Rationalization

“… I feel as though consumers gain the most from this value exchange. Marketers can do pretty much whatever they want with the information that they collect, but they do not really ‘gain’ from this exchange, until people actually purchase their products …  Even if this exchange allows marketers to play with people’s vulnerabilities, it is ultimately consumers’ choice on whether or not they want to buy something.”

 And, in response to a New York Times article about Smart TVs spying on people, one student expressed:

Disgust

“Marketers are gaining money and information through various means and have the ability to do so without risk, because consumers are not going to read [a] 6,000-word privacy policy just to be able to work a television.”

Lest we think that the younger generation is alone in eschewing concerns about privacy, take a look at “Getting Facebook Sober: What Marketers Should Know About Consumers’ Attitudes and Social Data.”

While people claim to be concerned about privacy, they’re not willing to pay for it.  A Survey Monkey poll done for the news site Axios earlier this month shows that three-fourths of people are willing to pay less than $1 per month in exchange for a company not tracking their data while using their product — 54% of them are not willing to pay anything.

As we charge into 2020, we need to carefully consider how the data we give up so willingly is used to manipulate not only our purchasing behavior, but our beliefs and values. In the post, “A Question for Marketers: Is it Social or Is it Media?” I recount Sasha Baron Cohen’s speech at the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) calling Facebook “the greatest propaganda machine in history.”

I sent The Guardian’s publication of Cohen’s speech to my children, two of whom have given up their Facebook accounts. My daughter replied, “Did you learn about this on Facebook? If so, irony is dead.”

Actually, I did. RIP, irony.

Why Include Direct Mail In Optichannel Marketing?

Direct mail is highly effective on its own; however, when you combine it with other marketing channels, it gets even better. Demand Metric, in partnership with PFL, conducted a benchmark study. The optichannel marketing research is meant to understand the importance of multichannel marketing.

Direct mail is highly effective on its own; however, when you combine it with other marketing channels, it gets even better. Demand Metric, in partnership with PFL, conducted a benchmark study, “Multichannel Marketing Maximizing Program Engagement and ROI”. The optichannel marketing research is meant to understand the importance of multichannel marketing and the power of intentional, coordinated marketing efforts.

The goal of the study was to collect data to identify best practices and help marketers know how to reach specific audiences, and when to use particular tactics within their multichannel campaigns. The results indicate that direct mail needs to be a part of your optichannel marketing strategy.

Key findings:

  • When direct mail is personalized and tightly integrated into the channel mix and campaign technology: Average response rates improve significantly, with a 62% increase in those reporting good or very good response rates. The ROI of multichannel campaigns improves significantly, with an 80% increase in those reporting good or very good ROI.
  • Just over half of this study’s participants include direct mail in their multichannel campaigns, and 80% of them report that direct mail improves multichannel campaign performance.
  • The executive, or C-Suite, audience is the most sought after by study participants. Events and direct mail are the most effective channels to reach them.
  • While postcards are the most frequently used direct mail format, the dimensional format does the best job of representing the brand.
  • More channels produce higher response. Respondents using seven or more channels in their mix are 26% more likely to indicate their multichannel programs produce good or very good response.

Respondents use a multitude of channels that include:

  1. Email: 91% usage
  2. Social Media: 81% usage
  3. Events: 73% usage
  4. Display Ads/Remarketing: 60% usage
  5. Direct Mail: 56% usage
  6. Search/PPC: 51% usage
  7. Outbound Business Development/Sales Development: 47% usage
  8. Content Syndication: 35% usage
  9. Other: 5% usage

Most marketers are using between three and five channels on any given campaign, but results show that you should consider adding more channels. When marketers use seven or more channels, they report a 77% “very good” or “good” response rate. The report also found that marketers are not consistently using the most effective channels. The top three most effective channels are: events at 83%, integrated and personalized direct mail at 78%, and Search/PPC at 73%. What are you using?

Direct Mail Needs More Attention From Marketers

The report shows that marketers are most familiar with postcard and letter formats, and report that they use those formats most. Postcards are the least expensive direct mail format. Many marketers favor postcards because there is nothing to open: the message is easily visible. Dimensional mail formats are a close third in usage. This format includes pieces that are not flat, like the other types, but have an element of depth to them. A dimensional mail piece is often sent in boxes or tubes, and its very form invites opening it. These pieces evoke natural curiosity and tend to drive higher response rates. Have you tried dimensional mail?

According to study participants, direct mail clearly enhances multichannel campaign performance. In this study, 52% report a moderate to major improvement in campaign performance when direct mail is one of the channels. When direct mail is part of the channel mix, campaigns have slightly better response rates. Personalized direct mail generates significantly better response rates to multichannel campaigns. Are you using direct mail enough?

As you can see, adding direct mail to your optichannel marketing campaigns is significant. The more personalized and integrated it is, the better your response rate is going to be. Are you ready to get started with more personalized direct mail?

The Psychology-Based Marketing 2019 Roundup of Top Stories

Psychology-based marketing has a lot of nooks and crannies, but here are the top four stories that stayed in the corners of marketers’ minds in 2019.

Psychology-based marketing has a lot of nooks and crannies, but here are the top four stories that stayed in the corners of marketers’ minds in 2019.

I wrote these pieces in 2019, though you were still reading my columns from previous years. I think, though, that it’s important to look at the thoughts from this year and perhaps take a look at evergreen pieces at a later time.

These posts are listed based on popularity.

No. 1

“Persuasive Copy That Sells: It’s Not About the Words” from Jan. 15 interested the largest number of you. Marketers who are used to using “Limited Time,” “Only One Left,” “Don’t Miss Out,” “Never to Be Offered Again,” “Big Discounts,” “Guaranteed,” and “Free,” “Free” and “Free” wanted to see what was new.

I wrote:

“Marketing copy strategies that align with ‘feeling good’ address many aspects of human nature and what really influences us to change our behavior. It’s no longer about the words we use to influence behavior, it’s about the values we project, our brands, and the values of those we want to do business with us.”

No. 2

“3 Customer Experience Tips for Marketers to Reduce Churn” on May 7 gets into how good customer experiences are essential to customer retention.

“Without carefully planned and executed employee onboarding programs, employee attrition goes up, and so does corporate waste, as it costs about nine months of an employees’ salary to terminate and start over again.

“This same principle applies to customer loyalty and the very high cost of losing even just one customer. Yet it’s hard to find “onboarding” programs for customers that are as robust as those for employees. Even with the cost of losing a customer being much higher than the loss of a middle management employee. When you lose a customer, you lose not just the cost of acquiring that customer, you lose the next transaction you were counting on, and you lose their entire lifetime value, which can be pretty substantial in the B2B world.”

No. 3

“The 4 Most Critical Steps for Happy Customers, Profits” appeared on March 12 and got into how the face of your brand needs to be happy, too. Sure, customers care about whether your employees are happy and treated well — especially if it affects how those employees treat them. But Target Marketing blogger Jessica Nable recently pointed out that business partners care, too, and will check if you have heavy turnover.

I write:

“With the frenzied rush to make happy customers, engage them emotionally, and be transparent and relevant at all times, many companies unwittingly skip over the more important goal: making happy employees, engaging them emotionally, and being transparent and relevant at all times.”

No. 4

“The Danger of a Single Story for Marketers in the Age of Storytelling” piqued your interest, starting on Oct. 22.

Stories from us are what pull customers in. If they like the experience, they tell good stories about us. Or, I should say, good stories about what we did for them.

As I say in this column, “We marketers today are really the new age of storytellers.”

  • What’s your story?
  • Do your customers know it?

Here’s how we tell it:

“Our websites, white papers, and content marketing are written just like classic novelettes. A teaser to create intrigue, a climax that builds with all of the reasons a customer needs us and needs us now, and a conclusion for how customers can get what they need from us. For a price.”

Back to You

What do you think will be the top psychology-based marketing stories in 2020? Please let me know in the comments section!

5 Ways Healthcare Marketers Can Prepare for Seat at the Table

Healthcare marketers, are you at the kid’s table or the grown-ups table? Whether in a small town or large city, your medical practice or hospital is impacted by external matters, such as zoning issues, health plan changes, and the national debate about healthcare access.

Healthcare marketers, are you at the kid’s table or the grown-ups table?

Whether in a small town or large city, your medical practice or hospital is impacted by external matters, such as zoning issues, health plan changes, and the national debate about healthcare access. Are you at the leadership table when these issues are made?

Historically — and even today, in some organizations — the marketing and communication function was seen as a “packager” of decisions made by others. This “take this and sell it” mindset can fail spectacularly when the stakes are high, forcing a series of clarifications that make the organization look uncoordinated.

A lack of upfront input from communications contributes to decisions that come across as tone deaf when messaged to the public or other influential audiences  In these situations, the communications function hasn’t failed, but leadership failed to anticipate the external response, because of a lack of communications input at the beginning.

The communications function should be a critical input to actual decision-making, especially when it impacts patients. Having communication professionals at the table can help operational leadership anticipate — and prepare for — criticisms and questions that will arise when major decisions are announced.

For this construct to work, however, the communications function needs to come to the table prepared. This requires five things:

  • Reading a broad array of consumer, medical, and policy publications to understand various perspectives on trending issues, as well as core ones;
  • Staying in contact with external audiences through original and third-party market research and participation in influencer events;
  • Anticipating likely questions and bringing well-developed FAQs to the table for solution development by the full leadership team with an emphasis on how the organization will help transition those who are negatively impacted;
  • Aligning (or internally pointing out misalignment) between a decision and the organization’s publicly stated mission, vision, values, and previous statements. In cases where they do not seem to align, be transparent about the considerations that led to the decision and any steps being taken elsewhere in the organization to lessen perceived harm; and,
  • Recognizing that the outcomes of issues management may impede progress on your carefully constructed strategic marketing framework, particularly if the issue lingers in traditional or social media.

Wishing you a happy holiday season and a seat at the grown-ups table.

Marketers Find the Least-Wrong Answers Via Modeling

Why do marketers still build models when we have ample amounts of data everywhere? Because we will never have every piece of data about everything. We just don’t know what we don’t know.

Why do marketers still build models when we have ample amounts of data everywhere? Because we will never have every piece of data about everything. We just don’t know what we don’t know.

Okay, then — we don’t get to know about everything, but what are the data that we possess telling us?

We build models to answer that question. Even scientists who wonder about the mysteries of the universe and multiverses use models for their research.

I have been emphasizing the importance of modeling in marketing through this column for a long time. If I may briefly summarize a few benefits here:

  • Models Fill in the Gaps, covering those annoying “unknowns.” We may not know for sure if someone has an affinity for luxury gift items, but we can say that “Yes, with data that we have, she is very likely to have such an affinity.” With a little help from the models, the “unknowns” turn into “potentials.”
  • Models Summarize Complex Data into simple-to-use “scores.” No one has time to dissect hundreds of data variables every time we make a decision. Model scores provide simple answers, such as “Someone likely to be a bargain-seeker.” Such a model may include 10 to 20 variables, but the users don’t need to worry about those details at the time of decision-making. Just find suitable offers for the targets, based on affinities and personas (which are just forms of models).
  • Models are Far More Accurate Than Human Intuition. Even smart people can’t imagine interactions among just two or three variables in their heads. Complex multivariate interaction detection is a job for a computer.
  • Models Provide Consistent Results. Human decision-makers may get lucky once in a while, but it will be hard to keep it up with machines. Mathematics do not fluctuate too much in terms of performance, provided with consistent and accurate data feeds.
  • Models Reveal Hidden Patterns in data. When faced with hundreds of data variables, humans often resort to what they are accustomed to (often fewer than four to five factors). Machines indiscriminately find new patterns, relentlessly looking for the best suitable answers.
  • Models Help Expand the Targeting Universe. If you want a broader target, just go after slightly lower score targets. You can even measure the risk factors while in such an expansion mode. That is not possible with some man-made rules.
  • When Done Right, Models Save Time and Effort. Marketing automation gets simpler, too, as even machines can tell high and low scores apart easily. But the keywords here are “when done right.”

There are many benefits of modeling, even in the age of abundant data. The goal of any data application is to help in the decision-making process, not aid in hoarding the data and bragging about it. Do you want to get to the accurate, consistent, and simple answers — fast? Don’t fight against modeling, embrace it. Try it. And if it doesn’t work, try it in another way, as the worst model often beats man-made rules, easily.

But this time, I’m not writing this article just to promote the benefits of modeling again. Assuming that you embrace the idea already, let’s now talk about the limitations of it. With any technique, users must be fully aware of the downsides of it.

It Mimics Existing Patterns

By definition, models identify and mimic the patterns in the existing data. That means, if the environment changes drastically, all models built in the old world will be rendered useless.

For example, if there are significant changes in the supply chain in a retail business, product affinity models built for old lines of products won’t work anymore (even if products may look similar). More globally, if there were major disruptions, such as a market crash or proliferation of new technologies, none of the old assumptions would continue to be applicable.

The famous economics phrase Ceteris paribus — all other things being equal — governs conventional modeling. If you want your models to be far more adaptive, then consider total automation of modeling through machine learning. But I still suggest trying a few test models in an old-fashioned way, before getting into a full automation mode.

If the Target Is Off, Everything Is Off

If the target mark is hung on a wrong spot, no sharpshooter will be able to hit the real target. A missile without a proper guidance system is worse than not having one at all. Setting the right target for a model is the most critical and difficult part in the whole process, requiring not only technical knowledge, but also deep understanding of the business at stake, the nature of available data, and the deployment mechanism at the application stage.

This is why modeling is often called “half science, half art.” A model is only as accurate as the target definition of the model. (For further details on this complex subject, refer to “Art of Targeting”).

The Model Is Only as Good as the Input Data

No model can be saved if there are serious errors or inconsistencies in the data. It is not just about bluntly wrong data. If the nature of the data is not consistent between the model development sample and the practical pool of data (where the model will be applied and used), the model in question will be useless.

This is why the “Analytics Sandbox” is important. Such a sandbox environment is essential — not just for simplification of model development, but also for consistent application of models. Most mishaps happen before or after the model development stage, mostly due to data inconsistencies in terms of shapes and forms, and less due to sheer data errors (not that erroneous data is acceptable).

The consistency factor matters a lot: If some data variables are “consistently” off, they may still possess some predictive power. I would even go as far as stating that consistency matters more than sheer accuracy.

Accuracy Is a Relative Term

Users often forget this important fact, but model scores aren’t pinpoint accurate all of the time. Some models are sharper than others, too.

A model score is just the best estimate with the existing data. In other words, we should take model scores as the least-wrong answers in a given situation.

So, when I say it is accurate, I mean to say a model is more accurate than human intuition based on a few basic data points.

Therefore, the user must always consider the risk of being wrong. Now, being wrong about “Who is more likely to respond to this 15% discount offer?” is a lot less grave than being wrong about “Who is more likely to be diabetic?”

In fact, if I personally face such a situation, I won’t even recommend building the latter model, as the cost of being wrong is simply too high. (People are very sensitive about their medical information.) Some things should not just be estimated.

Even with innocuous models, such as product affinities and user propensities, users should never treat them as facts. Don’t act like you “know” the target, simply because some model scores are available to you. Always approach your target with a gentle nudge; as in, “I don’t know for sure if you would be interested in our new line of skin care products, but would you want to hear more about it?” Such gentle approaches always sound friendlier than acting like you “know” something about them for sure. That seems just rude on the receiving end, and recipients of blunt messages may even think that you are indeed creepy.

Users sometimes make bold moves with an illusion that data and analytics always provide the right answers. Maybe the worst fallacy in the modern age is the belief that anything a computer spits out is always correct.

Users Abuse Models

Last month, I shared seven ways users abuse models and ruin the results (refer to “Don’t Ruin Good Models by Abusing Them”). As an evangelist of modeling techniques, I always try to prevent abuse cases, but they still happen in the application stages. All good intentions of models go out the window if they are used for the wrong reasons or in the wrong settings.

I am not at all saying that anyone should back out of using models in their marketing practices for the shortfalls that I listed here. Nonetheless, to be consistently successful, users must be aware of limitations of models, as well. Especially if you are about to go on full marketing automation. With improper application of models, you may end up automating bad or wrong practices really fast. For the sake of customers on the receiving end — not just for the safety of your position in the marketing industry — please be more careful with this sharp-edged tool called modeling.

Marketers Know Time Is Money, So Why Do They Care About the Other 271 Things?

Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers and a tireless worker, is credited with the expression “Time is Money.” And we all know how true that is. Especially when we are wasting it reading 271 things we didn’t really need to know.

Readers will no doubt share my sense of deja vu at the overuse of numbers to catch our attention — 5 Essential Steps: 16 Mandatory Rules; 4 Impossible Challenges; Etc. signposting articles, inviting our interest so we’ll read on. It’s not all that surprising that the reason we find these so engaging is that most of us are conditioned to God’s 10 Commandments. You can’t get a better reference than that and the copywriter who penned them must be a paradise celebrity.

In and around our industry, there are lots more than 271 things you don’t need to know at all.

If you have Denny Hatch’s “Ultimate 85-Point Marketeers Checklist” on your desk, you hardly need any more commandments. And if you do, you can just Google your query and you’ll have the answer in seconds. What’s surprising is how many of these “musts” appear over and over in our daily feast of business media coverage. How many times do we ask ourselves: Haven’t I heard that a million times before, and does that stuff really matter, anyway? Keeping our attention on what does matter is important.

Last week, writing here, Bob Bly gave us a numbered list, “Why the 10 Principles of the Direct Response Mindset Still Matter” and made the important point that the primary objective of direct marketing “is not to enhance image, build a brand, increase awareness, or entertain. It is to get more inquiries, leads, orders, and sales.”  But what struck me as most important was his reference to a “Direct Response Mindset.” If you have that mindset hard-wired, you don’t have to worry about all those other 270 mandates. If it is not about inquiries, leads, orders, and sales, it’s not about direct and data-driven marketing.  If I had a numbered list, mine would incorporate getting sales at less cost than the amount you could afford, getting them below the allowable cost per order (ACPO) into No. 1.

The fact is that what really matters cannot usually be framed in a numbered sequence, but needs more open space to articulate and define ideas. (Although, the 10 Commandments is a great exception.)

Ask yourself this question: Which came first? Twitter or the fact that today’s C-level executives (sadly, including our president) seem to be too busy or too lacking in concentrated brain power to read anything longer than a tweet?

Perhaps that’s why one of the world’s largest and most successful corporations has done away with fancy PowerPoint presentations and requires the convener of a meeting to prepare a written (no illustrations) meeting brief covering the intent and objective of the meeting and providing the necessary business and financial background and action desired. At the start of each meeting, the participants are handed a printout and given the necessary quiet time for them to read the brief. What a great way to get everyone aligned to the issues and at the same starting point. Any company that would follow this procedure would be sure to make meetings much more productive and get over the fact that more often than not, executives have not read the carefully prepared presentations or memoranda distributed electronically.

Having had a lot of interactions with consultants who were tasked with and compensated for reducing costs in client companies, one thing I have never found them focusing on was wasted time, like knowing all 271 things that fill space and waste time. If, especially in service companies, compensation and related benefits are one of the largest expense categories, the productive use of the time of the staff must be one of the most fertile areas for savings. Because it’s hard to measure and, therefore, outside the remuneration parameters of most cost-cutting consultancies, the value of time doesn’t make the cut for priority issues to be addressed.

It is difficult to forget that at an Executive Committee meeting at a Brazilian company, while waiting for the CEO to turn up, the executives gossiped about football (a Brazilian religion), sex (another Brazilian religion), and other topics. A back-of-the-envelope calculation of the cost of the wasted half hour until the CEO apologetically appeared came to something in the region of $15,000. When subsequently informed of this calculation, the CEO shamefully agreed that it was outrageous that he should have been so late. “But” he said shyly on reflection, “It’s my $15,000.” One can only imagine how many other meetings have similar unproductive costs.

Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers and a tireless worker, is credited with the expression “Time is Money.” And we all know how true that is. Especially when we are wasting it reading 271 things we didn’t really need to know. Franklin certainly would have endorsed “the importance of substituting zero-sum mindsets (fasting, complaining, and suffering) with additive-sum ones (plentiful-gratitude)”

That’s why he was a big fan of Thanksgiving, something for which we can all give thanks.

May you have a hearty one.

An SEO Consultant’s 4-Point SEO Holiday Wish List for Santa

This year, I want to take a more childish approach and write an SEO wish list for Santa. Here are four things that I want from Santa. These wishes are not big, so I hope Santa can deliver this list.

As I write this post, Thanksgiving and the rush to the end of the year are upon us. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, for it is filled with good cheer, good eats, and no expectation that gifts will be exchanged.

In the past at Thanksgiving, I have written about gratitude. But this year, I want to take a more childish approach and write an SEO wish list for Santa. Here are four things that I want from Santa. These wishes are not big, so I hope Santa can deliver this list:

  • Make all of my clients’ sites super-speedy
  • Teach all of my client teams how to write unique, valuable content — faster
  • Make all client structured data instantly accurate, complete, and error-free
  • Fix all mobile search/usability problems, immediately

Why Is This My Wish List?

Although each of these wishes are for client sites, this is, in fact, a selfish wish list. Fast sites are still the gold standard — table stakes for good SEO results. If Santa will supercharge all of my client sites, then the other SEO tactics that I recommend will have a firm and fast base to run from. It is foolish, read borderline delusional, to assume that a slow or marginally fast site is going to deliver a successful search optimization project.

Content Team Challenges Grow

Today, the message that high-quality content is an SEO must-have has finally seeped deeper into organizations, beyond just the SEO team. As the understanding the impact of content on SEO results grows, it is this SEO’s expectation that content teams will be tasked with creating more and more high-quality content. To meet the demand, content development teams will need to create more content, faster. This wish benefits the SEO consultant and the client.

Structured Data — A Key to Stronger Results

Structured data provide information that search engines can use to understand a site’s content and provide the best search results possible. Adding Schema markup to the HTML improves the way a page displays in search results pages (SERPs) by enhancing the rich snippets that are displayed beneath the page title. The rich results give searchers cues that a page may, in fact, address what they are searching. Clearer signals will result in improved results, but the structured data vocabulary is still evolving. My wish for instant, accurate, complete, and error-free structured data for client sites is a wish for an easier path.

Unaddressed Mobile Problems Are a Brake on Results

Mobile is firmly entrenched as the device of choice for a growing majority of searchers. To deny the importance of mobile is to fly in the face of reality. If a site has mobile issues that are flagged by Google’s Search Console, then it is fair to say that these will act as a brake on the search optimization program’s results. Mobile errors are — to use a sports metaphor — the equivalent of unforced errors. Quickly fixing mobile search/usability problems limits the damage; hence, my wish.

Perhaps, if you believe in Santa, you may get your wishes granted. I know Santa will bring me these four little wishes, because I’ve been very good this year. Maybe?

An Instagram World With No ‘Likes’ — How Does the Test Impact Advertisers, Users?

Instagram made a big move. What’s the official motive behind testing a social media world with no “likes”? The CEO of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, stated in the announcement that the test in the U.S. and Canada was “about creating a less pressurized environment, where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.”

Instagram made a big move. What’s the official motive behind testing a social media world with no “likes”?

The CEO of Instagram, Adam Mosseri, stated in the announcement that the test in the U.S. and Canada was “about creating a less pressurized environment, where people feel comfortable expressing themselves.

For all intents and purposes, Instagram’s latest power move has an alibi: The platform claims to be more concerned with the well-being of its users than with making a profit. Whether or not the company’s true motives are in line with reducing mental illness in its young users — including their stress, anxiety, and depression — the test has certainly changed the way the platform operates.

Diving into the many possible outcomes of this potential change is essential for marketers and Instagram users, alike, in order to best understand what to expect from the future of social media.

Whether positive or negative, the removal of likes has garnered opinions from the masses. Feelings toward the test range from anger to animosity to excitement. The fact of the matter is, likes have been a major catalyst in the way Instagram is used and success is measured, both personally and professionally. For brands utilizing influencers for promotion, likes have acted as a currency by showing how engaged an audience is, while effectively helping brands make decisions on whether or not an influencer should endorse their product or not. Without it, the marketplace will have to be optimized by these advertisers as they uncover what’s to come on the forefront of social media marketing.

Why Instagram Users Are Angry

It comes as no surprise that many of the users who are angry fall under the influencer and celebrity category. For many of them, Instagram likes have completely built their platforms as social media stars. Many of them uncovered the amount of engagement it took from early on and were able to build a fan base of loyal likers in order to gain enough clout to start being paid for promotions. It has been hypothesized by some influencers that Instagram doesn’t actually care at all about the wellbeing of its users. In fact, while its CEO claims the company “will make decisions that hurt the business if they help people’s health,” others are claiming that the test goes deeper than that, and is ultimately in favor of Instagram’s business: It has been hypothesized that this is being done as a means for control.

While influencers do have a home on Instagram, the brand deals and partnerships they forge on the platform do not currently have anything in them for Instagram. Thus, the removal of likes could make it so that marketers opt to spend their advertising dollars directly through Instagram, more heavily utilizing Instagram’s advertising tools. This begs the question(s): Why would they no longer go through influencers? Can they still get a feel for the overall engagement a user has? Unfortunately, because the metrics marketers rely on when selecting influencers will no longer be visible, it may become challenging to obtain real and true metrics, as these numbers can be easily manipulated if sent over from the source.

And frankly, for some losing likes simply means stripping down and removing their online social status, and they don’t like it. The measurement of likes acts as a symbol for popularity and fame, and many have expressed their dislike toward the change because of this. Removing likes will make it harder for users to determine if someone is cool simply by measurement, and understandably, for those for which Instagram has helped shape careers, this poses a threat to their success.

Why Instagram Users Are Excited

More obviously, many Instagram users are excited; particularly younger users and their parents. Having the platform to rely on for social status and humble brags has created uncharted territory in the adolescent social scene. Likes are the most obvious cool factor when looking at a user’s profile. For regular users who peruse Instagram as a social tool and not to create a business, the pressure to depend on likes as a means of validation, a measurement of self-worth, and a ranking of social status, could completely shift the way young users post. This feeling of “not being enough” if you don’t have the most likes in your social circle is exactly what Instagram claims to be tackling head-on with this test.

But this may not just be a positive change for common users; some influencers have actually expressed their excitement and support for the change, as well. As mentioned, Instagram has evolved over the years from a simple photo-sharing tool to a space where people are constantly trying to be the very best on the scene.

Many users claim that a major shift in the way Instagram was used happened when it changed the feed from chronological order to placing the most engaging posts at the top. The reason many influencers rose to where they were when this change occurred was because people genuinely enjoyed the creative energy they were putting into their profiles. When top-engaging posts were the first thing seen upon opening the app, influencers (and regular users, alike) had to evolve with the change, if they wanted to continue to get the attention they were used to. As a result, many sacrificed their own creativity by means of posting something less original that would guarantee high engagement.

For those who have felt the need to conform to the more popular style of posts, removing likes would mean they may no longer feel constricted or bound to posting things that are guaranteed to perform well (i.e. attract enough likes to deem them relevant enough for the top of the feed). This may allow for a more fruitful array of postings from influencers, celebrities, and young users of Instagram, bringing back into the picture a sense of creative freedom and self-worth.

What It All Means for Users and Marketers, Alike

Whether or not the test is here to stay, the statement it’s made so far has shaken many of its users, and most have an opinion. From regular users — particularly those in Generation Z — to influencers and celebrities, and brands that use Instagram as part of their sales funnel, the feelings of frustration and utter glee are certainly worth evaluating as Instagram chooses how to move forward.

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 …