Why Gmail Is No Longer Cool

Gmail launched in 2004, and was immediately a hit largely because they offered more free storage than anyone. It was more than storage that kept Gmail the leader in email, it was powerful features that were easy to use overall. Gmail was one of the first major applications to use AJAX (if you really want to know what this is, Google it, but it’s not important) technology, which almost all applications use today.

Gmail launched in 2004, and was immediately a hit largely because they offered more free storage than anyone. It was more than storage that kept Gmail the leader in email, it was powerful features that were easy to use overall. Gmail was one of the first major applications to use AJAX (if you really want to know what this is, Google it, but it’s not important) technology, which almost all applications use today. They kept enhancing Gmail at a pace that made it nearly impossible for others to keep up.

Gmail now “suffers” from what most businesses (and technology) suffer from: It is now the establishment. Established firms (and technologies) have more customers (users) and years of legacy systems, which enable their business. A small startup comes along with new flashy technology and people say, “Why doesn’t Gmail (or any company/software) do that?” People are drawn to what is new and shiny, and suffer from FOMO (fear of missing out), so they try the new software/business.

Gmail is still an incredible email client, and it is impressive to see how what they originally built still lives on in the current application. However, Outlook email has caught up with many of the features, and in some ways surpassed it. Microsoft has stopped acting like the establishment (in some ways) and more like a startup. There are real startups that are also competing for email clients and receiving accolades, as well as funding.

It’s harder to be the establishment and maintain the leading edge on all fronts. Google still dominates search by a long shot and shows no sign of becoming the establishment for search, but some day that too will happen.

This blog is not about encouraging you to leave Gmail and try Outlook or something else. The point of this blog is that most software and businesses become “the establishment.”

Don’t become stale. maintain your fresh perspective and startup-like flexibility and energy. Do something bold and build from there.

‘Who Cares?’ Online May Overtake Offline Spending in 2018

I found it quaint when my server at a hotel restaurant came up to me and said this morning, “Would you like to see today’s paper with your breakfast?”

server
“waiter,” Creative Commons license. | Credit: Flickr by faungg’s photos

I found it quaint when my server at a hotel restaurant came up to me and said this morning, “Would you like to see today’s paper with your breakfast?”

“No, thank you,” I said. I actually had had this week’s print issue of The Economist with me, and opened that to read, instead. As I looked around the room however, most everyone who was reading anything was doing so on their smartphones.

While my youthful eyes (that’s a joke) still prefer print for reading, and I still prefer print for pictures, the truth is that even my own preferences for print in many instances have fallen away to smartphone, tablet, and PC demands and consumption habits. It’s as if print media has emerged as a quiet luxury — a respite from digital content and its potential many distractions.

Two weeks ago, Bruce Biegel of The Winterberry Group provided his annual “Outlook for Data-Driven Marketing for 2018,” along with a recap for 2017, at the Direct Marketing Club of New York. Two excellent summaries of the presentation are here and here, and the presentation is available for a download at the Winterberry Group site, currently. Scroll down on the home page.

During the presentation, I tweeted out the fact that online ad spend (display, search, email, mobile, affiliate, lead gen and social) he predicts will overtake offline ad spend (direct mail, teleservices, shopper and event marketing) for the first time in 2018 — with measured media, traditional media (broadcast TV, radio, outdoor, magazine, newspapers and cinema), still holding onto the largest slice. One of my industry colleagues tweeted back, “Who cares?”

Winterberry Gorup report
Credit: “Outlook for Data-Driven Marketing – 2018″ by The Winterberry Group

I suppose meeting a milestone such as this truly is inevitable, and matters only inasmuch as a historical marker of changing patterns of media consumption — and a growing comfort level for data-driven marketing. Advertisers are only chasing consumers where they are, after all. Bruce even remarked how Winterberry Group even underestimated the rapidity of the offline-to-online shift in 2017, with direct mail spend falling faster than anticipated. (It is not without note that Bruce characterized direct mail as perhaps the most “measurable, accountable” of all media.)

The next “Who cares?” moment may be if and when traditional media spend is overtaken by either offline or online media spend (or both of them), as advertisers seek out such “measurable, accountable” ad spend over the straightforward brand spend that tends to dominate traditional media categories. As chief marketing officers become more data-conversant, will they seek out more direct customer engagement over impressions? Will cost-per-thousand be supplanted by cost-per-action, even within traditional media categories? With spending on data set to grow in 2018 by 5.7 percent, offline ad spend by 3.8 percent, and digital ad spend including mobile by 15.2 percent — while traditional media is projected to decline by 0.8 percent (quite remarkable for a year with the Winter Olympics and mid-term Elections) — one might expect the “Who cares?” moment for traditional media may be coming soon.

But who cares? There will always be a role for branding — even as consumer interaction as an objective rises. Omnichannel marketing, single data views of the customer, and “right place, right offer, right moment” are largely directional and aspirational, and are well-worth pursuing. But 100 percent efficient ad spending will always be elusive.

I’m not even certain the consumer wants to be all that much engaged. Consumers don’t always consume — they sometimes sleep, eat, relax and recharge, too. And it’s time for me to finish my breakfast.