Pepsi Fumbles Context of NFL Playoffs

Context and relevancy are supposed to be the next big things. But even in the world of TV, where programming is known months in advance, brands still drop the ball — like Pepsi did in the NFL conference championship broadcasts last week.

Context and relevancy are supposed to be the next big things. But to actually serve contextually relevant content isn’t just a challenge for personalized, digital media. Even in the world of TV, where programming is known months in advance, brands still drop the ball — like Pepsi did in the NFL conference championship broadcasts last week.

For Sunday’s NFC Championship game in Philadelphia, played between the Minnesota Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles, Pepsi seemed to run just one commercial: A Dallas Cowboys spot that ran at least three times during the game in the Philadelphia area:

So, OK, somewhere the ad buyer said, “This is an NFL game, run our best performing NFL commercial.” What’s the big deal?

Well, that was silly for a bunch of reasons. Not least of which is that the Cowboys didn’t even make the playoffs this year. So, most of their fans aren’t tuning in.

What makes it even worse is this was a game that drew heavy Minnesota and Philadelphia audiences. Sure, fans from across the country watched too, but I bet Philly and Minnesota fans made up half of the audience.

And all of those viewers have one thing in common: They don’t like the Dallas Cowboys.

Minnesota fans have some history with Dallas.

And Eagles fans … well former Eagle Bennie Logan said it best:

Former Eagle Bennie Logan on the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry.
Former Eagle Bennie Logan on the Eagles-Cowboys rivalry.

Pepsi running this commercial over and over again to Eagles and Vikings fans isn’t just ineffective, it’s insulting. Pepsi might as well have run a Coke ad.

The thing is, in the past, this was OK. You may even think it’s OK today. But it’s not going to be OK tomorrow.

If we’re going to meet the challenges of relevance at the personal level, we need to get our heads out of the sand about marketing at the macro level. You’re never going to bring effective relevancy to your digital content if you can’t recognize that a Dallas commercial was a bad idea this playoff season.

Understand what’s going on with your audience when they’re engaging with your marketing. Why are they there? What do they need? What’s happening around them? That’s what’s going to make your marketing stand out in the years ahead.

Should You Really Bother With Personalization?

If you weren’t a marketing professional, you’d probably find it hard to believe that there is a debate of sorts in rather large organizations about personalization in marketing. In many cases, it’s less of a debate than an absence of one — or serious consideration, or a plan to get there.

Database & CRMIf you weren’t a marketing professional, you’d probably find it hard to believe that there is a debate of sorts in rather large organizations about personalization in marketing. In many cases, it’s less of a debate than an absence of one — or serious consideration, or a plan to get there.

You’d probably say or think something such as, “It’s common sense … why wouldn’t they do it?!”

Yes, the great “unwashed” have high expectations of the brands that wish to share in their discretionary income.

When IBM’s Watson can carry on a conversation of sorts with Bob Dylan in a TV commercial, and beat a grandmaster in chess, why can’t it send a postcard reminding you to get your oil changed?

These all sound like reasonable expectations to the “Valued Customer,” as we’re referred to by the non-personalized brands we have all engaged with. Don’t they seem reasonable?

For the longest time, Amazon stopped sending “people who bought X also bought Y” emails. Granted, Amazon’s personalization is part of it’s “all of the above” strategy — the company literally invests in everything it sees value in.

Moving Beyond the Basics

Yet most organizations have limited dollars and are fixated on “covering the basics” in their outbound communication. As a result, personalization has been limited in the vast majority of cases. The low costs and high performance of emailing have kept many brands from investing in higher-value touches with consumers — even as the CRM waves hit ever higher crests.

Why? Personalization alone doesn’t add enough value. And the reason is that personalization without relevancy doesn’t work. The basics of personalization in email marketing have been around for years. The consumer is accustomed to it and, in some cases, may expect it.

Relevancy, however, is harder to come by.

“Thank you for your purchase, Mike” works. “Mike, to get the best performance from your new time-trial bike, try using Rock N Roll Gold oil to protect your chain from rust and dirt.” works better.

In order to accomplish this level of personalization and relevancy, you’d need to know a few things. You would need the dexterity with this data to get it into your communication easily. If you know I’ve purchased a time-trial bike, then you need to know about bicycles. This could be challenging for mass/big box retailers like Amazon or Jet. But consider that Amazon is already providing “video shorts” on the categories you spend time in — and obviously, the ideas in those videos fit perfectly with their inventory.

Relevancy can also mean things that personalization isn’t often used for. More often than not, personalization still means “insert variable here.” On the other hand, relevancy can mean very important things that shape and influence a customer relationship … like recognition.

Simple and Powerfully Effective

I’ve found that a simple “thank you” message to the most valuable customers a brand has, thanking them for being loyal, and choosing them ― even without an offer ― generated incremental sales upon open and in the following several days.

Think it doesn’t pay to show the customers you know them and appreciate them? Think that’s not relevant? Think again.

Yet, when was the last time you had any brand thank you? Brands I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars with have provided not-so-much as an email’s-worth of recognition.

How about the “profitability problem” that comes with one-time buyers? Does your favorite brand thank you when you make that all-important first repeat purchase? These individuals are categorically more profitable, and materially more likely than “one-and-done” buyers to buy the brand again and again. A little recognition establishes the context of their relationship — and the fact that they even have one with the brand … goes a long way.

Personalization can be easy without being valuable to the customer. Relevancy can be more challenging, especially if you don’t have your data house in order. Relevancy requires a strategy — but relevancy works, big-time.

Putting Relevancy and Personalization Into Action

Some examples of relevancy in action …

  • Announcing a Sale in a category consumers bought in previously, when they “missed” an expected purchase
  • Social Proof — don’t just say it’s the best product, show them how many stars it was ranked and by how many people. Show them a review from someone most like them. This is more doable than many brands realize — and the “content” is simply … free.
  • Localize — Instead of promoting product, promote Gene Smith in the golfing department (to folks who bought golf equipment). Not only will the employee morale increase, your customers can be nudged into multichannel buying. Think that doesn’t make a difference? Multichannel buyers spend more and spend more often in virtually every category.
  • Product Recommendations are “old news” — but they still work. Don’t leave this out. But combine it with social proof and watch conversion climb.

Personalization is important, but not without building relevancy to an ever-greater level. Consider the simple fact that the less relevant your communications are with your customer, the less they’ll find your brand relevant … and irrelevancy is where brands go to wither and die.

The Bottom Line: Relevancy Is the Value in Personalization

The upside to personalizing can be real. While blanket, low-grade personalization may have become passé, an authentic dialog based on relevancy is an investable business strategy. This requires having your data, your strategy and your knowledge of the customer, and the numerous cohorts that undoubtedly exist in every business.

The bottom line is simple: Personalization without a workable strategy may not be a good business value, and therefore may not be warranted.

Delivering relevancy to your customer experience, however, is priceless.

 

Relevancy, the Currency of Conversion

More. The marketer’s mandate will always be “more” — more traffic, more sales, more margins. Add to it that in order to get more, we’ll need to test more ideas, try new strategies, new media and mediums — not all of which will work.

Oliver Twist moreMore.

The marketer’s mandate will always be “more” — more traffic, more sales, more margins. Add to it that in order to get more, we’ll need to test more ideas, try new strategies, new media and mediums — not all of which will work.

More ultimately means sales conversion, and there’s a data-driven approach to getting more that leverages a new currency. Not Bitcoin, but relevancy, because relevancy is the “Currency of Conversion.” That conversion currency is based on the intelligent use of data.

Truly accomplishing data-driven success requires focus and simplifying — one of the few constants in business marketing.

Through advising dozens of organizations on the intelligent use of data to inform and improve performance, it is often helpful to come back to some of the fundamentals in thinking about the application of our data to business problems. And while often we focus on the “what” that has to do with data, let’s consider perhaps the most important question — “Why?”

Why Should I Inform Marketing With Data?

While it’s likely considered risky nowadays to lack a data strategy or better yet, a data-driven strategy, we do need to ask why. I’ve been surprised at the lack of fluency even experienced IT people and all kinds of marketers have when asked why they need to invest in data strategies. That’s despite the “reality” that everyone knows they “should.” Let’s deal with that.

  • Reporting. Many organizations still desire better reporting, Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) being the most important. It’s a baseline use of data, and it’s important. So data serves a purpose and provides consistent, specific solutions to the questions “how are we doing?” It’s hard to operate without it, but it should become “table-stakes” in short order.
  • Analysis and Insights. Data, if organized and governed reasonably well, can yield insights. This requires you have an analyst with a big brain to pore through it. The analyst needs to know enough about your business to understand what is relevant and what is not. The analyst must also consider materiality and the difference between correlation and causality.

This last point being an all-too-common mistake. For example, “our customers are rich” so we need to target rich people. Being affluent may be correlated with buying your product, but it may not be causal! We’ve found this example many times when actually statistically testing to see what attributes have the most causal/predictive relationship. For a full study on causality vs. causation, see this piece from Stats.org.

  • Customer Intelligence. Customer Intelligence is the next-level beyond analytics. In CI, we now use purpose-specific algorithms to derive new data and to identify valuable patterns that arise in large amounts of data. It’s fair to call it “the union between marketing and data mining.” Customer Intelligence provides us the answers to questions we don’t ask because we don’t know how to answer them.

The Most Important Reason to Inform Marketing With Data

The low cost of communicating digitally has, in some cases, left relevancy underrated. This is no coincidence. When you spend real money to send a quality, brand-appropriate direct mail piece or even more money on television — you care a lot about relevancy. This message has to be right, it has to be on-brand, it has to resonate. Today, that mass-market TV ad isn’t a winner if it doesn’t “break the Internet.”

But when it’s an email that costs a fraction of a cent to deploy and just a few fixed dollars to create amortization over millions of recipients, we as marketers can get impressively lazy. Relevancy is trumped by low cost and high ROI. Who cares if the message is perceived as irrelevant? The email drop “worked.”

Let’s consider this further.

Let’s say the “less than relevant” drop had an out-sized 35 percent click rate. We know the sender names were likely those they anticipated email from, and the subject line was likely relevant. We can’t know the breakout of which send carried more weight without testing them. But if you subscribe to the school of thought that relevancy isn’t important, then testing probably is irrelevant to you, too. Before you decide “well, of course we think relevancy is important” — think about whether you’re really using it as a principle in your outbound marketing.

Google Gives 10-15 More Characters to Organic Results

Google actually increased the space available for your title and description. This change should make it just a bit easier to obtain good results for relevant pages.

Girl WatcherOldies music fans may remember the 1968 top hit entitled “Girl Watcher.” This beach music classic’s chorus often spins through my head. The chorus — “I’m a girl watcher, I’m a girl watcher, watchin’ girls go by, my, my, my” — is for me: “I’m a Google watcher … watchin’ changes come by, my, my, my.”

Most organic SEO practitioners are Google watchers and we are seldom disappointed, as more changes just keep coming by — my, my, my. The changes often make our job of obtaining solid search results for sites more difficult.

For example, a recent change to the space allocated to advertising on the desktop search results page (SERP) had a significant impact on organic visibility. In a recent post, I noted a major change — the removal of ads from the right rail of the page — and outlined how this would make organic marketing more difficult.

Google watchers have not had to wait long for another change to come by. Google has changed the display of the organic search results, the coveted lines that determine what searchers see about your pages. The company actually increased the space available for your title and description. This change should make it just a bit easier to obtain good results for relevant pages.

What’s the Change?

Google has increased the width of its main search results column. This will provide more real estate for search marketers to make their cases through compelling titles and descriptions.

Google has increased the space available from 500 to 600 pixels. This is a significant increase, and here is why it is important:

  • Titles Get 10 to 15 More Characters in SERPs. When a title or description is too long, Google simply truncates it and places ellipses at the end. Google uses proportional spacing, and SEOs think in terms of characters, which means that SEOs must develop carefully constructed recommended character lengths that take into consideration the composition of the keywords and phrases used predominantly in their target content. The change from 500 to 600 pixels translates into approximately 10 to 15 more characters available for titles. This will allow SEOs to include more phrases, more branding and enable us to make the title more compelling.
  • Descriptions Get 16 to 20 More Characters in SERPs. The length of the description has been impacted, too. Descriptions increase by about 16 to 20 characters per line. That makes the new length per line approximately 100 characters. But do note that Google still is truncating descriptions longer than 150 to 160 characters. Google watchers expect this to adjust, because descriptions are for the most part two lines. If your descriptions are less than 100 characters, yours will be only one line — resulting in a loss of real estate on the page.
  • Mobile Results Get More Love. These changes do not just apply to desktop searches. Google has increased title tag lengths for mobile search results even more than in desktop results. Google has now increased the maximum length of the mobile title tag to approximately 78 characters. This is an extra eight characters beyond the desktop display. This will speed users to the most relevant result faster. In my own experience using mobile search, nothing is worse than having to search multiple times to get a desired result on my mobile. A more detailed result will shorten the process.

It Is Not Enough to Win Just the Relevancy Battle

Organic search success requires that your pages not only win the relevancy battle — that is to say, the pages are deemed relevant by Google for the searcher’s query — but the search result also must resonate with the searcher enough to make the searcher want to click on the listing.

This oversimplification of a very complex process points out how important it is to be mindful of what the searcher sees as your pages are delivered. It is not enough to create compelling relevant content, if you fail to create a title and description that draws that next click.

The most recent changes provide an opportunity to revisit how well your current schematic for titles and descriptions is working. It also begs for a review of the role of mobile search traffic. You may find that you need to reconsider how you are crafting these elements. This is what I am doing for my clients.

This change is an opportunity for better results for good pages.