Investing in Artificial Intelligence: The Present and Future of Retail Marketing

Marketers have not fully absorbed the broader capabilities of artificial intelligence. While early digital developments such as chatbots have been widely adopted, there’s plenty of room for broader and more powerful uses. To be able to utilize AI to optimize operations, marketers should assess its current state as a marketing tool, then envision the potential future that lies beyond.

In our last article, we discussed the cost of marketing to the wrong customers. Here we’ll talk about how artificial intelligence (AI), among other applications, can help a retailer avoid the marketing missteps we discussed in our previous piece.

A transformative technology in the broadest sense, AI has the capacity to offer a variety of changes and improvements throughout the global economy. In the context of retail marketing specifically, it offers tremendous power, but is not yet well defined nor understood among all marketers. Many early digital developments, such as chatbots, have been widely adopted, but there is plenty of room for broader and more powerful uses. To be able to utilize AI for optimized operations, marketers need to understand its current state as a marketing tool, and the potential future benefits it offers.

The Current State of Marketing AI: Room for Development

The current marketing landscape as it pertains to artificial intelligence might best be described as a Wild West environment. There isn’t a strong consensus or any structured, long-term plans for the growth and use of the technology. However, as organizations learn how to harness its value, the possibility of positive growth is nearly infinite. Some retailers use few, if any, applications of AI related to marketing, but others have developed organization-wide efforts to understand, embrace and implement machine learning. However, many other companies fall in the spectrum between these two extremes and are unsure how to best utilize the power offered by thinking computer systems. Many factors play a role in current utilization, from the size of the business to the specific market segment in which it operates and the existing capabilities of staff.

Using Machine Learning to Improve the Customer Experience

A strong understanding of artificial intelligence helps businesses connect the wide-ranging powers of forward-thinking technology to their specific needs. One advantage to developing a deeper knowledge of AI is creating a seamless, personalized experience through the use of many streams of data related to customers and the merchandise they select.

Fashion retailer Rebecca Minkoff draws on machine learning to create a personalized, responsive and seamless experience for shoppers. The company has developed smart fitting rooms that identify merchandise brought into the dressing area. This allows customers to quickly make a variety of choices related to size, accessories and complementary selections. It also provides the store with more information about the shopper’s preferences. This approach supports in-store staff in an efficient way, allowing them to offer more relevant suggestions and learn from back-end data without requiring any additional work on the part of customers. This in turn allows the company as a whole to develop more effective customer profiles and leverage them to provide further benefits.

Advances like those developed and deployed by Rebecca Minkoff are examples of how innovative retailers using this new technology will win against any organizations that choose not to pursue new artificial intelligence possibilities. Making progressive change through new and expansive tools can make the difference between increasing relevance and continual struggle in a shrinking retail marketplace.

A Retail Business Must Also Be a Technology-Focused Organization

The customer experience increasingly hinges on how retailers implement and use technology, both to connect to potential customers and to drive digital and in-store purchases. Amazon’s machine learning capability, used to analyze internal and external purchases as well as personal and historical data related to its customers, led to Amazon Go brick-and-mortar storefronts. Though the stores do not operate solely on artificial intelligence, the technology has played a critical role in building the Amazon Go concept. Drawing on the desires of consumers and the types of products they want stocked in store, machine learning offers critically valuable information to retailers that makes new ventures relevant and successful.

In this way, artificial intelligence represents an extensive value proposition by offering insights into consumer behavior and needs across e-commerce sites and brick-and-mortar storefronts. While traditional marketing practices are still in use, they must be paired with technological insights to ensure that retail offers are reaching the right interested audience. If the offer is not targeted to the right potential customer base, marketing efforts will be lost with no revenue gain.

Cue the importance of a thorough understanding of technological capabilities, future goals and the best tools for the job. This understanding and development can lead to successful execution of marketing efforts that ensure the audience most likely to purchase is the one being reached. This in turn will lead to increased revenue streams. While for many businesses, this means hiring data analysts, engineers and similarly credentialed professionals to produce the crucial work and perspective for deeper insights on how AI can influence marketing operations, it remains to be seen if there are enough such qualified individuals in the workforce, or whether retailers will have to nurture talent from within their organizations.

The Future Of AI for Marketing

The broad applications made possible by thinking computer systems, and the right combination of opportunity and technology, can yield beneficial results in a variety of different circumstances, but certain areas are currently more thoroughly primed for positive change than others. In-store customer behavior tracking is one especially promising area. By observing in-store actions through footpath tracking, retail marketers can reposition product displays and overall store organization to optimize the customer experience so it is tailored toward products of highest interest.

In a similar manner, albeit a far more controversial application, facial recognition can have a major impact on the consumer experience. This area of machine learning can work to identify loyalty program members upon entrance and then offer them personalized service and promotions. This high level of customization is a unique experience that can set retailers apart from their competitors. However, some customers are hesitant to participate in facial recognition due to privacy concerns. This again highlights the need for marketers to deeply understand technology in relation to their customer base—to make informed decisions that create mutually beneficial interactions while ensuring they do not push away their target market. One potential approach to dealing with this challenge is to develop an opt-in program for facial recognition that gives customers a benefit and allows them to provide consent in return for storing their information in a retailer’s database.

Ultimately, marketers that have the capacity to intelligently consider, compare, utilize and improve the use of artificial intelligence in various applications will be the winners in a future space where technology will increasingly inform marketing decisions. Whether increasing basket size online or creating personalized in-store experiences, AI’s potential is boundless. Success or failure in harnessing it will ultimately determine who wins in the marketplace.

LinkedIn or Out: Customer Service Fail Is a CX Fail

Target Marketing readers obviously like to be “connected,” and displayed an unusual interest in a piece a few months ago which was not as kind to LinkedIn as it might have been. I was rather caustic at LinkedIn’s repeated efforts to seduce its regular basic account (Free) holders to Premium usage. A one-month free trial is enticing, especially when promised a reminder before the free trial ends.

Target Marketing readers obviously like to be “connected,” and displayed an unusual interest in a piece a few months ago which was not as kind to LinkedIn as it might have been. I was rather caustic at LinkedIn’s repeated efforts to seduce its regular basic account (Free) holders to Premium usage. A one-month free trial is enticing, especially when promised a reminder before the free trial ends.

LinkedIn notice for Peter J. Rosenwald
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

So far, so good — until you try and cancel the trial. The problem — in this case, I was charged for Premium after having cancelled well before the trial expiration date. I wanted the charge refunded. Now it is like visiting the house of mirrors at a carnival. It’s a LinkedIn customer service fail.

LinkedIn two LinkedIn notice for Peter J. Rosenwald
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

My LinkedIn Customer Experience

The way through the Help facility is easy and inviting. But once inside, you are turned around and around with dizzying regularity — from one screen to another — always being asked optimistically if the problem has been solved: and being offered nothing new when it has not.

Clicking on the magnifying glass takes you immediately to this helpful screen: The “Cancel Subscription” button on the right seems like a light at the end of the tunnel.

LinkedIn three LinkedIn notice for Peter J. Rosenwald
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

But, alas, no! All it does is cycle me back to nowhere with nowhere to go … unless, of course, I want to “Try,” “View,” “Buy” or “Buy” one of the products. And I’m not going there again.

LinkedIn four LinkedIn notice for Peter J. Rosenwald
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

LinkedIn Customer Service Fail

What is truly amazing is that there is no contact with anyone, live or robotic.

The fairly incredible irony of a company, with a mission to connect the world’s professionals to make them more productive and successful, is in not allowing the customer to have any contact with any individual. It would be laughable if it weren’t so profoundly off-mission. But it is. Jane, one LinkedIn executive contacted informally, admitted ashamedly: “You can’t talk to a live person. Even I don’t have any CS direct contact.”

Will I be able to do anything about having been wrongly charged and unable to reverse it other than refuse to pay, spend some time in jail making direct contact with some of the world’s unsavory professionals, and be no better off at the end of the game?

All I can ask you is to comment, tell me what you think of this CX and, most importantly, watch this space.

Lessons From the Facebook Fiasco

The funniest and the most ironic part of this Facebook fiasco is that target marketing based on data actually worked. If it didn’t, no one would care about some data geeks hoarding data somewhere in the cloud. And any reader of a magazine called “Target Marketing” shouldn’t be surprised by any of this.

The funniest and the most ironic part of this Facebook fiasco is that target marketing based on data actually worked. If it didn’t, no one would care about some data geeks hoarding data somewhere in the cloud. And any reader of a magazine called “Target Marketing” shouldn’t be surprised by any of this.

Why should it be surprising that, with all of those behavioral and demographic data that Facebook collected, some analytics company could actually figure out who is more likely to vote for Trump? A mediocre-level analyst can do that with data far less immediate and complete than what were used in actuality.

In fact, the whole basis of the Facebook business model is that:

  • It is the largest billboard in the world; and
  • It can effectively deliver customized messages to each individual.

Facebook has been doing this kind of targeting with or without any third-party analytics vendor such as Cambridge Analytica. The fact that Facebook is expert in grabbing people’s attention (or their eyeballs) for elongated time makes it ever more powerful and effective than third parties; hence, all of the hoopla in the media.

The scarier part (to me, at least) is that a senator actually had to ask Mr. Zuckerberg about his company’s business model, to which he simply answered it shows targeted ads to its users. Seriously, how these fine gentlemen on Capital Hill will regulate any information business is beyond me. Maybe these senators should delegate that work to their grandchildren.

Because I — like readers of this fine publication — do target marketing for living, I wouldn’t blame Facebook for doing things that I would have done myself. And yet, this recent revelation of Facebook’s business with Cambridge Analytica doesn’t sit right with even the most avid practitioners of target marketing. It is not just the fact that it actually affected the presidential election, which is a personal matter for many. Even without any political ramification — which certainly is acting as a magnifying glass in this instance — something certainly went wrong here. Basically, sensitive data were mishandled, and there is no sign of data governance when it comes to sharing data with third-party companies. Considering the influential power of Facebook, no wonder everyone is talking about it as a scandal.

But here, let’s dig into this from a data player’s point of view.

PII – Handle With Care

Facebook is sitting on an amazing amount of personal data, as the users voluntarily share them. Just the profile page alone is a goldmine. Added to that, Facebook has data regarding what the users clicked, liked, shared, reviewed and bought. We are talking about all three major elements of data in target marketing — demographic, behavioral and attitudinal data (refer to “Big Data Must Get Smaller”) all in one place, with an amazing depth in each area. In the business of analytics, that is like having some kind of superpower.

In the early days of Facebook, I voluntarily shared the details of personal information, just to see how good the targeting would be. For the record, to this date, I’m not totally blown away by its targeting accuracy.

Sure, I put down my hobby as guitar playing, and Facebook would show me more guitar stuff. Anyone should be able to do that with such explicit data. But when I go to my Facebook wall, it still feels like I’m looking at a billboard, not a series of targeted messages. Especially the sponsored ads on the right side of the screen. Facebook has been showing me some SUVs (I’m not an SUV guy) and men’s apparel commercials (sure, I’m a man) for days. Meh. That looks like Facebook is just selling regular banner ads, targeted with some rudimentary selection logic using basic data.

Even during the last election cycle, with all of those hyper-political memes and reactions to them floating around, I’ve seen some “totally off the mark” political ads on my wall. What a shame, with all of that rich data in its hands.

So this Cambridge Analytica comes along, and promises the kinds of things that Facebook is supposed to be able to do with all its data for a bunch of politicians. And some bit the bait and paid a good amount of money for the vendor’s services.

Now, this third-party company got to have access to the Facebook user data or a pathway to collect more data on Facebook users. For that matter, any app that runs on Facebook — such as innocuous-looking personality tests — is specifically designed to harvest data. We all do it because it is fun to play, and the cost seems low. Not to offend anyone, all the apps normally require is signing on using Facebook ID. But that is all they really need.

Things get a little tricky there, though; so, who owns the data? The user, Facebook or the third-party vendor? It really depends on that user agreement that 99.99% of users didn’t bother to read. If I must provide an answer as a professional data player, I’d say “all three,” because data collection and refinement warrants some value. Saying a user has the sole ownership of data is like saying that a rice farmer has a right to every piece of sushi sold in restaurants indefinitely.

People who do target marketing for living, in this case or in general, are less scared of such data sharing. What would be the worst thing that could happen? That I get to see an ad of a political candidate who I can’t stand on my Facebook wall? That is, however, if the data are used for general targeting purposes only. Data breaches are indeed scary, because pretty much everything that you put in and you did are linked to your personally identifiable information (PII).

We know that no reputable data player would look up one person at a time by name and see what she is up to. In this case, the operative word is “reputable.” Even the folks who gave permission to Facebook to collect and use data wouldn’t agree that that third-party vendor was indeed reputable. Figuring that out is assumed to be the duty of Facebook, and it is sad that even it didn’t seem to know.

Facebook did not have a good handle on “who gets to use what data.” That is the most unsettling part for people who deal with data for living. Facebook is not exactly dealing with credit card or medical data there, but the sheer volume of data makes the matter as serious. Would it be harsh if I say that Facebook, in pursuit of increasing its revenue and shareholder value, just went for things that it shouldn’t have gone for? Where is the governance? All this mess, for what? Some “semi-accurate” targeting? (I’d love to see some reports on the backend.)

Data-Mining Friends, Too?

It is one thing that Facebook or its partners used data that I shared on Facebook in the form of profile and interests. It is quite another if some shady vendor downloaded the entire list of my friends and call it “its” data source.

That is just a sleazy practice. I’m pretty sure that I did not give permission to share the entire list of my friends with a company that conducts some goofy political spectrum test. No one would put that in an agreement in case just “1” person reads it. Because they themselves would know that that is a sleazy thing to do.

Data players must follow a very simple rule; if you don’t want someone to do certain things with your data, don’t do it yourself (refer to “Don’t Do It Just Because You Can”).

Don’t Be a Data Hoarder

In the business of targeting (or analytics for such targeting), more data don’t always guarantee accuracy. There are all kinds of data out there, and not all data are useful or effective in prediction (refer to “Not All Databases Are Created Equal”). That is why I have been writing repeatedly that one must set the project goal first, not just before some elaborate analytical exercise, but even before data collection.

Mindless hoarding often gets the collector in trouble like we are seeing here. Sometimes “more” data increase only trouble, not the targeting accuracy. Yes, the databases must be broad, accurate, recent and consistent to be useful. But too many data players became too greedy, and there are consequences of being greedy.

Maybe the notion of Big Data gave a wrong impression that big is always good. There are costs involved in dealing with really large data, and another lesson that we must learn here is that a collector can make people mad if “they” think that he is going after too much data.

If the goal is to obtain a “reasonable” level of accuracy in targeting, no, you don’t have to have every piece of data about the target. No analyst likes missing values, but there will be no complete database now or in the future, anyway. A job of analysts is to make the most of what they get, not asking for the entire universe. So, always consider the cost of hoarding too much information, including the social cost.

If all Cambridge Analytica wanted was to predict who was more likely to vote for Trump last year, there were many safer and simpler ways to go about doing that.

Facebook Is Too Powerful?

The ironic part of it all is that Facebook, thanks to its vast coverage, doesn’t require pinpoint targeting precision, anyway. It’s not like it’s going to spend over $1 per piece in direct mailing. Targeted messages are cheap on that platform, and the risk of being wrong is not that high (relatively speaking).

And it seems like Facebook knows it, too. Based on numerous articles that I read about this incident, its analytics is more about maintaining a captive audience by creating a very addictive platform. If the number of eyeballs and time spent on the page are what they are really pursuing, they seem to be doing a fine job there.

If the goal is about increasing targeting accuracy — while not pissing off a great number of people — then it is obvious that Facebook must tighten up its grip on data governance. Like most other data players like us have been doing all along.

Facebook will remain as a powerful force in the market. With or without precision targeting, it’s the biggest billboard in the world. Let’s just say that I didn’t sell off Facebook stocks because of all of this. But if Facebook really wants to benefit human collectives like it used to say in the beginning, lots of significant changes are warranted. And I think that subject is for other forums, not here.

125 Blog Posts and I’m Done

On April 6, 2012, I wrote my first blog for Target Marketing, and on Aug. 10, 2017, I’m writing my last one; from my math, that’s about 125 posts considering I wrote two a month. These past five years have been a wild ride to say the least, but I’ve learned a lot along the way.

On April 6, 2012, I wrote my first blog for Target Marketing, and on Aug. 10, 2017, I’m writing my last one; from my math, that’s about 125 posts considering I wrote two a month.

After a long-standing career on the agency-side of the business, I’ve been given the opportunity to expand the CRM program for a luxury brand while working on the inside of this prestigious organization, and I couldn’t be more excited! It’s a demanding position that will require 150 percent of my attention, and thus, I’ve decided to hang up my blog.

These past five years have been a wild ride to say the least, but I’ve learned a lot along the way.

  • Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously: My blog was written as a marketer for marketers, so I was able to have a little fun with my perspective — and I had a great editor at Target Marketing supporting my ideas.
  • Topical Issues Are Most Engaging: Two of my most popular posts (if you’re using the number of comments as a metric) were about current marketing news: the addition of LinkedIn endorsements and The Most Interesting Man in the World. Both garnered great feedback and discussion on timely topics.
  • The Haters Gonna Hate: My posts weren’t always controversial, but when I touched on a nerve, boy, did readers let me know — and fast. Sometimes it was a headline that folks found offensive (my favorite one, “Here’s a Recommendation, You Cheap Bastard,” attracted a lovely supportive note from direct marketing guru Drayton Bird, so I felt redeemed). But my Feb. 23, 2017 post on “The KellyAnne Conway School of Customer Service” got some very nasty responses — including ugly emails in my personal inbox. That post taught me that people don’t read an entire post before they jump to conclusions and start name-calling. Luckily I have thick skin!
  • It’s Easy to Be Negative When Using a Fake Name: Many comments to my posts came from anonymous users — marketers who hid behind a user name so it was difficult to know exactly who they were. Personally, I think that’s a cowardly way to engage in a discussion on a topic — especially when you have something unsavory to say — but over the years, I learned who was a consistent supporter and who was looking to put me in my place. So be it.
  • If Blogging Was Easy, Everyone Would Do It: Some weeks I would stare at a blank screen and think “what can I write about that everyone doesn’t already know?” It took a while to find my blogging “voice” but once I did, I wasn’t afraid to share my experiences and interactions with brands — both good and bad — and try to offer ideas on how things could work better or how to steal that idea and make it work for another brand. While there are thousands of nuances in marketing strategies and tactics, I’m always thrilled when I learn about something new, or how someone else found success, so I’ll continue to be a consumer of smart marketing tips.

I hope all my followers will continue to read, engage and share their POV’s on the sites of other Target Marketing bloggers. I’ve always been a fan of this publication and know that, at the end of the day, we all believe in the power of targeted marketing.

Programmatic Advertising Is Running Amok

Having spent many years in the direct marketing business, I’m usually amused by examples of target marketing gone awry. My personal favorite happened when I was on Amazon purchasing a cell phone bracket for my bicycle.

Target stock imageHaving spent many years in the direct marketing business, I’m usually amused by examples of target marketing gone awry. My personal favorite happened when I was on Amazon purchasing a cell phone bracket for my bicycle. Amazon’s algorithm generated this suggestion:

Amazon wants Chuck to be a pirateNow I don’t know how frequently the pirate boots and the tri-corner hat are bought together with the cell phone mount, but I have to say that the combination was tempting for a few minutes.

The fact remains that direct marketing is not perfect. Many years ago, I made a donation to my alma mater, Rutgers College. The student on the phone asked if I wanted to designate my gift to a particular part of the University, and when I said, “No,” he said, “Well I’m in the Glee Club and we could sure use the money. Will you designate to the Glee Club?”

“Sure,” I said.

For decades now, I’ve been getting mail addressed, “Dear Glee Club Alumnus.” One day, I will attend a Glee Club reunion, certain that many people will remember my contribution to the tenor section.

While these harmless examples of imprecision are humorous, there’s nothing funny about the current exodus of major advertisers from the Google ad network and YouTube. Programmatic ad placement is a boon to target marketing, but like most direct marketing, it’s not perfect.

Major advertisers are in a tizzy over how to control where their ads appear … and the Google ad network is scrambling to get control over placement, as they should be. Advertisers need to protect their brands from appearing in an environment that can harm them.

Just a few examples: Ads for IHOP, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, “The Lego Batman Movie,” “Chips” and others have recently popped up among nude videos from everyday users or X-rated posts from porn-star influencers. Ad Age 3/6/17

A Nordstrom ad for Beyonce’s Ivy Park clothing line appeared on Breitbart next to this headline: NYTimes 3/26/17

Chuck's take on Nordstrom appearing on BreitbartHere’s a great attempt at an explanation for this juxtaposition:

“What we do is, we match ads and the content, but because we source the ads from everywhere, every once in a while somebody gets underneath the algorithm and they put in something that doesn’t match.  We’ve had to tighten our policies and actually increase our manual review time and so I think we’re going to be okay,” Schmidt told the FOX Business Network’s Maria Bartiromo. Fox News 3/23/17

Appearing next to hate speech is particularly problematic for brands:

Google-displayed ads for Macy’s and the genetics company 23andMe appeared on the website My Posting Career, which describes itself as a “white privilege zone,” next to a notice saying the site would offer a referral bonus for each member related to Adolf Hitler. Washington Post 3/24/17

The Wall Street Journal reported Coca-Cola, PepsiCo Inc., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Dish Network Corp. suspended spending on all Google advertising, except targeted search ads. Starbucks Corp. and General Motors Co. said they were pulling their ads from YouTube. FX Networks, part of 21st Century Fox Inc., said it was suspending all advertising spending on Google, including search ads and YouTube … Wal-Mart said: “The content with which we are being associated is appalling and completely against our company values.”
Ads for Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Toyota Motor Corp., Dish Network, Berkshire Hathaway Inc.’s Geico unit and Google’s own YouTube Red subscription service appeared on racist videos with the slur “n–” in the title. Wall Street Journal 3/24/17

And as difficult as it is for the ad networks to control, brands have their own challenges trying to protect themselves from undesirable placements. Different departments running different campaigns with different agencies cause ads to appear on corporate blacklisted sites. BMW of North America has encountered that issue because its marketing plan does not extend to dealerships. While the company does not buy ads on Breitbart, Phil DiIanni, a spokesman, noted that “dealerships are independent businesses and decide for themselves on their local advertising.” NYTimes 3/26/17

Clearly our technology’s ability to target has outstripped our ability to control it. And while it remains to be seen what controls will be put in place, it’s likely that, as always, target marketing won’t be perfect.

Sneak Peak of All About eMail 2016 (And My Cat)

Target Marketing’s annually presented, annually amazing All About eMail Virtual Conference is live this Thursday (Oct. 27)! If you’re not signed up to join us yet, you’re gonna want to give this link the good ole’ clickaroo right about now.

aaemDoes it seem like I’m always gushing about an upcoming virtual conference in these posts? Well here comes another one — I can’t help it if my squad at TM is always churning out these exciting and relevant marketing extravaganzas. (Hashtag #NotBiased.)

Target Marketing’s annually presented, annually amazing All About eMail Virtual Conference is live this Thursday (Oct. 27)! If you’re not signed up to join us yet, you’re gonna want to give this link the good ole’ clickaroo right about now.

In case the title doesn’t drop a big enough hint, this is a full day of expert sessions, discussions and resources all dedicated to preparing, polishing and perfecting your email marketing strategy. The show’s not brought to you by the letter “P,” but it should be.

As I like to do, I thought I’d just highlight a few of the sessions here that are right up the alley for those of us in the copy and creative corner of email marketing. I’m really excited about these! You can also check out the full agenda here.

Opening Keynote: 7 Small Ideas That Make a Big Impact on Your Email Program

Starts: 10:15 am | Ends: 11:00 am

If anyone knows about making an email program kick some butt, it’s Andrew Kordek — Chief Strategist and Co-Founder of Trendline Interactive. In the opening keynote of the show, he’ll share some of the small ideas that have made a huge difference for him in his 17 years of major email marketing experience. Of course many of these gems will be creative-centric, like how to write better subject lines using the C.U.R.V.E. method.

Hit up this session Thursday morning and learn why the small ideas could be your big break.

How to Engage When Customers Don’t Give a Damn

Starts: 11:10 am | Ends: 11:40 am

“Frankly, [COMPANY NAME], I don’t give a damn!” Ever feel like customers are pulling a Rhett Butler on you, even when your product is the best and you have the evidence to prove it? When you just can’t seem to find that magic switch to get consumers engaged and inspired, sometimes all it takes it a little psychology (ain’t that always the way of it?)

Psychology-based marketing goes beyond just creating eye-catching graphics and punchy copy. In this mind-blowing session, Author, Consultant and Keynote Presenter of e4 Marketing Jeanette McMurtry (MBA/APR) will delve into powerful psychological principles, and how you can tap into them with your content and messaging to captivate your customers, and gain their trust and belief in your brand. No hypnotism here folks, no one will be made to cluck like a chicken — just really good, meaningful marketing.

If Scarlet O’Hara had come to this session, things might’ve turned out differently.

Email Roundtable: Creative Insights You Can Steal

Starts: 3:30 pm | Ends: 4:30 pm

To close out the day with a bang, Target Marketing snagged three brilliant creative masterminds for a roundtable discussion sure to chase away any afternoon drowsiness.

Featuring Relish Tray CEO Liz Ryan, Target Marketing’s own managing editor Melissa Ward (aka Sass Marketing), and President/CCO of DM Creative Group Patrick Fultz, this session will take us through real, tested design techniques and copy that works, and how we can tuck ideas into our old pal the swipe file for stealing smart.

Liz, Melissa and Patrick plan to discuss tips and best practices that drive more clicks and conversions, simple creative approaches to engage your audience, and what’s happening so far with the 2016 holiday season email. With this crew, it’s sure to be highly spirited, highly opinionated, and a lot of fun.

Word on the street is we can even except some healthy debate between the panelists. One thing’s for sure, this will be a lot more conducive to your creative efforts than that thing everyone was watching last Wednesday night. (Tongue-in-cheek election reference, check. Am I a cool kid now?)

Of course with a full, free day of email marketing experts and innovation, the show will offer a whole lot more where these highlights came from. Mathematically guaranteed better ROI, email integration in omnichannel campaigns, email acquisition, Slack, if you can email it you can find a session or resource about it at All About eMail.

Coming soon to an internet near you! That’s this Thursday, Oct. 27 to be exact, beginning at 10:00 am ET and wrapping up at 4:30 pm ET. And through the magic of the internet, if you can only come to a few sessions or have to pop in and out throughout the day, you’ll be able to access the show and everything in it on demand starting Monday 10/31. It’ll be available there for three months, so you’ll have all the time in the world to wring out every last drop of email marketing juice. All you have to do is sign up. 

Register now and we’ll even throw in this adorable and culturally relevant picture of my cat. If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will.


I just wanted an excuse to share it with the world. 

See you Thursday!

Thorin’s Marketing Predictions for 2016

It feels like I’ve been talking a lot about the future of marketing lately, and January is an ideal time to take stock of some of the topics that keep coming up in those conversations and speculate a bit on what they mean for the year ahead.

Crystal BallIt feels like I’ve been talking a lot about the future of marketing lately (perhaps because I’m in the middle of analyzing the results of our 2016 Media Usage Forecast). January is an ideal time to take stock of some of the topics that keep coming up in those conversations and make some predictions about what they mean for the year ahead.

1. Social media advertising is going to get bigger and bigger. I’m not saying that just because of the size of the networks or the time Americans spend on them. The real tipping point factor here is the ability to target your message to a small audience, and deliver it pretty accurately just to them.

Tribalism is one of the more important factors influencing all media today: People want to see only things they want and/or agree with, and the ability to build a custom social circle that filters news and conversations they’re exposed to reinforces this. To maximize the effectiveness of ads, and minimize the chance for a faux pas turns into a major PR disaster (I’m looking at you, Bloomingdale’s “spiked eggnog” ad), advertisers should be trying to capitalize on those same mechanisms.

The social networks, with their in-platform targeting options, are going to benefit from that development.

2. More marketers are going to use personas, they’re going to use more of them, and they’re going to get more sophisticated. Again, this is about targeting and understanding your audience. As marketers move further away from campaign-based strategies and deeper into personalized, ongoing marketing, the ability to optimize ads, offers, landing pages and whole websites to a segment of your audience is essential to successful execution.

The growth of individual-level data for targeting and personalization isn’t going to replace the need to do a lot of strategizing and optimization at a segment level (i.e., personas). The ability to build useful personas, include more factors in them (especially behavioral factors), and use those insights to boost ROI is going to be a major factor in the success of online marketing.

3. Google updates are going to cause less chaos. Google’s aim in refining its algorithms has become pretty clear: Google wants to give searchers what they want. If you deliver web pages that satisfy the person who entered that search query, you’re likely to continue to do well with Google. If you’re manipulating your site to get more SEO traction, you’re likely to take a hit at some point in the future.

Don’t aim for where Google is today, aim for where it’s going: Make search visitors happy.

4. You’re going to see more brand marketing in online direct marketing spaces. This ties into No. 1 a little bit, too. From banner ads to email and content marketing, a lot of online marketing evolved around direct marketing tactics and the call to action. I think you’re going to see more of that online marketing done as a way to promote brand content that in the past would have become a TV ad spot. The Ford In Focus videos Melissa talked about yesterday are a part of this trend. So is Red Bull’s content marketing.

This is a recognition of the content marketing fact that you need to earn time with your audience by giving them something they want to watch instead of constantly interrupting them. These types of content could have smaller audiences online, but they’re getting much more attention from the audiences they do attract. And the content can be targeted to those audiences can be targeted more effectively.

In essence, target marketing is becoming more important, even if it’s a little less direct than it used to be.

It’s OK to Hate Data

There’s a disconnect between our readers who see marketing in the strategy, creative, etc., and our readers who see marketing in the numbers. If you’re the former, let me say one thing: It’s OK to hate data.

A little secret about Target Marketing: Our data content gets less traffic than just about any other topic we regularly cover.

Clearly, that doesn’t stop us from covering the data-driven side of marketing. In fact, I think some of our best contributors write about data. But there’s a disconnect between our readers who see marketing in the strategy, creative, etc., and our readers who see marketing in the numbers.

If you’re the former, let me say one thing: It’s OK to hate data.

Good Good ... Let the Data flow through you.Big data, small data, first-party data, third-party data … it can take the people element out of marketing.

I was at Ad:Tech New York last week and caught the session “Your Data Might Be Crap, But Is It Fertilizer?” Mark Donatelli from Ogilvy moderated a conversation with data-driven marketing experts from the NFL, Gap Inc., Domo and Beckon.

Aidan Lyons, VP of fan experience for the NFL, had a great line: “They’re not users, they’re fans.”

What he meant was, they’re not just users, they’re not just data. Every one of those records is a real, breathing person. A fan of the NFL. Sift and sort what you know about them, and you begin to spot groups with things in common. These are niches in your market who you can target with messaging and experiences.

Most of our readers can get into that. Once you have people to talk to, you’re back in the game most marketers signed up to play.

But not everyone can see those people in the numbers, the data, even at a persona level.

And that’s OK, because not everyone has to. There are a multitude of tools, agencies, consultants and data scientists who can help boil the data down to something marketers can work with.