1 Year Later: Gen Z College Students Weigh in Again on Personal Data Collection

Last February, I reported on some of the things my Gen Z students wrote in response to an assignment about who gains the most from the value exchange of convenience-for-personal-data. A year later, I gave the same assignment with the same supplemental readings to students, and the results were notably different.

Last February, I reported on some of the things my Gen Z students wrote in response to an assignment about who gains the most from the value exchange of convenience-for-personal-data between consumers and marketers.

A year later, I gave the same assignment with the same supplemental readings to a similar group of 40 students from Rutgers School of Business Camden, and the results were notably different.

Last year, 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. However, the language they use to describe their acquiescence to data collection should be troubling to privacy advocates.”

This year’s students are far more concerned about the collection and sale of their personal data, but they are just as resigned to the inevitability of it. At the same time, some bask in the advantages it brings them and they’re sympathetic to the needs of marketers to provide a personalized data-driven experience to consumers.

The privacy concerns of the current group are more pronounced than the previous group.

“I used to believe that the consumer benefitted from the perks of technology. But more and more, I believe that marketers benefit more. Social media, search engines, TVs, refrigerators, Alexa or Google Home, Kinsa Thermostat are all ways that marketers can reach the consumer with things we use in our everyday lives. Some people don’t even realize they’re feeding right into it just by providing some information about yourself.”

Another wrote:

“Privacy has almost become a thing of the past. Places like our kitchens, bathrooms, and bedrooms have transformed from places behind closed doors to areas that are willingly shared with thousands of others on the receiving end of the data being collected for business purposes.”

Yet, like last year’s group, they are resigned to giving up personal data for access to information and services.

“Consumers are beginning to realize how often what they do, speak, and read are all being recorded. Personally, I’ve been more aware than ever of what is being tracked. I’m more aware of every ad I look at and every website I clicked on. This lifestyle is something that can’t be avoided.”

A common complaint involves the lengthy user agreements that consumers must accept to use web-based services and Internet-connected devices:

“This type of ultimatum often means that consumers regularly grant permission on their personal devices, rather than lose their access to a particular product.”

The proliferation of the Internet of Things may be behind much of the change in attitude since last year. (Caveat: I confess that I’ve warned about small sample sizes in the past [“Beware the Small Sample”]. I’m not drawing quantitative conclusions here, but rather reporting on a trend from qualitative research done with 40 students each year).

“Some people who purchase these tech-savvy devices often don’t understand the policies of the product. Understanding the policy and happily opting-in for your information to be used is one thing, but complying because you’re unsure is another. Did you know that brands can start tracking your information at the age of 13? How can a child understand the policy and process of how this works if a grown adult cannot?”

Another stated:

“The terms of agreement can exceed 10,000 words and not be accessible unless the consumer searches the web for it. Consumers don’t get the full story of how much the companies invade their personal lives. Even aspects like your political preference are being monitored and can aid in influencing your votes.”

One student is mounting a fierce resistance:

“I am one of those people that have a Post-it over the camera on my laptop. I shut off the location on my phone, even though I feel like it is being monitored without my consent a lot of the time. My smart TV is not connected to the Internet, and I rarely use streaming devices, such as Netflix or Hulu — if I do, it is usually on my computer. Devices like Google Home and Alexa completely freak me out and I do not believe I would ever purchase one for my home. Even some of the newer home security systems — like Xfinity Home or the video doorbell, Ring — introduce new ways for people to hack in and monitor your personal activity.”

Data leaks and potential misuse are another concern. One student worried about home assistant devices mishearing innocuous phrases as legitimate commands to record and send private conversations:

“Families could be going through a family matter and these devices are listening and recording what is being said. Next thing you know, it is being sent to your boss or colleagues who did not need to hear or know what is going in in the comfort of your home. Also, the refrigerators that know exactly what is inside can share this information with marketers who then share it with insurers who can possibly charge consumers more for unhealthy diets.”

But it’s not all gloom and worry. One student who recently booked a trip to Disney World was delighted by the collection and use of her personal data:

“Being able to get discounted magic bands and Disney exclusive accessories catered for my needs has been a huge bonus. This also benefits Disney, as they are getting my credentials and can alter their research based on my specific data. A part of the reason they are so successful is because of how personal they make the process feel. Even from the first search, they are there to help guide you and aid in your conversion to purchase. (They) get you to come back, because they have that initial information and the personal details of your preference.”

(BTW, how great is Disney? Offering discounts on those magic bands that they use to track your movement and purchases throughout the park. They not only get you to agree to it, they get you to pay for it and be grateful for the discount).

So the time may be right for privacy advocates to gain a foothold among the generation whose members have gone so willingly into the world of sharing personal data.

Developing Technology Standards to Support Privacy Regulations of the Future

Advertising has played a vital role in the Internet’s mass adoption. But, as the industry evolved, consumer privacy took a back seat. Today’s technologies provide an opportunity to rebuild the digital advertising infrastructure to benefit publishers, brands, and consumers — and build in privacy, from the ground up.

Advertising has played a vital role in the internet’s mass adoption, but as the industry evolved, consumer privacy took a back seat.

Consumer privacy became a national conversation after Cambridge Analytica, a political consulting firm used by the Trump campaign, was able to obtain raw data harvested from up to 87 million Facebook profiles and use it to segment and target users in ways that critics argue amounts to voter manipulation.

Since then, congressional committees and governmental agencies have expanded investigations into Facebook, Google, and other ad tech industry players. GDPR came to the US in the form of CCPA, the California Consumer Privacy Act, a law designed to give consumers similar power over the data they generate online.

Our industry is now struggling to prove to both consumers and regulators that we can be trusted with their data, but there’s hope. Cutting-edge technologies provide an opportunity to rebuild the digital advertising infrastructure to benefit publishers, brands, and consumers — and build in privacy, from the ground up.

The First Step: Joining Forces

Cryptography and blockchain have already emerged as solutions for adding verification and validation layers that ensure accountability and efficiency in the media supply chain. But the only way to drive adoption of these forward-thinking solutions and solve for consumer privacy is by bringing together key stakeholders in the industry, educating them on the benefits and developing the technical standards that will create the change the industry needs.

“I knew blockchain paired with cryptography could deliver significant change to the advertising industry,” says Adam Helfgott, CEO of MadHive and founding member of AdLedger. “I also knew it would take a concerted effort to drive adoption across such a broad landscape of stakeholders.”

Uniting brands, agencies, publishers, and technology vendors provides an open forum for collaboration, allowing the industry to express their concerns and tackle the issues head on. Advertising industry leaders like Meredith, Hershey, IPG, Publicis, and GroupM are forming working groups that release findings for broader industry education, while companies like Omnicom, MadHive, and Beachfront are already engaging in proof-of-concept projects to tackle issues like fraud, brand safety, and transparency.

So, it begs the question: Why not leverage these technologies for privacy as well?

The Privacy Solution = Privacy-by-Design

Cryptography is already being used to keep consumer data safe, at-scale, in an industry adjacent to advertising: e-commerce. Every time you buy something on your favorite website and the little green lock pops up in your browser as you type in your credit card information, cryptography is being used to protect that sensitive information.

But cryptography’s potential runs much deeper than this single application. It can provide mathematical proof for things like data provenance, while simultaneously ensuring regulatory compliance. This gives publishers the ability to secure their first-party data and thereby control access to their most precious resource – their audience. For advertisers, this immutable chain of custody and identity validation of supply-chain participants creates a brand-safe environment in which customers are reached with the right message at the right time.

The best part? Cryptography and blockchain can be baked into the underlying digital advertising infrastructure, which will automate this entire process and create a system with privacy-by-design. But the only way to integrate these technologies and drive mainstream adoption is through the unification, education, and collaboration of key industry stakeholders.

Long-term fixes take time, but the value prop for publishers and advertisers is evident. And maybe the GDPR and CCPA regulations are the push the industry needs to join forces and work toward a long-term solution.

Is Quality, Sustainable Marketing the Key, or Is Bigger Better?

We are certainly increasingly “digitally distracted.” How can we not be, with a smartphone in hand, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Facebook, and the toxic Twitter — binging and buzzing with notifications of everything from “the boss wants you in his office right now” to Aunt Mary reminding you of her birthday?

Is bigger better?

That’s a question being asked a lot lately; not only by marketers, but in almost every sphere of our existence.

“In a digitally distracted mediascape of fragmented attention — engagement is the name of the game for publishers now. Whether it is deepening direct connections to consumers, delivering real impact for advertisers, or building trust in your brand — quality matters now more than quantity.” Or so proclaims MediaPost.

There is a plentiful cornucopia for thought in that well-crafted come-on.

We are certainly increasingly “digitally distracted.” How can we not be, with a smartphone in hand, WhatsApp, LinkedIn, Facebook, and the toxic Twitter — binging and buzzing with notifications of everything from “the boss wants you in his office right now” to Aunt Mary reminding you of her birthday? There are endless and equally compelling “bits and bobs,” all demanding attention, preferably immediately or ASAP.

There certainly ought to be an app — there probably is one or more that I don’t know about — which sorts through all that incoming traffic, assigns each a priority — based on some measure of quality — and only passes on the ones that matter. The app would pass on the ones which make my digital distraction worthwhile, the ones that truly engage. It may seem simplistic, but perhaps there is a good reason people get engaged before they get married.

But could an app be clever enough to identify quality, or even define it? Quality definitely has something magical about it, the same ephemeral, but indescribable quality which inspired Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s memorable definition of hardcore pornography, “I know it when I see it.”

Some years ago, at a ceremony thanking an American Ambassador for her support of a local NGO, she was presented with “a small gift.” Looking at the little blue box, the Ambassador smiled, thanked the giver and exclaimed: “You men really don’t understand. There is no such thing as a small gift from Tiffany.” She was instinctively crafting what could have been a great slogan for the store: It’s not the size, it’s the Tiffany that counts.

Since forever, commerce has been driven more by growth than quality. How few have been the examples of CEOs’ quarterly statements praising the company’s reducing revenue, even when accompanied by increased profits. It certainly goes against our capitalist cultural mainstream. “But will it scale,” ask the moneybags in evaluating whether the newest idea will become a unicorn? Perhaps something really is changing which will deliver the ability to “engage” to the forefront, rather than simply being able to “attract.” Then the unicorns of tomorrow may no longer be measured just by size.

We all know that almost any amount of attraction is for sale at so-much-per-thousand. Simply by spending more and more on marketing, we can even become household names. If there has ever been a particularly obscene example of this, one need look no further than the mega billions being spent on the 2020 U.S. election campaigns. In an age of “fake” news, will all of this expensive attraction be the best investment politicians can make in suspending voter disbelief and establishing a meaningful engagement with voters? How much of that spend will promote the truth and how much believed? Will the engagement be strong enough to be sure the prospect will vote the “right” way, whichever way that is?

Like what is in the Tiffany box, one of the rarest of gems existent today is the truth.

In a thoughtful column here a week or so ago, provocatively headlined: ‘The Truth Is, There Is No Truth — Let Alone in Advertising,’ Jeanette McMurtry wrote:

One thing we marketers need to also face is the how the “truth” we are putting out there is being received …

If anything has come out of the “fake” news movement, it’s that we are learning not to believe hype and claims that can’t be substantiated …

Marketers can overcome this jaded vision of the world and brands in business today by addressing truth firsthand. You can do this by creating more interaction between your brand and consumers online and in the real world. Let customers experience what you are all about — your products, your persona, your values — more than reading your carefully crafted statements.

Despite existing technology that lets us truly interact one-to-one from great distances, something still seems to be missing. It’s the magic piece of the puzzle that moves us from attraction to engagement, that wants us to comfortably spend time together. That “something” may be the “quality” of truth, in its broadest sense.

If quality and truth are not synonymous, they are at least comfortable bedfellows. As Jeanette says, the truth about “your products, your persona, your values” is much more likely, in these changing times, to lead to the kind of engagement which will generate better (although perhaps not bigger) profits.

If we look around us, sprouting like spring flowers are small, specialized retailers and e-tailers, none of which is ever likely to rival Amazon or Walmart in size. But they’re much more likely to establish that magic sense of engagement, which comes not only from being able to parse all the data out there; but, far more importantly, to fashion enduring customer relationships grounded on a firm foundation of truth.

Industry Q&A: What’s Up With B2B Marketing in Argentina?

I was teaching B2B digital marketing to master’s degree students at San Andres University in Buenos Aires again this summer. The students were pretty enthusiastic about the concepts and tactics I shared. So, I decided to look into what’s going on in B2B marketing in Argentina, overall.

I was teaching B2B digital marketing to master’s degree students at San Andres University in Buenos Aires again this summer. The students were pretty enthusiastic about the concepts and tactics I shared. So, I decided to look into what’s going on in B2B marketing in Argentina, overall.

Martin J. Frias
Martin J. Frias

Thanks to an introduction from the longtime agency pro and university instructor Freddy Rosales, I had the chance to meet Martin J. Frias, who filled me in. Here’s what I learned.

Ruth Stevens: How do B2B marketers in Argentina approach new customer prospecting these days?

Martin Frias: Twenty years ago, we would buy databases from trade publications and data vendors, and use them to cold call, trying to reach senior executives. The problem in those days was getting past the gatekeepers.

Stevens: What has changed since then?

Frias: Three things. First, technology. Buyers now have anonymous access to product information. Sellers — even smaller brands — are using marketing automation like InfusionSoft, Marketo, and a local provider called Doppler emBlue to conduct event-triggered campaigns. Second, inbound marketing, meaning content posted by sellers on LinkedIn and blogs. Third, a larger role for marketing, as active members of inside sales and lead qualification teams. But I must tell you, not all firms are moving toward this kind of modern marketing. Most are still doing the same old push email and events.

Stevens: So, what’s still missing?

Frias: A shared vision between sales and marketing about the entire demand generation and sales process. The two sides need to agree on what is a lead, how to define qualification, and identify the tools needed to operate — from marketing automation, to CRM, to ERP. In short, sales and marketing need to take joint responsibility for guiding the buying process.

Stevens: I am hearing that WhatsApp is a favorite tool here. Please explain.

Frias: Yes, WhatsApp offers an enterprise network tool that integrates with marketing automation, so you can manage omnichannel messaging via WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and others. But you have to be careful. It can backfire. Many business buyers consider WhatsApp an exclusively personal medium, and they resent receiving business communications through it. Also, I think businesses may worry that their targeted communications could fall into the hands of competitors, thanks to WhatsApp’s extraordinary ease of sharing.

Stevens: Are there any prospecting data sources available now?

Frias: You can buy data, or you can buy access. For example, there’s an IT community platform here with a half a million subscribers. Marketers generally don’t trust the databases that are for sale. At my agency, we use LinkedIn Sales Navigator; whereby, we can contact 5 million Argentinean professionals, mostly those in middle management. We use LinkedIn’s Social Selling Index, company size, industry, and title for segmentation, and we attract the targets with content.

Stevens: Is there a professional association for B2B marketers in Argentina?

Frias: No. I wish there were. There is a post-grad program in B2B marketing offered at ITBA, one of our leading engineering schools. The tech industry is really the leader in B2B marketing here. Other key industries, like oil and gas, manufacturing, and construction, are more interested in brand positioning and awareness, and less about lead generation. So, they focus on their websites, value propositions, sales collateral, trade shows, and business events — like golf outings, and sponsoring sports events. They’re not using content, marketing automation, and lead management.

Stevens: Please tell me about yourself and how you became active in B2B marketing here in Argentina.

Frias: I started at Oracle Hyperion, heading a lead generation team in the financial services area. Then I worked at several other firms. Now, I have a 15-person agency called Pragmativa. We offer full B2B demand generation services, including website design, search marketing, display advertising, content, social media, and marketing automation. So, we’ll run a client’s prospecting, and manage their data. The one thing we don’t do, because I don’t believe in it, is cold-call telemarketing. Despite frequent requests from clients.

Stevens: Anything else you’d like to share?

Frias: Yes, I have a B2B marketing blog, in Spanish, and welcome followers.


A version of this article appeared in Biznology, the digital marketing blog.

Goodbye, Amazon HQ2 — But With Luck, Not So Many Tech Jobs

As a taxpayer and resident of New York City, it was hard to see Amazon reverse its decision to locate in Long Island City — the part of Queens that sits opposite Manhattan, across the East River.

As a taxpayer and resident of New York City, it was hard to see Amazon reverse its decision to locate Amazon HQ2 in Long Island City — the part of Queens that sits opposite Manhattan, across the East River.

I mean what city (and state) would say “no” to 25,000 to 40,000 middle-class jobs?

Well, apparently some loud mouths — elected and otherwise — in New York City.

Which is kind of a cruel joke, knowing that Amazon was only taking advantage of existing tax incentives offered to any enterprise that might want to locate there — the world’s new leading tech hub. Sure, the company may have wanted to add a helipad, but that’s not such an unusual request for celebrity CEOs. Its future tax incentives would be earned — with the city and state likely to collect 10 times the return in various revenue.

Credit: Office of Comptroller of the State of New York | “The Technology Sector in New York City”

Only Fools Would Say ‘No’ to That

Indeed, lots of industries — including another one from the West Coast, Hollywood — get loads of incentives to locate work there (and elsewhere). No one carries on much about the film industry. New York or Virginia had hardly landed — and in New York’s case, ultimately lost — an exclusive on Amazon HQ2. Cities and states across the country cut deals for jobs all of the time, including those that passed on the Amazon dog-and-pony show. Common sense says bring these jobs home.

Now, 25,000 to 40,000 New Yorkers have missed out on good-paying positions in a 21st century economy. Remember this blunder next election. Perhaps other companies — by the dozens — will generate and compete for these livelihoods in this dynamic local economy. Still, Amazon’s new managers will go elsewhere, undoubtedly benefiting other cities.

Someone has to answer for this.

It didn’t help, perhaps, that Amazon fashioned itself as some golden calf — a national prize. I mean, other tech giants — Google, for one — have brought thousands of jobs into the city. Google works with neighborhoods and the city to improve credentials. Google has its detractors, but it works from within and reaches out, and is growing outside the city’s more tax-friendly enterprise zones.

Perhaps, then, Amazon has to take some of the blame.

Bezos & Company could have done the same — invest in the community, build local coalitions — and weathered the initial resentments … all very successfully. But it made a decision to quit the city too quickly, and it’s not sitting well with me. I mean, Bezos bought The Washington Post to build a global brand, make more money and save democracy — yet, the company undermined democracy in its decision here (and so did elected officials who assailed the company).

According to the governor, eight in 10 New Yorkers backed Amazon’s expansion in New York State. The company still walked away because of a cabal of activist “Progressive Democrats”— many of whom never have built a business — who don’t seem to care for profits and future tax revenue, or see any reason to use incentives to attract jobs.

That’s not democracy — that’s Venezuela.

A business is a business — and whether old economy or new economy — it must answer to shareholders, investors, owners, and to customers and employees, too. It has a fiduciary responsibility to do so. Some socialists simply hate that, and chose to demonize the world’s richest man and his company — just as some demonize the collection of data that makes Amazon, and so many other disruptive innovators, so successful.

Profit Under Fire — What Does This Portend?

We need to repel these no-growth influences that now have a voice seemingly in all levels of government.

Regarding Amazon, in Albany (New York’s capital) and New York City, these activists won the day. They’d rather have a city and state go wanting — than to have a tax base that might begin to fund at least some of their generous schemes. The Economist calls this “Millennial Socialism” — though no insult intended to the former. (Bernie Sanders wasn’t born in 1990.)

The incentive-for-job-growth debate is not unlike the data-for-value concept. Both require trust, transparency, local control, self-regulation and willing partners. When in sync, wow – look at the undeniable dividends. When out of step, what a blunder.

Now, Long Island City and Queens may never know the opportunity they had. Let’s hope better for the rest of New York City, and of the country, before we, too, fall out of step.

The ‘Algorithmification‘ of Everything

If I had asked any of my schoolmates what an “algorithm” was, their eyes would have glazed over and they would probably have asked me what I had been smoking. Fast-forward a few decades and we’ve got the algorithmification of everything, including marketing.

If I had asked any of my schoolmates what an “algorithm” was, their eyes would have glazed over and they would probably have asked me what I had been smoking. Fast-forward a few decades and we’ve got the algorithmification of everything, including marketing.

Those glazed looks would’ve happened a long time ago, long before Facebook was a glimmer in Mark Zuckerberg’s eye and he had started to bring together the more than 2 billion people who log in at least once a month. That Facebook population is now what Evan Osnos of the New Yorker says, were it a country; “ … would have the largest population on Earth … [and] as many adherents as Christianity.” When they log in, they are shaking hands with unnumbered algorithms and putting into those invisible fingers their faith and their data to be parsed, analyzed and manipulated, and hopefully not stolen.

What is an algorithm? Programmers like to say it is a word used by them when they don’t want to bother explaining what they do.

And because algorithms have become so ubiquitous, we seldom give them a thought — except when our IT colleagues start telling us why making any small change in our marketing program will take weeks or months and cost a bundle, or until something goes badly wrong as Facebook and others have discovered about their hacked data.

Our legislators, not usually well-versed on technology matters, have now started making a lot of noise about regulations: They are closing the server door after the data has bolted — an unlikely way to solve the essential problems.

Automation has always been the Holy Grail for marketers; not surprising when the ability, speed and relatively low cost of using artificial intelligence (AI) to number-crunch and manage segmentation of media and analysis of data gets better and better every year. eMarketer reports that: “About four in 10 of the worldwide advertisers surveyed by MediaMath and Econsultancy said they use AI for media spend optimization. This is another application of AI that is increasing among marketers as their demand-side platforms add AI features to increase the probability that a given programmatic bid will win its auction.”

Where is it headed? No one knows for sure. It’s all in the hands of the algorithms and they appear to be multiplying like rabbits. If you revere Darwin, as I do, you’ll expect them to get better and better. But before you totally buy into that, you would do well to read Melanie Mitchell’s thoughtful New York Times article “Artificial Intelligence Hits the Barrier of Meaning.”

There are more and more times when we applaud the use of the algorithms and can see that if properly created, they offer many benefits for almost every area of our marketing practice, as well as other areas of our lives. We really don’t have to panic (yet) about the machines and their algorithms taking over. As Neil Hughes wrote here last month; “The reality is that machines learn from systems and processes that are programmed by humans, so our destiny is still very much in our own hands.”

Machines screw up just like we do; and all the more so, because they are doing just what we told them to do.

All this machine thinking doesn’t come without dangerous side effects. Sometimes, when we try to communicate with inflexible AI systems supposedly designed to simplify and ease customer interactions, the “I” in “AI” becomes an “S,” replacing “A-Intelligence” with “A-stupidity.”

If, as defined, “an algorithm is a procedure or formula for solving a problem, based on conducting a sequence of specified actions,” we can only optimistically hope that the specified actions will take into account individual customer differences and make allowances for them. The moments when they don’t are when we start screaming and swearing; especially if we are on the customer end of the transactions.

As The New York Times wrote in a recent article: “The truth is that nobody knows what algorithmification of the human experience will bring.”

“It’s telling that companies like Facebook are only beginning to understand, much less manage, any harm caused by their decision to divert an ever-growing share of human social relations through algorithms. Whether they set out to or not, these companies are conducting what is arguably the largest social re-engineering experiment in human history, and no one has the slightest clue what the consequences are.”

However important algorithmification may seem to us, our marketing efforts and our use of AI and its algorithms are not very significant in the greater scheme of things outside of our limited business perspective. But don’t dismiss their growing impact on every facet of our future lives. As data guru Stephen H. Yu opined in his recent piece “Replacing Unskilled Data Marketers With AI”:

“In the future, people who can wield machines will be in secure places — whether they are coders or not — while new breeds of logically illiterate people will be replaced by the machines, one-by-one.”

You had better start to develop a meaningful relationship with your algorithms — while there is still time.

3 Session Highlights for the 2018 FUSE Digital Marketing Summit: AI, Analytics, & How to Size Up Your MarTech Stack

The FUSE Digital Marketing Summit is quickly approaching. Subscribers to the FUSE Digital Marketing Newsletter should already have a sense of what we’ll be covering at the summit, but I just wanted to take a minute to highlight three key sessions that alone warrant marketers spending time attending the summit.

First, a little quick background on the summit:

Where & When: The FUSE Digital Marketing Summit will take place November 27 to 28 in Center City Philadelphia.

Why: With marketers constantly vetting, evaluating, and investing in new technology the two-day FUSE summit is designed to help marketers quickly identify and adopt the most relevant digital technologies. FUSE will dissect the modern martech stack and explore in-depth how the right technologies can enable marketers to achieve real business objectives.

Plus: FUSE Digital Marketing is a free, all-inclusive experience for qualified attendees — senior-level decision makers leading martech strategy and buying decisions. See if you qualify and learn more about the summit here.

Below are three general sessions attendees can look forward to. However, it’s worth noting the unique format of the FUSE summit – attendees will also participate in small-group boardroom case studies and have pre-scheduled 1-on-1 meetings with tech providers. And perhaps most valuable of all are the many networking opportunities with like-minded marketing executives.

3 Key Sessions at the 2018 FUSE Digital Marketing Summit

Keynote: Using AI & Deep Learning to Generate Marketing Results

In this eye-opening session, marketing AI practitioner and BrainTrust Insights co-founder Christopher Penn will explore how artificial intelligence and machine learning are changing marketing. Penn will cover what AI is – and isn’t – and what problems it’s good at solving versus the problems AI solves poorly. This session will use real-life marketing applications to illustrate how AI can elevate content marketing, lead targeting, conversion analysis, and business intelligence. And Penn will share his insight on what marketers need to do to prepare for an AI future.

Speaker: Christopher Penn, Co-Founder & Chief Innovator, BrainTrust Insights

How Do You Stack Up? Practical Advice for Constructing & Managing Your Marketing Tech Stack

In every industry, marketing technology stacks are growing in size and complexity as more products are deployed and integrated, and multiple teams throughout the organization embrace marketing technology in support of digital transformation initiatives. It’s not unusual to see companies using more than 100 different marketing tools at any one time. With a need to integrate many of those tools, building and managing the marketing technology stack has become a tremendous challenge for many organizations.

Leveraging the insights gleaned from hundreds of marketing technology stacks, this session will cover the technologies that companies are currently buying, and the hot technologies that they are looking to integrate into their stack.

Speaker: Anita Brearton, Founder & CEO, CabinetM

How the American Medical Association is Using Analytics to Grow Membership

Content marketing, digital marketing, and consumer marketing have converged to transform how organizations can interact with customers. As a digital change-agent for the past 20 years, Todd Unger, CXO of the American Medical Association, will show how he is transforming AMA’s marketing, using analytics tools to generate insights, quantify content marketing ROI and boost member acquisition and retention efforts.

Speaker: Todd Unger, Chief Experience Officer/SVP Physician Engagement, American Medical Association

Check out the full summit agenda here.

Q&A: How Will AI Help Marketers Tap Their Data Wells?

There’s a lot of loose talk around the potential for AI to change the nature of the marketing game, but beyond the buzz it can be hard to tell exactly how marketers will be using it to improve their businesses. In a series of video Q&A’s, marketing AI practitioner and BrainTrust Insights co-founder Christopher Penn will explain how marketers can actually use AI.

Penn will be leading the keynote session at the FUSE Digital Marketing Summit this November.

Q: Early on, what data-related problems will AI solve for marketers?

A: Christopher Penn thinks one of the biggest advances that AI promises when it comes to marketing data is to capitalize on the mountain of data that is going unutilized by many organizations. Penn cites a recent statistic from IBM that up to 90% of data within a corporation goes unused.

Of course, many marketers collect a lot of data, but how many are taking full advantage of the data collected by a tool like Google Analytics? Not many, says Penn, and the overwhelming amount of data means that marketers are not able to effectively use it to drive decisions, change behavior, and ultimately improve marketing.

This is where AI comes. Penn points to the “Data Science Lifecycle” (define, ingest, analyze, repair, clean, prepare, augment, explore, compare, predict, prescribe, model, validate, refine, deploy, observe) and says that a significant portion of the tasks in data lifecycle are repetitive work. “Anytime you’ve got repetitive work, you’ve got a candidate for robotic process automation, or machine learning, or potentially deep learning, depending on how complex the problem is and the technologies that are available to you. The early wins for marketers are going to be in that first third of the lifecycle, when you’re looking at ingesting data from multiple sources.”  See an illustration of the Data Science Lifecycle below.

Tools exist that “will essentially do digital sniffing around and pull helping you pull data out of heterogeneous, incompatible systems and get it at least in one place. The same is true for analysis, repair, and cleaning of data.”

Once the data is collected and prepared, marketers are in a position to start building solutions with that data or applying third-party tools that can take advantage of many organizations’ mountains of data.

“If we’ve got the data and we’re not using it, we’re missing a massive opportunity. It would be like owning an oil field and never drilling a well, or if you drilled one well with a spoon and you have a drinking straw. It’s not going to go very well.”

Hear Penn’s full answer to the question of how AI will enhance marketers’ use of data in the video above.

See Christopher Penn present the keynote session Using AI & Deep Learning to Generate Marketing Results at the FUSE Digital marketing Summit.

The BrainTrust Insights Data Science Lifecycle | Credit: BrainTrustInsights.com by Christopher Penn


5 Marketing Capabilities for Customer-Centric Digital Transformation

A couple of months ago we discussed what marketing capabilities are needed for a digital transformation. Let’s now address the additional capabilities required to transform a traditional marketing organization into a modern revenue marketing machine.

A couple of months ago we discussed what marketing capabilities are needed for a digital transformation. We narrowed the scope of the answer to just technology-related capabilities. Let’s now address the additional capabilities required to transform a traditional marketing organization into a modern revenue marketing machine.

“A capability is a unique bundling of skills, knowledge, and resources that facilitate the execution of business processes, and are what ultimately contribute to sustainable competitive advantage and superior performance.” (Day, 1994).

5 Core Customer-Related Capabilities Marketing Must Acquire:

  1. Buying Journey Management is the capability that maximizes the sales and marketing activity with its buyers at all stages of their buying lifecycle, resulting in stronger customer relationships, increased revenues, profit and competitive advantage. This buying journey repeats itself with every purchasing decision. This capability is not simply about defining the buying journey; it is about aligning your content and marketing activities so they align with where the buyers are in their journey. Have you defined your customer journey? Have you mapped your content to the journey?
  2. Content Operations is a capability that supports the production, collection, management, publishing and measurement of customer or prospect-oriented information in any form or medium. Marketing manages content to support successful execution and optimization of multi-channel programs and campaigns. Content operations is a factory that collects requirements from demand generation, product marketing, and sales. They publish a production calendar. They are experts at content curation and understanding the best media for each message by segment.
  3. Customer Engagement is the capability that maximizes the relationships between sales/marketing and prospects/customers through the stages of the customer lifecycle. Too many firms simply pour out blog posts, newsletters, and promotional emails without actually measuring the level of engagement they are driving with each touch. Achieving a high level of engagement with your content and offers requires deep understanding of what messages and content works with which persona in which part of their buying journey, through what channel, and in what medium. The expectation is good engagement produces good conversion rates in your funnel. How good is your team at engaging prospects? Do you measure it?
  4. Customer Knowledge Management is a cross-functional capability for collecting, organizing, sharing and gaining insight from market and customer information, which drives stronger customer relationships and results in increased revenue, profit and competitive advantage. Back in the day, when direct mail was king and email was a novelty, we said the success of a campaign was 60% predicated on the quality of the data, 20% on the quality of the offer, and 20% on the quality of the packaging. We may have shifted the bulk of our campaign communications to digital channels, but the rule still applies. If your customer data quality is poor, don’t expect campaign miracles. Your customer data is an expensive asset that you have acquired. It depreciates at 2.1% per month (source Marketing Sherpa). Effective management of your customer data is a core capability in digital marketing success.
  5. Persona Management is the capability that develops, manages and optimizes semi-fictional characters to represent the different customer types that might use a company’s products or services. Personas need to go beyond job titles in B2B, because otherwise you are simply describing a segment. Modern marketing technologies enable us to gather, assess and adapt to people’s behaviors. Good personas therefore reflect the person’s goals, needs and decision-making behavior. Persona management means you recognize that personas are not static and need constant updating and refinement.

Delivering on each of these capabilities requires certain skills, knowledge and experience. You can outsource some of these capabilities to agencies or train your internal team to fulfill them.

4 Steps to Digital Transformation by Customer Capability Acquisition

  1. Assign someone to be your data czar, even if it is only part of their role. Have them create data quality dashboards.
  2. Define one or more customer journeys with the help of sales and map your content to the journey stages. What are the gaps? Build a plan to eliminate the content gaps. Create a content calendar. Now start planning your engagement based on the journey stages.
  3. Start measuring customer engagement with your content, events, offers, ads and all digital properties. What content is driving more engagement or minimal engagement?
  4. Finally, define personas, map the content to the personas, and start to collect data on your prospects so you can learn their persona and start to improve how you communicate with them!

Customer experience is the new competitive battleground. Shift to greater customer centricity in 2019 by investing now in the five marketing capabilities described above.

3 Tools Every Marketing Leader Should Use

The other day I was asked what tools I think are important for marketing. So I answered. Here are three tools I would encourage every marketing leader to use (and they persist, regardless of what changes in marketing).

Over the years, like many of my peers, I have used quite a few marketing tools. Thinking back over the last 24 years I have been in this space, it is remarkable how much has changed, and equally remarkable how much has not. Over that time, we have seen some interesting tools and applications come and go: Remember when FeedBurner was a necessity? While the modes by which we do marketing change — and so do the tools — the core of what we do as marketers does not. So then, what tools do we use that persist?

Recently a very aggressive marketing firm launched a bot-driven campaign on LinkedIn that targeted marketing leaders. The automated process sent a connection request. Once the connection was accepted, a video was sent in a message explaining how you were found. Although it was obviously automated, I chose to respond to the message, because, why not?

What I found on the other end, was an actual human being who I engaged in a conversation. This is interesting for two reasons: one, it never hurts to be kind to people, and two it created a connection point for me with someone who is new to our our field and seeking to disrupt it (or so they claim).

The interaction lead to a short, but effective conversation resulting in a very thoughtful question posed to me, “What are the most useful 3 software tools for you?”

This random interaction, initiated by an automated process, lead to useful and interesting question. It caused me to think, take the time to explain my thinking, and to make a tough decision about what is actually useful and what tools persists through change.

Here are three marketing tools I encourage every marketing leader to use (and they do persist regardless of what in marketing changes):

Flowcharting & Diagramming as Marketing Tools

The two big stars in this marketing tool set are Omnigraffle for OS X and iOS and Visio for Windows (or LucidChart for a cloud based service) — and despite what either claims, they essentially do the same thing. Both tools allow users to rapidly produce flow charts and visual documents. Regardless of how you do marketing, generally there is a process. As the head of marketing for a financial company, I have to create and communicate specific approval processes for compliance and to maintain consistency. I do that with these tools.

But beyond process documentation, these tools are easy to use tools to do wireframing, a quick mock-up of a marketing piece, or even to create a mind-map. Both tools even offer a quick way to mock-up your office layout (if you like that sort of thing).

The utility to here is speed and ease of use. It is a great marketing tool that has been in my arsenal from the beginning.

Cloud Based File Sharing as Marketing Tools

Since desktop publishing starting dominating the marketing landscape in the late eighties and early nineties, the need to share large digital files to facilitate marketing has always been a need. I remember my days in college where every computer on campus had a Zip Drive to make this easier. With the advent of cheap storage and reliable broadband access, physical drives, FTP servers, and large format email services are no longer necessary. But the need is there.

Whether it is Box, DropBox, OneDrive, Google Drive, iCloud or any other slew of services, it really doesn’t matter which you use. What matters is having the ability to share, in real time, files with a team securely without worrying about complex infrastructures. This has enabled us to work better with staff (both local and remote), vendors, and clients. When sharing a file is as easy as saving a file, that is a tool that everyone should use.

Spreadsheets as Marketing Tools

Not just an accountant’s best friend, spreadsheets are quite possibly the most important software innovation. Ever. And I only wish I was exaggerating. All superlatives aside, if you ponder for a moment all that has been made possible with the use of spreadsheet software, it is pretty remarkable. For all of our advancements in business intelligence (BI), machine learning (ML), and analytics, the one tool that most executives reach for when they want to understand and play with data is Excel (and sometimes Google Sheets).

Ponder this: what do you use to build and massage your marketing budgets? What do you use to manipulate, look at, and explore your analytics? What does your team use to present reports to you ? My guess is that most of you, like me, eventually ask for the data in a spreadsheet. And while we are at it, I do not know a single BI or analytics tool, or data platform (like say a CRM or email system) that does not allow for import or export into structured data.

There is a reason for this. Tabular data is the simplest way to store data for visualization and analysis. If you are good with Excel and have good data, you can do quite a bit.

Why These 3?

When I was answering this question in a LinkedIn message thread, something very simple struck me. We make marketing way too complicated and the tools we use as well. Many of us who run marketing departments and teams spend too much time looking at and evaluating marketing tools, and not enough time doing marketing things. So at the end of the day, what is important to me, not only as a marketer, but as an executive? What stands out is the ability to quickly communicate visually, quickly share files, and to quickly look at and manipulate data.