How I Cut the Cord and Learned to Love OTT

Just how many months — no, years — does it take for a logical, clear-headed, money-conscious, well-informed consumer to overcome inertia, cut the cord in his home television habits, and move to OTT?

Just how many months — no, years — does it take for a logical, clear-headed, money-conscious, well-informed consumer to overcome inertia, cut the cord in his home television habits, and move to OTT?

I’ll let you know when it happens.

Yes, I’m one of those Americans — a dwindling number, but we’re still a force. Being charged a couple hundred dollars every month with our stripped-down, no add-ons triple-play (phone/TV/Internet) packages, because there’s no cable competition (in my building) and Spectrum knows it. We don’t even have access to Verizon or AT&T, or RCN, either. Such a dilemma.

Thank goodness for Mom and Dad. They don’t pay my bills. But they donated to me their Roku device when they upgraded their own TV sets. They also added me to their Netflix account as a gift, and now my viewing habits — finally — are changing. Scheduled television via cable at home is clearly on the wane. On linear TV via cable, I watch local news and live sports, mostly — and even some of that I can stream.

As stuck as I am in my ways … I’m about to go bold. And do the deed. Snip! (Well, we’ll see.)

In the meantime, advanced television is clearly on the rise.

“Ad spend on over-the-top (OTT) streaming video will increase 20% this year to $2.6 billion, according to a Winterberry Group study of U.S. ad spend data,” reports eMarketer. “Despite OTT’s surge, it’s still small — compared with the $69.2 billion that Winterberry Group estimates U.S. advertisers will spend on linear TV. For some advertisers, measurement challenges prevent them from investing more in OTT.”

A recent Direct Marketing Club of New York program included a panel of experts who parsed some of the challenges. With OTT, you have two worlds colliding — traditional television and traditional digital — and the user (me) has an expectation that online video, if I’m to watch it as programming, had best carry the quality of linear television. I even want my online video advertisements — hey, it’s ad-financed content on many platforms — to carry the quality of a TV ad, rather than a GIF. Still, I’m open to new ad formats here — I’m starting to enjoy 6-second ads, thanks to digital training. And I’m actively searching and browsing, often on a second device concurrently, some of it prompted by content and ads.

We Need Industry Standards …

What metrics matter to whom? Audience reach and eyeballs may coo the traditional TV media buyer (and seller), who simply wants those same or similar metrics digitally. And that may be fine for CMOs who live and breathe “passive” awareness, but addressable television’s real prize is data: user data, dwell time — and demographics — that shed light on a brand’s customers, one device or cross-device, and one view or continued view (start viewing a program on one device, and finish viewing on another) at a time. Here, “active” engagement metrics matter, such as clickthroughs, conversions, and attribution. These data drive the algorithms that target and tailor the advertising.

And remember the Big Data “ouch” when mobile, social, and local users flooded the market? Same goes here: “Data is overabundant, non-standardized, and non-harmonious,” said one panelist. We need to codify, standardize, and become screen-agnostic in our reporting. Certainly, people expect viewing on a TV to be different than viewing on a smartphone. Marketers need to know device use metrics to see how ad delivery may need to differ. Yet the user metrics do need to be agnostic — audience and engagement metrics need to be settled upon for the marketplace to trust, verify, and grow. That’s because in OTT and Advanced Television, “data is the most important ROI.”

I didn’t have to finish my blog at any particular time today — thanks to TV on demand, anywhere. Oh wait a minute, I gotta shut my laptop: the season finale of “RuPaul’s Drag Race” starts in 10 minutes, and I’ve been looking forward to it for two weeks! Inertia, indeed.

3 DRTV Testing Tips for Digital Marketers

Lately, I have been talking to several marketers that want to test direct response television advertising for their brands. Interestingly, these companies that want to test DRTV are category disruptors, born from the Internet. These are companies founded on direct relationships with consumers established through search engines and social media.

DRTVLately, I have been talking to several marketers that want to test direct response television advertising for their brands. Interestingly, these companies that want to test DRTV are category disruptors, born from the Internet. These are companies founded on direct relationships with consumers established through search engines and social media.

The reasons to complement data-driven digital marketing with television are convincing. These internet brands are faced with many challengers in the same space. It is difficult to establish a unique brand position through search. Television remains the most powerful medium for quickly communicating a message and establishing an identity.

More importantly, marketers are finding that building companies one-click at a time is not achieving their goals for growth. Nielsen reports the average American still watches 5 hours a day. With that large an audience television can quickly scale the reach needed to grow businesses.

Most companies are concerned with the high-entry costs for television and not getting the instant ROI expected from digital channels. That’s what makes the more accountable DRTV so compelling. The opportunity to lower media costs with the assumption that the spots will generate response.

These expectations for DRTV might be misunderstood and a little high. One of the companies that I spoke with did a test of television (on their own and not with my direction). They ended up canceling after 2-weeks because of cost and perceived lack of performance.

Before testing television’s impact on response and acquisition, ensure your test is set-up to deliver effective and measurable results. A poor test could result in mistakenly dismissing a potentially valuable channel for marketing.

Here are a few tips for an effective test:

Tip #1 – Utilize Television to Its Strength – Reach

Television is a mass medium and is most efficient when used to reach a mass audience.

Digital marketers might believe that an impression delivered to a non-targeted prospect is useless and a wasted expense.  Restricting reach to select areas using cable or specific homes through addressable OTT may seem to solutions for waste. However, these options reduce consumer reach while increasing media costs, impairing the benefits of television, efficiency and scale.

With your initial television test, utilize the networks, stations, and dayparts that best reach your target audience.  If the results are good, you can start looking for ways to optimize your buy to drive more efficiency. If the television doesn’t drive results, at least you don’t need to second guess your media execution.

When putting together a test with the right stations and dayparts, be less concerned about Reach, Frequency, and GRPs.  Those are metrics to predict the effectiveness of a traditional television buy. If you are testing DRTV with the intent of generating response, results should be the measure of effectiveness.  Do look for deals as a lower cost per spot should contribute to a lower cost per response.

Tip #2 – Track All Results!

My preferred method for tracking the performance of a DRTV test are dedicated phone numbers assigned to each station.  With time-stamped, phone number data it is possible to identify the best stations and dayparts for driving results.

However, a digital disruptor may not be set-up for phone calls. They will likely want to drive response to its online sales-funnel.  Spot airing times and web-traffic data can be aligned to measure direct response to the ads. Establish site traffic baselines before spots begin airing to quantify traffic lift in response to television.

When tracking all results, also look for lift in response rates to other channels. Unlike other mediums, the awareness created by television is likely to increase response in other channels.

Quantifying the impact television can have on other channels can be done with the classic tactic of Control versus Treated. By holding out a market from a recent program, I had comparison data to quantify the lift DRTV had on other channels. The test showed a 25% increase to the direct mail response and a 50% lift in the search clickthrough rate.

If a control hold-out isn’t possible, compare response rates from pre and post television advertising. The lift in response rates can be enough to support using television as a compliment to other direct channels.

Tip #3 – Give DRTV Testing Some Time

Testing television for the first time is big decision.  It requires company buy-in and investments of time on money to develop a spot and get it on television. The desire to show immediate success is great, however, it is a test. Results can take time to develop.

It can take a couple of weeks for a brand with limited awareness to connect with consumers.

Two-weeks of frequency may be needed to build enough interest to elicit a response. It can take longer depending on your DRTV schedule.

If results are limited after two-weeks consider adjusting the television schedule to test different programming.

At 4-weeks you should have quantified results, either direct response to the television or response lift in other channels. With results you can begin assessing the opportunities for expanding the program.

If the results are not seen in 4-weeks, then it might be time to suspend the program. As direct marketers know, more spending isn’t likely to improve ROI.

Because the initial test didn’t produce the desired results does not mean that television cannot work for your brand. Go back and reconsider all elements of the program including the spot, the offers, and the media buy.

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.

Streaming Video Will Beat Addressable TV to the Punch

For years we’ve been hearing about addressable television, the ability to target TV ads to individual viewers much like you would online ads with targeting, and potentially even retargeting. But in my opinion, addressable TV is at least 3 years too late.

For years we’ve been hearing about addressable television, which is the ability to target TV ads to individual viewers much like you would online ads with targeting, and potentially even retargeting. In fact, eMarketer just released a report predicting that the addressable TV market will grow from $1.26 billion this year to $2.25 billion next year and $3.04 billion in 2019!

Those numbers sound amazing. But they’re not. In fact, even at $3 billion, addressable TV will only represent 4 percent of all TV ad spend, and the rate of increase is clearly declining.

eMarketer US Addressable TV Ad Spending, 2015-2019In my opinion, addressable TV is at least 3 years too late.

In the time broadcast television has taken to catch up with online advertising, not only has online advertising lapped it repeatedly in most forms of effectiveness (save only brand impression), online streaming services are stealing TV’s entertainment thunder, too. Streaming services from YouTube to Neflix and Hulu now attract not only top talent, but prime time viewership and awards. And with more competition on the way in Facebook Watch and Disney streaming (to name just two of many), television could well be staring down the barrel of an Adpocalypse. (For more on that, see our video from Monday.)

With all of these online video sites coming up, addressable TV looks less like the wave of the future and more like the whimper of a declining ad channel. Will TV ever catch up to the targeting capability of online advertising? And even if it did, will it ever catch up to the interactivity and ability to launch a direct conversion?

Even though Adobe added TV ad management and addressability to its marketing cloud, that feels more like the exception than the rule. Like tacking an analog tail onto the digital donkey.

What seems more likely to be the state of things in 10 years? That TV adopts the capabilities of digital, or that smart TVs and other home devices based on streaming displace traditional TV in living rooms?

Well, I still have TV with cable, but a quick survey of office Millennials shows what their choice is, and it ain’t the triple-play. Younger folks aren’t just cutting cords, they’re wondering why the hell anyone had cords in the first place.

In fact, the package deal is exactly what’s wrong with TV for viewers and advertisers alike. It’s 2017, you can watch exactly the media you want on dozens on online channels, and yet on cable you can only get content by channels packaged with dozens of other channels you probably don’t want.

It’s the same with your advertising. The people you want, packaged with thousands you don’t.

This is following the same script online transformation has in a dozen other industries. Taxis couldn’t give people what they wanted, so we got Uber. Stores couldn’t give people what they wanted, so we got Amazon.

Give people what they want, or the Internet will swallow your industry whole.

And for TV, it’s way too late to try to get addressable now.

Defined by a Screen

I grew up with TV. My eyes prefer a larger screen. I focus on what I watch. I can’t multitask between screens and I have no tolerance for audio from multiple devices chiming at me concurrently. Who can even watch stuff on a tiny screen? Well, plenty do.

chet tv picWhen one watches TV as much as I do, it’s indeed tough to break the habit.

Sports, public television, movie classics, local and national news and weather — I consume a lot of content. Habitually, when I wake up, the TV comes on. When I go to bed, the TV goes off … unless I fall asleep first.

And while laptops, desktops, smartphones and tablets (and movie screens) are also a part of my life, for work, info in transit, games and entertainment, it’s the home television that is my preference to consume content. I’m less scheduled to the TV these days than I used to be thanks to on-demand programming and the media bingeing that goes with it. However, I’m still, most of the time, passively engaged nonetheless by whatever channel is programmed to send to me at whatever hour of day or night.

It’s a matter of demographics. I grew up with TV. My eyes prefer (or were trained to prefer) a larger screen. I’m immersed in TV as if it’s a miniature experience inside a movie theater. I focus on what I watch. I can’t multitask between screens and I have no tolerance for audio from multiple devices chiming at me concurrently. Who can even watch stuff on a tiny screen?

Well, plenty do.

As reported by eMarketer, “Millward Brown, which surveyed — via smartphone or tablet — more than 13,500 16- to 45-year-old multiscreen users across 42 countries, found that half of all video viewing happens on TV sets — split between live TV and on-demand TV. The other half comprises mainly mobile devices, which includes smartphones and tablets. Smartphones take the largest digital share, encompassing 22 percent of total daily time spent viewing video.”

Personally, I prefer my TV at home — I like to watch the world when I’m outside my house. Mobile video, however, is exploding. The survey states, “The rise in mobile video viewing is part of a larger transition to multiscreen usage. In fact, mobile users worldwide spend 52 percent of their daily internet and viewing video time on mobile phones. To compare, the share of daily time spent with computers makes up 21 percent, while TV accounts for 27 percent.”

Less tethered. Less structured. Less scheduled. Smaller screens. More on demand, with one exception. What’s happening to video content today is largely leaving me behind.

But, not for long.

Those other devices are creeping more and more into my leisure mainstream.

  • When I watch sports on TV, the tablet concurrently gives me real-time stats.
  • When a TV commercial pops on (and on and on), I clear my email on my smartphone.
  • I use caller ID to screen calls — and often send a text in response.
  • I reach for a mobile app when I hear a song on the TV (or radio) and I want to download it later.
  • And four out of five TV breaks most often involves Words With Friends or some other tiny screen pursuit.

I’m really getting tired of paying $200 per month for cable triple package, plus $170 per month for a smartphone/tablet and mobile wifi — and watching my 15 gigabytes of monthly data get chewed up in one or two movie downloads. This is not sustainable and it’s pretty dumb not to do something about it.

You know what I’m gonna do? I’ll look to cut the cord tomorrow, because right now I’ve got to get back to my program.

Journalism: Where Are We Going and Who Will Pay for It?

What a time to be a chronicler of news. In 2015, being a newspaper journalist just overtook lumberjacking as the worst job in America — posting a 13 percent decline in employment prospects. (Broadcast news wasn’t far behind, at third worst.)

news-1172463_640Is journalism — the chronicling of the day’s news and analysis about that news – under threat? Of course it is.

Last month, I visited my alma mater for the 50th Anniversary of the University of Connecticut and its journalism department. There were panels of alumni reporters, editors and news entrepreneurs — some with Pulitzers in big-city papers, some with broadcast backgrounds and some stringers for local news in hometowns, U.S.A.

A dominant discussion was the future of journalism — and who will pay for it? There were hopeful statements, for certain — just being a reporter these days demands resiliency among other mind and skill sets — but there was also plenty of worry.

What a time to be a chronicler of news. In 2015, being a newspaper journalist just overtook lumberjacking as the worst job in America — posting a 13 percent decline in employment prospects. (Broadcast news wasn’t far behind, at third worst.) Certainly digital news sites abound, but print historically demanded a subscription — and consumers just don’t pony up to online news sites and their paywalls like they used to do offline.

The original sin of the Internet was not the first display ad, it was giving it all away for “free.” Some argue the “big give away” democratizes information. Others see it as an alarmist trend toward socialism. The rise of the citizen journalist (I’m one here) doesn’t necessarily translate to the most learned of fact gatherers, fact checkers, superb editing and the advancement of human knowledge. Too often, it’s the lowest common denominator — rumor and innuendo, celebrity and entertainment, prurient subjects — that gather the most clicks and distracts the electorate (and quite a few candidates) from more considered concerns.

Just think about it — music, news, sports, weather, apps and so many other conveniences — how many of us, as users, pay online for what some more seasoned of us used to pay offline. Even where we do pay, is it at the level we once shelled out in print, or dollars to dimes?

And yet, our nation’s fourth estate — the vibrancy of our democracy — is at stake. Who is served when diversity of news and opinions are concentrated only in deep pockets, amid a hurry to post online and worry about fairness and accuracy tomorrow? When a columnist at a Las Vegas newspaper can’t even write about community business leaders who are owners of casinos — is this what journalism is coming to?

Let me conclude with some upbeat answers. When paid subscriptions wither, we all know who is there to fill the bill: advertisers. The division of church and state — keeping the newsroom independent of the publishing side of the business — is a time-honored and necessary check and balance inside most media organizations. Where it’s blurred, the integrity of information is sacrificed. That’s always worried me about native content trends. However, there are many journalists (alumni friends) who are very happy that advertising, advertisers and ad tech exist. They well know that without us, diversity of content, news and opinion, professionally gathered and edited, would go the wayside along with their livelihoods. It might be dimes instead of dollars, but it’s some compensation. Our hometowns, our nation, our world and now the Internet cannot afford anything less, and it’s certainly worth a lot more.

Will Ad Spending Really Be ‘Sluggish’ in 2016?

I was surprised as anyone to see reports last month from GroupM that ad spending may only muster modest growth of 4.5 percent in 2016 — after 4.3 percent growth this year. I’m not an economist, but it’s hard to fathom that that’s all we can expect. But then again…

Image: Shutterstock
Image: Shutterstock

I was surprised as anyone to see reports last month from GroupM that ad spending may only muster modest growth of 4.5 percent in 2016 — after 4.3 percent growth this year. I’m not an economist, but it’s hard to fathom that that’s all we can expect. But then again…

Usually, years of Presidential Elections and Summer Olympics are boon years for advertising, certainly here in the U.S. Taken together with continued U.S. economic growth and China stabilization, if ad spending is only going to grow this slowly, one must ask what’s holding it back?

According to the report, television advertising in the U.S. is competitive — meaning there’s softness in the market. This is primarily because eyeballs are migrating to digital, video streaming and mobile devices, at the expense of television — eMarketer records more than 5 hours of a day spent on digital channels, and just four hours on TV. Globally, however, TV is resilient in strength.

GroupM also reported that 90 percent of ad spending growth is in digital – which now comprises 30 percent of global ad spend, compared to 19 percent in print media.

Perhaps, sluggish may be the new normal — as media shifts continue to flow in fits and starts. 2016, with all the traditional bolsters for U.S. ad spending in place, should really show if there is indeed a less bullish norm.

In two weeks, before the Direct Marketing Club of New York, The Winterberry Group will present its forecast for U.S. media spending – including general, direct marketing and, within direct, digital media spending. I’ll be there taking notes!

Mobile’s Impact on the Consumer Path to Purchase

One in three ad dollars will go to digital advertising next year, meaning digital media spending will be almost equal to television spending. Digital strategies will help drive the U.S. advertising market to $172 billion in 2015, according to new research from Magna Global. This—in combination with mobile and social networking—will push digital to the forefront

One in three ad dollars will go to digital advertising next year, meaning digital media spending will be almost equal to television spending. Digital strategies will help drive the U.S. advertising market to $172 billion in 2015, according to new research from Magna Global. Additional research shows that digital advertising will overtake television advertising by 2017, due in large part to the growing popularity of online video, with sites like YouTube and Netflix. This—in combination with mobile and social networking—will push digital to the forefront.

A digital strategy is no longer a nice-to-have, but a must-have for retailers and brands. If you don’t believe that, then you need to take a hard look at the following data points:

  • Mobile devices lead to in-store purchases. 52 percent of U.S. shoppers have used a mobile device to research products while browsing in a store.
  • Tablets are the cornerstone of online shopping. Tablets are expected to bring in $76 billion in online sales, two times that of mobile devices.
  • Digital content and mobile devices go hand in hand. According to eMarketer, U.S. adults will spend 23 percent of their time consuming media on a mobile device this year.
  • Mobile advertising is at its tipping point. Ad spend is expected to hit $31.45 billion this year. By 2018, it will top $94 billion.

How Do You Get There From Here?
Effective digital strategies take a cross-channel approach that integrates the various mobile channels, such as SMS, app, Web and social.

Value comes behind the scenes, as brands can learn useful information from mobile interactions. For example, customers reveal their operating system when they download an app or open their Web browser. Smart marketers collate such data points into one centralized customer profile—an ideal asset to maximize personalization for mobile.

Companies just getting started with cross-channel mobile marketing should focus on small wins. True cross-channel takes time and iteration, so commit to integrating what makes sense in the short, medium and long terms instead of trying to do everything simultaneously. Below you will find some key areas to consider when building out a mobile strategy:

1. Tablets, Smartphones and Watches, Oh My!
It will be vital for brands to take different form factors into account as they roll out their mobile campaigns. Mobile campaigns can quickly be compromised if brands don’t think about the impact on visuals and the call to action across various screen sizes.

2. The Mobile Marketing Tipping Point
Mobile marketing is evolving as more than just a tactic and is being embraced as a core part of the marketing strategy. With the goals being relatively the same as traditional marketing, marketers will be able to attract, engage and retain new and existing customers. Marketers will be able to target their audiences through highly relevant content based on location, interests and interactions throughout the mobile lifecycle.

3. Deliver a Seamless Experience From Discovery to Purchase
Brands have to make a conscious effort to remove the silos across organizations to be successful at mobile marketing. The goal of marketers should be to collaborate across initiatives by taking in to account different screen sizes, channels, design and messages to deliver ONE consistent experience to consumers.

4. Connecting the Dots Across all of the Consumer Lifecycle
As digital becomes a more integral part of the marketing strategy it will be vitally important to understand how mobile campaigns are performing across the entire customer lifecycle—including mobile ads and messaging, QR Codes, mobile website, branded apps and social media. With these insights, marketers will be able to optimize their campaigns to better understand the triggers that lead consumers down the path-to-purchase.

People everywhere are becoming more reliant on mobile devices and mobile websites to provide them with instant access to product information, deals and the opportunity to purchase in an easy, straightforward manner. Brands have to make it easy for their customers to navigate mobile sites and quickly decide to purchase, regardless of what device they are on.

How Big Is Your Vision?

Way back in the Internet dark ages of January 1996, Bill Gates wrote about and coined the phrase “Content Is King.” He was talking of course, about Web content and the need for people and organizations hoping to monetize the Internet to consistently produce fresh and relevant topics in order to gain the interest and loyalty of viewers, just as television had been doing, radio before that and print media the longest of all. His assertion that “over time, someone will figure out how to get revenue” from Internet advertising is frighteningly similar to today’s gurus predicting much the same in regard to social media marketing. Just as back then—when companies and marketers struggled with deciding whether a Web presence was needed—today there are still major corporations only testing the social media waters, even if only half-heartedly, to keep pace with competitors.

Way back in the Internet dark ages of January 1996, Bill Gates wrote about and coined the phrase “Content Is King.” He was talking of course, about Web content and the need for people and organizations hoping to monetize the Internet to consistently produce fresh and relevant topics in order to gain the interest and loyalty of viewers, just as television had been doing, radio before that and print media the longest of all. His assertion that “over time, someone will figure out how to get revenue” from Internet advertising is frighteningly similar to today’s gurus predicting much the same in regard to social media marketing. Just as back then—when companies and marketers struggled with deciding whether a Web presence was needed—today there are still major corporations only testing the social media waters, even if only half-heartedly, to keep pace with competitors.

For me, however, two lines in the Gates vision statement take on a slightly different connotation than his thoughts on content: “The definition of ‘content’ becomes very wide” and “Over time, the breadth of information on the Internet will be enormous, which will make it compelling.”

I read those two lines and what immediately strikes me is the overwhelming amount of data being generated during these last 17 years and how it is being captured, nurtured and put to work in areas such as Lead Generation, Brand, Affinity, Cross-Channel and Retention marketing. If at all.

IBM has an infographic regarding the flood of Big Data they use in demonstrating how their Netezza device handles integration for several major marketing organizations. This shows how, with connectivity, speed and bandwidth issues having become nearly eradicated during just the last two to three years, the amount of collectible, actionable data has exploded.

Unfortunately, the amount of irrelevant and useless data being collected is even greater than the actionable data, and being able to simply store that much data, let alone begin to organize and digest it all, is a major concern for most organizations. Before even thinking about the incorporation of Big Data initiatives, there should be an organizational review of quality for the existing information held in the collective datamarts that feed the central repository used for decision-making. Long before Big Data, the issue of Bad Data must be addressed.

Whether you are a B-to-B or B-to-C marketing entity, the creep of inaccurate data is constant across every customer and prospect contact you currently maintain. Experian-QAS has a stark reality “Cost of Bad Data” infographic showing the millions of dollars lost each year as a direct result of inaccurate and incomplete contact information. Complacency and budgetary shortcuts speed the process even more. Whether it is via an in-house effort or using third-party tools and vendors to perform ongoing hygiene, the vitality of your contact strategy is not sustainable without regular maintenance.

Once secure in the clarity and accuracy of your core data, you can move on to the integration plan for all of the additional goodies sprouting up from the Big Data seeds being sewn across every outbound and inbound marketing channel being utilized. But again, more planning and decision-making is critical before just jumping in and trying to grab every nugget. Perhaps the Fortune 50- to 500-level corporations might have the resources to take this on in one massive project, but I doubt that many small, mid or even larger brands can just dump everything into a pot and begin using the information gleaned into a successful series of campaigns. In a SAS/Harvard Business Review whitepaper I read recently; “What Executives Don’t Understand About Big Data,” this quote stood out to me:

“What works best is not a C-suite commitment to ‘bigger data,’ ambitious algorithms or sophisticated analytics. A commitment to a desired business outcome is the critical success factor. The reason my London executives evinced little enthusiasm for 100 times more customer data was that they couldn’t envision or align it with a desirable business outcome. Would offering 1,000 times or 10,000 times more data be more persuasive? Hardly.”

Having the foresight to develop phased approaches for data incorporation based on both short- and long-term ROI is the most realistic approach. Using results from the interim stages provides the ability to thoroughly test and analyze and measure value, keeping the project moving forward steadily while minimizing roadblocks to the longer-term goals.

My initial recommendation for the process would be along the lines of:

  1. C-Suite leadership establish the long-term goals for organizational success and with other Senior Management develop the phases to follow based on data, budget and resource availability to be assigned through each phase.
  2. Set the expectations and build the benefits case of the project across the entire company, communicating these goals in order to coordinate the gathering and availability of resources needed from whatever silo in which they reside.
  3. Design the KPIs that will be required in determining accuracy of marketing integration of the insights being introduced during each phase.
  4. Test and Measure every step of each phase for completeness and success before moving on to the next.
  5. Build simple and multivariate test panels into marketing campaign segmentation to analyze what new data elements truly provide sustainable lift in response.

I would love to hear your thoughts.

Marketing: It Doesn’t Have to Be Complicated

I love the new AT&T television campaign with the cute guy talking to the group of first graders. The guy poses a simple question to the kids, like “What’s better? Doing two things at once or just one?” The kids pause for a moment, consider their options, and then all shout out “TWO! TWO!” with some thrusting two fingers into his face. “You sure?” he asks innocently to one little girl. “I am absolutely positive,” she states decisively, flattening her hands on the table for emphasis. Finally one little boy says “I can do two things … I can wave my head …” while he starts waggling it from side to side, “and wave my arm …” It makes me dizzy just to watch him.

I love the new AT&T television campaign with the cute guy talking to the group of first graders. If you’ve been living under a rock and missed them, the guy poses a simple question to the kids like, “What’s better? Doing two things at once or just one?”

The kids pause for a moment, consider their options, and then all shout out “TWO! TWO!” with some thrusting two fingers into his face. “You sure?” he asks innocently to one little girl. I am absolutely positive,” she states decisively, flattening her hands on the table for emphasis.

Finally one little boy says “I can do two things … I can wave my head …” while he starts waggling it from side to side, “and wave my arm …” It makes me dizzy just to watch him.

I always laugh out loud at these spots because it reminds me of so many of the focus groups I’ve witnessed over the years, and the commercial’s message, “It doesn’t have to be complicated,” could be the lesson for many marketers these days.

There are plenty of large, complex brands out there that require lots of intricate strategies and tactics against many different audiences. But many smaller brands have yet to heed the old KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid) message that we learned in marketing class many moons ago.

I recently received a direct mail package that directed me to a URL to download a whitepaper. Since I was interested in the topic, I visited the URL. But when I arrived, I couldn’t find any mention of the whitepaper, even though I scoured the home page.

Yesterday I clicked on a link in an email to download another whitepaper and it took me to a dedicated registration page that asked four or five simple questions before I could download. So far, so good.

But after completing the form, I ended up on another, differently designed page, asking for most of the same information before I could complete the download. Huh?

Last week I got a phone call from a sales rep telling me he was following up on the package he sent me. When I told him I had no memory of receiving it, he mumbled something that sounded like “damn marketing people” and then said he’d have to call me back. Wha—?

As AT&T states, “It’s not complicated”—so why are so many marketing efforts such a chocolate mess?

Here are the 2 marketing rules I always try to live by:

  • Make It Easy: Think about your target and what you want them to do. Then make it easy for them to do it. That includes forms (I once challenged an insurance client on the # of questions required on an app for a quote and was able to reduce it from 26 to 6).
  • Demand Quality: Always proof (don’t get me started) and impose a rigid QC process. For example, test blast your emails and check all the links before you launch the program to your customer/prospect base. If I get one more email addressed to “Dear (Client)” or “Dear Marc,” I’m going to scream.

If you make sure you incorporate those principles into your marketing workflow, you might be surprised at the difference it can make.

And as my Dad used to say “Just use the ol’ noggin’…”