Thursday, March 16, 2017

These days, we navigate life through search.
We search to eat, to learn, to travel, to date, and to find work.
We search during the moments that matter on our mobile devices.
Search gives us super powers. Search makes us faster and smarter, but it also gives us a taste of our average.
Search engines push content based on our consumption behavior or people “like us" behavior.
We have gotten trapped in the limitations of algorithmic recommendations. No surprise from discovering something we loved but didn’t expect.
We watch the movies that we are supposed to watch.
We dine at the restaurants that we are presumed to dine.
We shop where we are expected to shop.
To escape the tyranny of the average, we follow the few brave souls that are breaking the mold.
People willing to defy the norm and become the tastemaker of their destiny.
They are the new curators in this age of abundance. We call them influencers. They give us a search result that is imperfect, irrational, unexpected, but mostly human. 
They push the envelope on society’s social norms, creating frictions with conventionality.
Search as we know it - Google, Amazon, and Facebook - is decentralizing because of influencers.
They are building a legion of followers and driving mass consumption across all categories like movies, fashion, fitness, travel, and music.
Influencers are loyal to no one except their fans. 
Google’s competition as a search engine is not Facebook. It has become influencers.
Influencers curate across platforms: Instagram for their pics. Spotify for their playlists. Youtube for their videos. LinkedIn to share career advice. Snapchat and Facebook for live video stories.
Hence, people follow people, not products and services. Platforms will soon need to adapt to the influencers to stay relevant.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Branding is Commerce. Commerce is Branding.

We grew up viewing these two worlds in isolation, like oil and water.
In brand marketing, "branding" represents the emotional world; commerce is the rational one.
Branding provides purpose and identity. Commerce gets people to transact.
We create different tribes to manage these worlds.
The brand team is comprised of liberal art majors. The commerce team is comprised of science majors.
We arm them with different weapons and measure them in a variety of ways.
Branding uses mass media. Commerce focuses on direct marketing.
Awareness and perception measure branding. Conversion and sales measure commerce.
We called this model "pray and wait," which is inefficient and dark. We had a limited view of who was going through the purchase funnel. We experienced significant drops during each stage without knowing why.
Hence, we focused only on the top, "the brand," and the bottom, "the commerce." We neglected the middle, "consideration," which was hard to measure.
Technology and data disrupted this model. Today, branding and commerce have blended into one funnel that's measurable and immediate.
Now, we can purchase any goods, anytime and anywhere, through our mobile devices. We can target and track people by search intent ("what you are searching for" in Google) and latent search ("what you are not searching for, but you want" on Facebook).
We can go in minutes from brand "awareness" to purchase "Commerce" within the same social frame.
We can now book flights through Facebook Messenger. Icelandair has rolled out flight booking capabilities on Facebook Messenger. Users can message the Icelandair Messenger profile and input their desired trip information, including the destination and the number of people traveling, to book a flight.
Twitter's Buy button makes it easier than ever to shop from a tweet. Any merchant using Shopify, Bigcommerce, or Demandware can add the "Buy" button to tweets.
The Google Buy button make it easier for consumers to purchase products directly from mobile search ads.
Instagram is testing new features that will enable brands to share posts that include more product information, with the aim of getting more consumers to buy products they see on the image-sharing site.
In summary, branding without commerce is ineffective. Commerce without branding is irrelevant and lacks scale. Businesses that can seamlessly integrate branding and Commerce will edge the ones which only excel at one part of the funnel. In a connected world, integration wins.

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Living in a State of Brand Neutrality

Today, we eat, shop, and drive through our mobile devices. We solve unexpected problems and make big decisions at the moment. We are more loyal to the need of the time than any particular brands.
Even though we live in the moment, most of the marketing dollars are not in the moment. This gap creates three breeds of brands; passive, active and neutral. Active brands, which are in tune with today's reality, have the edge.
Let's take a closer at these three breeds.
Passive Brands: The Dreamers
Passive brands lead with traditional advertising, regardless of the channel (e.g., TV, radio, print, and digital banners). They don't require the audience to participate or co-create the experience. They just need them to pay attention.
The problem is that this model requires a lot of money, time and discipline to work; Mass media is expensive. Changing attitudes through passive comms takes time. And most brands lack the discipline to stick to creative platforms for years.
If you have deep pockets like GEICO, this model still works. GEICO spends nearly $1 billion annually on advertising. They have had a consistent message “15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance” for almost 20 years. If you are not in this club, you might want to consider a different approach. You want to involve consumers with the brand through experiences.
Active Brands: The Beautiful Constraint
Active brands focus on engagement ideas. They live in the moment and requires hot triggers - a call to action. The goal is to get people act and co-create the experience. They born out of necessity given the lack of resources to do mass media. Most of the start-up's brands follow this route in social platforms.
The convention in the industry is that we cannot "build" brands through actions alone. We need to expose our audience to an "Ad" for enough time to establish an association in the consumer minds. I respectfully disagree. Actions change attitudes faster than attitudes change actions, as Adam Ferrier described in the Advertising Effect. People tend to align their feelings with their actions to justify their behavior. The principle is called cognitive dissonance in psychology.
Neutral brands: Stuck in the Middle
Neutral brands do both, active and passive communications. Most of the brands fall into this bucket. They follow the old AIDA model (Attention, interest, desire and actions), which is a linear journey. e.g., People watch an ad, then go online to search more and so on.
My beef with this model is not that doesn't work. It's that we can take a faster road. Why do we want to walk when we can run? People don't follow a linear journey. Most of our exposure with brands are happening through interactive devices. Plus, planning for both, passive and active comms, requires more work, time and resources. Today time is of an essence. A few months late to market can make or break your brands.
Hence, here we are living in a state brand neutrality. Trying to do everything under the marketing roof to mitigate risk and cut ours loses. The problem is that playing safe is the most dangerous thing that we can do. To get an edge, we need to make our brand live the moment.

Monday, February 27, 2017

Invisible Ads, Illusionary Marketing

Invisible ads are digital ads that people don't see or recall.
They can take many shapes or forms; Banners, pre-roll video ad, pop-up ads, and high-impact take over.
They share the same traits; Irrelevant, intrusive and indifferent.
When offering the chance, people opt for skipping the ads or blocking it all together. Ninety percent of individuals skip pre-roll ads appearing ahead of online video content and TV show.
When offering no choice, people view and forget about them. Sixty-eight percent of people recall less than five ads they’ve seen in the past week.
Invisible ads have a devastating power, Juniper Research estimated in a recent study that digital publishers stand to lose more than $27 billion by 2020.
They create illusionary marketing; Brands overestimating their advertising and ability to change behavior.
The problem is not that people hate ads, they just hate bad, intrusive and annoying ads.
We have been applying mass principles to digital. We do tv ads on pre-roll videos and print ads in banners that are disrespectful of the experience. Pop up ads are the worst.
We should instead bake ads into the experience. Contextual and personalized relevance creates a better experience.
- New Adlucent research found that consumers crave a personalized advertising experience and that 71% of respondents prefer ads tailored to interests and shopping habits.
- In an IPG study, consumers reported that their perception of a brand increased when served a contextually relevant ad. Consumers targeted at the contextual level were 83% more likely to recommend the product in the advertisement than those aimed at the audience or channel level.
- Plus, contextual ads can prime our audience's perception. Our surrounding environment largely dictates the perception of the world. Choosing when and where to run the ads is an important choice because of the prime effect. What people read or watch prior the ads can influence how people perceived the ads.
Making the invisible visible is less about ads, more about the experience. The more we can align context and content with the brand story, the more real is our marketing.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Creating a Behavior Intervention Plan for Your Brand

Is your brand misbehaving? Is your audience not responding to your brand message as desired? Perhaps, you should consider creating a behavior intervention plan (BIP) for your brand.
Behavior plans are a useful classroom management tool for students engaging in inappropriate classroom behavior. They serve to teach and reinforce positive behaviors and are a way of documenting the success of the intervention.
We can apply the same principles to brands. After all, we are in the business of changing behavior; We want people to buy our products, purchase more, stop or increase a particular conduct.
While this might have been hard to pull off a few years ago, today's data and technology allow us to simulate a classroom environment. We can use social network platforms such as Facebook to target behaviors at the micro-moment level and create proactive and reactive strategies to modify our audience behavior.
Changing behavior is hard. We are human, imperfect and irrational. Data and technology help, but to change people's behavior we still need a plan designed for the irrationality of the human mind.
How would a Behavioral Plan work on brands? With some creative liberties, here are five steps to create one for your brands.
Let's say that we want to convince Carl, a New Yorker in his early 30's who works in a consulting firm, to try a new brand of Belgian White beer that we want to sell.
1.Description of the targeted behavior
Describe the behavior, and what does the action looks like?
Carl likes to drink Bluemoon, another Belgian white. The goal is for Carl to try our new beer, which is within the same category he likes.
Identify the frequency of the behavior (how often it occurs), intensity (how severe is it), and the duration (how long does the behavior last)?
Carl drinks three beers every Friday after work at the bar. And occasional on weekdays around the same time.
2.Functional behavior assessment
What are they trying to achieve? What are they getting and avoiding?
He drinks beer as a reward for the hard working day or week. He enjoys the taste of citrus and wheat of the Belgian white. He also likes to support brands that are environmentally and socially responsible.
3. Desired behavior
Identify the behavior that would be taught to replace the existing behavior, which must be related to the function.
We are going to prime Carl to try the new beer through a mix of modeling, direct instructions, and non-verbal cues. We are going to link to the function by highlighting the great citrus and wheat taste of the new brand as a reward for a hard working day. We are also going to emphasize the company commitment to protect the environment.
4. Behavior Change Plan
Proactive: What active support would be used to encourage the replacement of the behavior?
Obedience/Modeling: We would leverage the power of authority to drive compliance. People tend to obey orders from other people if they recognize their power as morally right or legally based.
For instance, we could create a short video of an influencer, whom Carl follows, recommending the new beer. We would target the video on Facebook a couple of hours before the end of business day on Friday. And reinforce the message through the weekday on about the same time.
The power of small commitment: By making small, but firm commitments to ourselves, we can begin to move in a consistent direction and finally start to see some significant changes.
We could ask Carl to make a small commitment by liking the video, which is not necessarily an endorsement for the brand, but more of a commitment to support an independent brewery, which is environmentally friendly.
5. Data Collection
How will progress be monitored and data collected to ensure the effectiveness of the behavior plan?
Besides measuring Carl's interaction with videos and visitation to the brand site, we can use digital coupons that he can redeem at any liquor store to track purchase behavior.
In summary, today's data and technology are empowering a different approach to marketing; One that focuses on actions, not attitudes. Act with surgical precision, not with careless timing. One that is personalized, not for the masses. A marketing approach closer to the world that we live in, which is active, real and human.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Open Brands; Living in a State of Constant Change

Today's businesses have two ways to compete in the digital economy with an open or a closed brand system.
Open brand systems are integrated, fast, and participatory. Closed systems are fragmented, slow, and controlled.
The more brands adopt an open model in their services, people, and communications, the more resilient they become in the digital economy. A closed system cannot keep up with today's speed of change, which is claiming business everywhere.
The problem is that most brands are still operating in a hybrid and closed system. They control the message, they are structured in departments, and their offering isn't flexible enough to meet new customer expectations.
To move to an open system, we need to embrace constant change. We need to create story engines that are always evolving, breaking with department structures, and ending the ownership of our services.
Open communication: Creating story engines
Open communication is participatory and self-regulated. Brand plays a hosted role by providing users a platform to connect and express themselves. The audience generates most of the content through participation in reviews, likes, and comments. Think Amazon, Google, LinkedIn, Facebook, or Netflix.
We can apply the same thinking to open advertising campaigns: The message is open for consumers to take ideas anywhere, which creates a snowball effect; people interact and build on other people's stories.
A good example of open advertising is the Madden GIFERATOR, a real-time NFL GIF engine that generates a live stream of animated GIFs triggered by the action on TV. GIFERATOR became part of mass culture following massive adoption by fans, brands, NFL teams, and players.
A closed communication system, in contrast, is controlled and descriptive. The brand defines the what, when, where, and how. Think about a Dunking Donuts ad that only talks about the taste of their morning joe. This approach leaves little room for interpretation and participation as the brand control the story and the experience.
Open people: Breaking with department structures
Open people means breaking with department structures and putting back the focus on customers. Departments have always been a double-edged sword for businesses: While they provide mental accounting, they can create an incentive for people not to collaborate. The motivation is to protect and grow their department. This model provides a myopic view of the customer and adds complexity.
In today's connected environment, we need to group people around clients to solve problems in a more effective and efficient way. For instance, advertising agencies, which have traditionally grouped people around departments (e.g., account, creative, and planners), have now started to shift to squads, which are organized around clients. A squad team allows them to be more nimble as everyone is on the same page and has the same interests at heart.
Open services: Ending ownership
Open services are used for the ‘service' rather than for ‘owning' (or licensing) the application itself. You only pay for what you want when and where you need. Think Amazon cloud computing or Spotify, to a certain extent, where for a monthly fee, you can access all the songs you want. You are no longer required to pay per music download. You can apply the same case to Airbnb or Uber. People don't want to own. They want the flexibility to get what they want when and where they need it.
Software companies, for the most part, have moved to an open service model. However, most of the traditional industries are still catching up. No wonder players such as Amazon are disrupting every single industry from grocery stores to music with their prime membership. Amazon is the new Wall-Mart for the digital age.
In summary, in an environment that is constantly changing, we need an open model to evolve with the environment. To quote Lao Tzu, "Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like."

Thursday, February 2, 2017

The Digital Immigrant: The Economics of Digital Goods

There is no doubt that social networks have made the diasporas closer to home. I remember when I first came to this country as a student 17 years ago. At that time, I had to buy phone cards every week to call my family. Now, I connect with them for free almost on a daily basis through social networks or Skype. Furthermore, I keep in touch with friends across the world.
New media has empowered immigrants to go beyond a simple phone conversation. Now, they are in social networks and are sending pictures and videos via smartphones. Their families and friends at home are also consuming digital goods from the US.
This new dynamic has created a digital immigrant: An immigrant who is not physically in their home country but continues to consume culture, ideas and digital goods from home. I wonder what is the impact of this immigration? Are people more connected to their home countries? Are these virtual immigrants also consuming digital goods and ideas from abroad, by watching videos online, reading US newspapers, blogs, or downloading US music?
In 2008, eMarketers estimated a total of 23 million Hispanics online, which represents about 52% of the total US Hispanic population. We can break this number into three groups based on their levels of engagement online: Heavy, Medium and Light. According to a ComScore 2008 survey on Hispanic consumers online, the Heavy online users are predominately male, young, foreign-born and prefer to speak Spanish in the house. The Medium users are generally young and more likely to be born in the US. They typically speak both English and Spanish at home. Finally, the Light users tend to be the oldest of the three groups. They are more acculturated and often prefer speaking English in the home.
The segmentation helps us understand the economics of digital goods for immigrant populations. While general market media through traditional channels is generally sufficient for reaching and engaging the Light users, there are unique opportunities for Heavy and Medium online segments.
If the Heavy online segment (HOS) represented countries rather than people, these countries would be considered net importers from their country of origin. They consume more digital goods or content relevant to their home countries than US content, e.g., Mexican telenovelas and newspapers. To market to this group, we need to connect culturally to their home countries.
The Mediums online segments (MOS) are a hybrid. They are likely to be net exporters on balance though still importing many forms of media. I think media channels such as mun2, which targets 2nd generation Hispanics, hits the sweet spot. The channel features domestic US content but with Hispanic influence, such that it can be also exported abroad.
The MOS group is still proud of its Hispanic identity but considers itself American. What makes this group even more relevant is that it is already big and expanding: 47% of Hispanic adults are US-born. They are also influencing other consumers abroad through sharing videos, photos, and games. Thus, they are connectors who share digital goods and content with their friends and family abroad. Marketing to this group can be very valuable, as engaging the MOS base can create a halo effect abroad.
In summary, digital immigrants have changed the market for digital goods. Brands are becoming truly global as content is rapidly changing across countries. Net Importers are consuming more content from abroad. Net exporters are exporting more content to other countries. They all live in an open digital society without borders, which opens up opportunities for everyone.