Don’t Expect Campaigns to Disappear Anytime Soon

Sometimes I wonder about supposed technology trends that are discussed. One of the latest trends I am hearing about is the death of the marketing campaign.

Marketing technologists and analysts say that new tools will put an end to the dreaded campaign. My response? Don’t bet on it.

In the mid 2000s, this meme emerged for the first time. Then, the end of the marketing campaign was a Cluetrain Manifesto-esque railing against corporate treatment of customers. Thanks to social media, corporations would be forced to talk to customers, one to one.

What ended up happening was a new way for brands to cultivate loyalists, customers used a different public channel to complain (hello, Twitter!), and an immense amount of data was created. As for the marketing campaign, it now includes social media.

This time, contextual media and broken funnels drive the meme. Automation solutions will use data created from social media, and companies will be forced to create Choose Your Own Adventure content and lead paths to better serve customers. Global campaigns will end, forcing niche campaigns.

Sound familiar? I think so, too, though a bit more realistic than the one-to-one argument from the prior decade.

Why Campaigns Won’t End


Marketing automation will empower companies to create strong niche campaigns as opposed to deploying one-size fits all efforts. Though customized and more targeted, this will not end the campaign, rather make it more sophisticated with better tools.

The problem with ending campaigns is threefold. First, marketing campaign critics always address the matter from the perspective of the customer. They forget that campaigns are often a function of corporate budgets and anticipated profits. The same could be send for nonprofits and annual fundraising.

Budgets and revenue are time-bound, especially for public companies. This creates a compelling reason to develop specific campaigns within budget that achieve the necessary results, all to satisfy shareholders, owners, and keep companies and nonprofits alive.

Second, customers don’t react to campaigns, say the pundits. Well, actually customers just don’t like marketing period, but they do react to campaigns when they need/want a product or service. What the Internet evolutions of the recent past have shown us through tracking is a much more sophisticated non-linear sales cycle.

OK. So, that tells me that marketing campaigns will become more sophisticated, with better tools (automation, for example), more transmedia options for customers to accesss information, and more specified messaging. But like the social media era, the campaign evolves. It doesn’t disappear.

Finally, campaigns address a human need on both the customer and the company side of the equation: A desire for new. Whether it’s a mobile phone, a car, or a software solution, people have come to expect new evolutions from their current provider and competitors alike. Similarly, new products and services drive growth and competition amongst companies.

Guess how new products and services are launched? You got it, with campaigns. Customers may not like marketing, but they like the same old boring marketing campaign even less. The campaign helps fulfill the core need of new.

Until Wall Street ends quarterly expectations and companies and nonprofits stop functioning on an annual budget; the ability to adapt to customer expectations disappears; and the need for new things ends; marketing campaigns are here to stay. I’ll check back with the pundits in the 22nd century.

What do you think?

A version of this post ran originally on the Vocus blog.

Automation Is Everything But the Machine

In creating algorithmic driven segmentation and automated content and nurture paths companies still need humans at the helm.

No better example can be seen than the recent outing of a young lady’s pregnancy by a direct mailing driven by algorithms. The issue may have been avoided if someone had looked at the algorithm and considered the potential invasion of privacy, or had at least segmented the list by age groups.

Clearly data is a huge driver behind automation. To make big data manageable, companies need to create governance a high priority issue. Data standards need to be implemented so data is easily handled, processed in the correct fields, and in turn, empowers the company to better serve prospects and customers with great, precision-oriented information.

Most importantly, strategists need to run marketing automation as opposed to automation dictating paths. They need to decide when someone is going to receive an email. Or a custom landing page. Just because someone can do something doesn’t mean they should.

The key to great automation is to take a strategic business approach , ensuring your corporate personality and value proposition rings through in automation, people behind the brand serving its customers with great tools. Great automation maintains the personality of a brand.

Consider how Nordstrom manages to keep its incredible high quality customer centric personality through the decades. You better believe Nordstrom uses database marketing to send you its timely emails and direct mail. Yet you never get the sense that Nordstom is pushing it, always maintaining its high touch personality. The tools serve the brand rather than shaping it.

When brands move to adapt automation they would be wise to remember the holy grail, a great customer experience that is seamless. It is so well tailored that customers see interactions with the company is timely, useful, and prescient.

To get there companies need to do more than implement powerful software. They need to understand and implement better business processes, integrating teams, training to work technology across business functions, and a commitment to adapt to rapidly evolving media. Most importantly, they should treat automation as a means to end, a way to communicate and deliver their very human commitment to their customers.

What do you think about marketing automation?

This post ran originally on the Vocus blog. Image: -sel (Creative Commons)

Robert Scoble on Data, Algorithms and the Future of Marketing

Robert Scoble on Data, Algorithms and the Future of Marketing

Robert Scoble and Shel Israel have written a defining book for the big data marketing automation era, the Age of Context (read my review). The two teamed on similar book in the early social media days called Naked Conversations that accurately predicted the forthcoming impact on business.

Given their many successes over the years and the powerful ideas in Age of Context, Geoff decided to interview successful blogger Robert Scoble for Vocus. You’ll find an insightful interview on marketing, media and society as a whole.

GL: What prompted you to write the book?

RS: Rackspace pays me to interview innovators, usually startup founders,
but also people who are doing leading edge work inside big companies. Back in early 2012 I saw a bunch of new patterns, due to that work. Sensors were increasing exponentially. So were social data, big data, and wearables. That led to discussions with Shel and eventually to the book, “Age of Context.”

GL: Will the age of context last longer than the age of conversation?

RS:Yes, I think so. Why? Because I’m seeing sensors inside R&D labs that won’t be able to be productized or perfected for consumer market for eight years or more.

GL: Context seems to be about taking the data from sensors, phones, location, etc. and creating useful offerings and information from that data. You discuss this as precision marketing. How important are data skills for marketers +today and +tomorrow?

RS: Well, the big trend is that we’ll need to know 100x more about our customers than we do today. So, yes, data skills are huge. But so are skills in building systems that use that data in a non-freaky way. If I walk into your business and you know everything about me you could easily freak me out, or miscast me and serve me poorly. So we’ll need humans to make sure that the databases don’t enable poor customer service too.

GL:What’s the best way to learn how to analyze data?

RS: The companies at the leading edge have people skilled at machine
learning. That’s what I learned when I visited Prismatic, which is a news service. Learning how to do what those very advanced people are doing? Very hard. Probably requires going to Stanford and getting a computer science degree. But you can start to think about data analysis — watch what journalists do with data and start learning how
to push around data in databases.

Gary Vaynerchuk says he built a database of everyone who tweeted about him. That seems to be a good place to start. Do you know who is tweeting about you or your competitors? If you don’t, then you need to get there and get there
fast (in my industry we already have teams of people and specially-written software to do that, so I have to be far more
advanced than that to keep ahead).

GL:What outcome do you see for communicators who can’t/won’t learn data analysis?

RS: When we wrote Naked Conversations eight years ago we predicted a world where marketers would have to be on social media otherwise they would limit their career opportunities. That absolutely has happened today. The best marketers are on social media and/or run teams that do it.

Tomorrow? If you don’t know your customer in very deep detail you will be run out of the marketing world. Why? Because customers will tend to go to where they are being served better. Uber will beat taxis unless taxis respond. Why? Uber knows its customers in far deeper detail than taxi companies do (down to the point of knowing where you are standing
in the street before they arrive).

GL:You touched on the importance of permission in the 12th chapter on privacy. What’s the future of permission?

RS: I look at Uber. I gave it permission to know a LOT about me, even where I’m standing and my phone number. Why? Because I get a LOT of utility out of that. So, the future is “give utility first, then ask
for permission.” In the book Marc Andreessen calls this “free ice cream.” People will hand over their private details in exchange for a metaphorical free ice cream. I agree.

GL:I remember giving the DNC permission to email me, and I still get spammed despite opting out from their lists numerous times. Is giving permission really just the death of “quiet?”

RS: Google and Apple are working on contextual operating systems. These will know what you are doing. Who you are doing it with. Are you in a meeting? Google knows, it’s on your calendar. So it can shut up any of these lame advertisements. In fact, look at the new Gmail. That DNC email already is going to the promotional folder. It knows about the context of that email and that it’s not from a trusted friend. So, no, I think context is the rebirth of quiet. You’ll get these kinds of messages when you want or need them, not earlier.

Marketers will need to learn to be far better about serving these messages out, too. In a perfect world the DNC would add a feature to its emails like Facebook has “show fewer of these messages” or “show these messages only during
the month before an election” or something like that. But marketers don’t think about customer service so Google will force the issue, just as it has with Gmail’s promotional folder that removes this kind of stuff from the inbox.

GL:What about algorithms? What happens if someone is “abnormal” and breaks the routine assumptions of an algorithm. Will they break the machines, so to speak? Will they be forced to conform to an algorithmic path?

RS: The system is crude right now. It won’t work for everyone. My son is autistic. He isn’t able to give these systems enough of a pattern for them really to serve him. Well, I take that back. He already loves YouTube and Netflix and both keep serving him more videos that are associated with the ones he already likes. He loves that feature.

I don’t see these things “breaking.” I do see them as serving back poor choices. For instance, when using Saga last year, it kept telling me about golf services. Why? I live on a golf course but I hate golf. It didn’t have a way to correct it. These early attempts will seem quite quaint in a few years. The better ones are correctable. I’m also finding that I’m changing MY behavior because of these systems.

Why? I put addresses on all my Google Calendar items now, for instance. That’s because the newer apps like Google Now and Tempo work better when I do that.

GL:Is the ultimate luxury of the future going dark?

RS: The ultimate luxury of the future is to have exclusive experiences that demand your full attention. Burning Man is one that a lot of my rich friends say is pretty great. High demand sports like skiing or surfing are others (try skiing while looking at your smartphone or even the wearable computer in your Oakley ski goggles — I’ve tried and it’s impossible, but once the run is down everyone reaches for their digital devices).

Even with Burning Man I noticed that lots of people were using Waze to get up there and using photo sharing services and social networks to keep in touch back home, even though far lighter than usual.

But, yes, a real “vacation” for your mind is to go dark and discover new experiences. Once you get home, though, you’ll retrain your contextual systems pretty quickly. Say you go to Bali for three weeks. Try a lot of new food. Discover you like sushi. Well, when you get home you will start looking for sushi restaurants.

GL:What do you think the impact will be on thinking? Will we be limited because the machine suggests outcomes for us?

RS: Do you remember phone numbers anymore? I don’t. Our thinking has already been changed by modern machines. In the future we will have to remember less of even more things in our lives. Even how to drive. But
that will give us more time to spend our mental energy on other things. Maybe watch another TED video and learn something new? So, I’m not worried that we’ll get to be dumb. We’ll use these technologies to make our lives better and we’ll spend our mental energies in areas the machines aren’t good at.

This interview originally ran on the Vocus blog.

7 Daunting Challenges Facing Marketers


Marketing today remains a great challenge, in large part because of the consistently changing technology and media landscape. Informational sources (conferences, blogs, etc.) consistently address these challenges yet the issues persist.

It may be time to take a step back on a macro level and look at how education and information sources are meeting these challenges.

Here are the seven daunting difficulties for today’s communicators, each followed by an idea or three on how to address them. Please add your own thoughts.

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Marketing Automation Will Improve

The most common complaint about algorithms is their lack of intelligence, specifically their inability to generate results that match human interactions.

Image by anthillsocial

Image by anthillsocial

Producing off communication and awkward misses can actually hurt brands more than help them. Perhaps the most publicly algorithm gaffes have been via Facebook social ads, which over the years have served up many publicly noted gaffes. Then of course there is the confusion that automation creates about big date, which for many is just sloppy data.

So, yeah, automation has its issues, but it will improve.

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Automation Killed the Social Media Star

Judy Dench looking over coffins in a scene from Skyfall, image by Sony

Has automation killed the social media star?

I think so.

The social media conversation paradigms of 2006 form a foundation for today’s online world. But Cluetrain Manifesto dreams have been bludgeoned and destroyed by the unrelenting advance of technology and corporate demands for better financial results.

The resulting technological imperative forces success-driven individuals and companies to use automation tools to drive online engagement.
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