technology

Programatic trading of media is clever automated technology that is spawning (AI enabled) services which will automate the creation of ad messages as well – more efficiency and cost reduction then. (This does not matter a lot as most ads- online- are fairly formulaic response/offer type stuff already)

But Programatic also attacks one of our most important beliefs in brand building – that it matters where you are seen not just what you have to say.

Stripping communication of its context is not good from a psychological point of view – we know that the human brain has evolved to notice context ( see Kahneman et al). Indeed all judgements that we make about people and brands are contextual.

Brands are now being drawn (by the lure of cost effective sales) into an online version selling out of the back of  a van on a rainy trading estate. What to do ?

Well two answers

-When buying programmatic, cost effectiveness can’t be the only metric – a smarter programmatic is needed that controls for quality too. Brands need to demand this – and not merely the reassurance that they will not appear in some tawdry click baity site ( or worse)

-Control your own context by becoming a publisher online. This difficult for brands and not for everyone. This piece (just published  in Aurora) explores how, why it is difficult and some of the insights into how to do it well from a really useful new book by Laz Dzamic ( declaration of interest- i worked with him at Google)

 

Page 33

 

My review of Sean Pillot de Chenecey’s new book on the marketing society website – a book to dip into but don’t attempt to read it. Here is my text:-

The author attacks his topic on page 1: –

“A weakening of the vital trust connection between brands and consumers is causing enormous problems for businesses around the world. Linked to this something has gone very wrong with a vital element of consumer engagement: authenticity seems to be evaporating as a core brand pillar”

Phew! I am not sure what that last bit means but it is obviously very important.

This is a book where the volume is turned up to 11- things are “deeply serious”, trust has been “catastrophically devalued”, emotion is “incredibly powerful”.

There is much eye watering hyperbole, as well as sentences that wander on for several lines in search of syntax. I blame the publishers- Kogan Page- who should have afforded the author an editor. I have written some flabby prose in my time and always benefited from the gimlet eye of Judie Lannon and Elen Lewis at Market Leader. My first drafts were not worth publishing, my third drafts sometimes got into print. I reckon a good editor would have helped the author cut this book from 263 pages to under 200.

Now I have got that bit of pedantry out of the way – what about the substance of the book?

Having stated his topic, I expected the next section to substantiate it with credible quantitative research. Instead what we get is a very well-informed discussion of issues arising from the digital revolution. The first chapter is an excellent precis of how fake news and disinformation warfare have degraded politics. Sure, this is important context but there are other books on it by the likes of Evan Davis and Robert Peston.

So, should you buy this book? You might be surprised to hear my answer is yes. And the way to read it is to turn to the contents pages, which are detailed and clear, and use them to dip into topics

Take the section: “Blockchain- the benefits are hard to exaggerate” 

We know about blockchain from the fame of cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin. But there are bigger implications for rebuilding brand trust because it offers unimpeachable proof provenance in the supply chain. As the author explains well- “You can see exactly what happened when and who handed over to whom via a series of interlinking digital handshakes.” Brands are using block chain to embrace transparency – like “Wholefoods who have 100% traceability for every single albacore tuna”. Expect this to be a rising trend in branding.

The author tackles important topics, covers a lot of ground and much of it addresses his central idea about rebuilding brand trust. The final pages offer a checklist of his key themes

1)Be Authentic

2) Be transparent

3) Respect privacy

4) Demonstrate empathy

5) Be Trustworthy,

which is not a bad checklist.

But I don’t think it fully explains the evident trust in the first two trillion $ valued brands – Apple and Amazon- whose success is built on those old fashion virtues – brilliant products, value and service.

(This article was first published in Directory – and is reproduced with their kind permission)

Son (25) and daughter (23) have returned home after university: the perfect opportunity for this planner for some close-up observation of two millennials with their always- to-hand smartphones and dirty, untidied bedrooms.

I pause at this point to give some advice to fellow sufferers who have failed to train their children to “TIDY UP THEIR BEDROOMS!”. The advice is this: it’s too late. There is no point in bellowing things like “PICK YOUR CLOTHES UP OFF THE FLOOR” through closed doors as your children fester in the sheets of their unchanged bedclothes. You should simply adopt at air of Buddhist calm and accept the inevitable. You will be much happier.

Anyway, back to the social observation: –

Right here, right now, anywhere, anytime. These millennials, now re-installed chez Saunders, are tooled up with and glued to devices, which looks very similar to those flip open thingies that Captain Kirk spoke into whilst fending off aliens on planet Zog. Star Trek has come true.

Son sits at dinner with a slight smirk on his face as he messages friends in China on WeChat. Daughter grabs the remote control from my wife because she is too slow at downloading the latest episode of “Made in Chelsea.” “FFS, it’s like watching a moron” she says affectionately as she prods buttons in a blur of fingers and thumbs.

Son ignores us during the evening meal as he searches for cheap flights to Japan so he can visit his girlfriend.  He might not yet be able to dematerialise in one place and materialise in another but otherwise the world is at his command. He can order or book seemingly anything with just a few prods of fast moving thumbs. He can banter via an app with friends in four different locations around the world. He is living a life of semi- planned spontaneity in which arrangements can be made at the last minute and change live and in real time.  He has the power. He has the freedom. Beam me up Scottie.

Or does he?

There are also limitations and constraints. Stuck at home, he doesn’t fancy spending half of his trainee income on overpriced rental accommodation. The taxman is taking his cut to recover student debt.  Several of his friends have little or no income so they can’t come out.

Property is stupidly expensive in London but quite cheap still in Berlin, but, sadly, some beery backwoodsman called Farage has screwed up his plans to work where-ever he wants to in Europe.  His parents and other property owning oldsters have “eaten all the pies”.  New labour’s winning anthem has turned sour – things are not getting better. In fact, they may get worse.

This is THE BIG TENSION.

It works like this: empowerment + freedom runs up against the pressure cooker of constrain. The most resilient brands in the future will be those that help resolve THE BIG TENSION. What my children want is (surprise, surprise) Value and Service, just like their parents. But how they want it is different: –

Tough customers. They are ratty when things don’t go smoothly (“they haven’t got a mobile site FFS!”). Expectations have been raised/new standards set by a generation of constantly innovating brands that live in their smartphones. If your brand does not wake up to their exacting service expectations then things are not going to go well for you. So, what are their demands?

Quick and easy through a smartphone. With a couple of prods with their thumbs (BTW- talking at out loud at your smartphone- via Siri for example- is still way too embarrassing)

It is a smart move to design for mobile first. Want a brand to model your design on? Look at Booking.com- Google’s largest customers. They are pretty much always page 1 of search and work constantly to make their e-commerce as smooth and frictionless as possible

Don’t just use their data without asking. They know that Zuckerberg’s mob is a bit scuzzy and have tried to get away with things in the past through impenetrable T&Cs. They know that when you are encouraged to “sign in through Facebook” that it is just an attempt scrape your data. Clean up your act in this area. Embrace the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It is your friend.

 Cheaper and quicker (and quicker). Amazon. Enough said. Try Googling Amazon innovations and you will see what I mean – Prime/One Click checkout/Drones. It is all getting quicker. Want Jamie Oliver’s new book? My daughter did:  the cheapest price is also on Amazon and she can have it tomorrow.

Design in flexibility. “Book now pay after you stay.” “Sign in four of your friends”, “Cancel whenever you want with no exit charges” “No contract means that you are free to go free to stay” “Only drive when it works for you. No office. No Boss” “Request a ride and you will be on your way in minutes”. These are promises made variously by brands my children love including Booking.com, AirBnB, Netflix, Uber and Lyft. They make perfect sense to a generation that does wants to act spontaneously but cannot come up with the cash.

Upgrade the experience all the time. To live life through a smartphone is to experience constant improvements and enhancements. Every year your phone gives you a big software makeover (you know the one that takes at last 15 minutes) with new bells and whistles. Meanwhile over at Facebook and Snapchat ferocious amounts of A/B tests are happening in order to design new enticements to keep you in the habit (“You have memories to look back on”, “You and Patrick have been Facebook friends for 10 years”, “Jim likes your post”). It’s Darwinian innovation of course – if they don’t evolve then you will fall out of the habit and they will be swept away as Myspace was. The effect of all this restless paranoid innovation is to make the smartphone an endless pleasure ground of daily upgrades, which become, of course, an expectation- a new norm.

Abolishing the BIG TRADE off .The most resilient brands in the future will be those that help resolve THE BIG TENSION- and they do this by abolishing THE BIG TRADE OFFS. Here’s how it works:-

Long ago we were inculcated with the idea that we had to accept trade-offs. You could get it tomorrow but you had to pay through the nose to get it delivered. You could get (say) great Sport on TV but you would be locked into a long-term contract. You could get a cab home from central London at midnight – but regret it when you saw that crumpled receipt for £35-00 the next morning. You could book a great boutique hotel in Berlin but you would have to pay a % up front to secure the booking and do it several months in advance. You could work for a great company but in so doing lose your soul to the narrow pursuit of shareholder value over all else. You could decide to get fit by working those abs but you had to join a club and pay monthly direct debits.

The brands that are big in my children’s lives have systematically dissolved theses trade-offs. Delivered tomorrow and cheap (AMAZON). Book now and pay after (Booking.com/AirBnB). Cashmere jumpers and less that £100-00 (Uniqlo). Get it now without being locked into a contract (Netflix). Dynamic and socially responsible: most good companies promise this as part of their recruitment of young graduates. Value and service ( most modern brands except Ryannair – and even Michael O’Leary may have seen the light)

Where-ever you see an old fashion trade-off, there is an opportunity.  Just take the words either/or and replace them with the word and.  See where it takes you. If you design your brand for those toughest, most demanding and spontaneous of customers-the millennials- you will prosper and even be admired.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Tis the season to hear the rousing voice of Noddy Holder in a retail environment wishing us a Merry Christmas and for marketers to opine that this year, as in all previous years, change is getting quicker and quicker. If this was true then by now change would be so fast that our eyes would be popping out of our heads and life would feel like a blur in which you have barely a moment to catch your breath

Here is just a cross section of this kind of talk from last weeks Marketing Week

“The pace of change in all industries is only intensifying with technological progress”

“Developments come fast and furious driven by factors that are out of our control”

“We are now seeing three dimensions of change: complexity and sophistication:sheer breath and range and staggering velocity”

This from a survey of 152 C-suite executives and 56 senior marketers.

I would like to suggest an alternative explanation using some principles from Behavioural Economics

Availability Heuristic. We overestimate the importance of the information available to us. These are types of folk that are overwhelmed by their email inbox and have spotted that communication is speeding up (which it has ) and have extrapolated from this that the world is speeding up.(which may not be true)

Cui Bono: these are also the types of people who receive regular presentations from media agencies,business school academics and big tech companies saying that the world is speeding up and that they should  buy their services to help them with cope with this change. AI has super heated this talk by fuelling the ideas that we are all about to loose our jobs to machine learning ( I am only slightly exaggerating)  Beware – the change merchants have something to sell

Social norming/Bandwagon Effect: All senior execs say that the world is speeding up so it becomes normal to say that the world is speeding up. Everyone is breathing everyone else’s exhaust fumes

Fear: it sounds complacent to say “things are much the same” and nobody wants to be seen as that. Likewise nobody ever sold out a conference by saying that nothing really big has changed/is about the change.

Role models. Big Tech are the darlings of our age ( big profitable growing and successful) and so marketers tend to look to them as role models. And in big tech change is constant. Look at the apps on your mobile (the ones you use regularly) and it becomes clear why. Google, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Uber etc are in a life and death struggle to keep you in the habit of using their service many times a day. That is their business model. Fear and opportunity stalks big tech-once you drop out the habit they are dead in the water – the next Myspace ( remember that – it was not so long ago) And so change in big tech is fast and the winner is the one that constantly innovates its service to keep users hooked. It is the most Darwinian of all the markets and also the most salient- it therefore distorts our view of the world.

The Uber effect:Bits of markets are changing fast:they are highly visible to us and so we overestimate their importance. Senior executives use Uber in London and the USA and so get  excited by the Uberizing or AirBnBing of many markets through the creation of Peer to Peer markets and networks.(see below). These “disrupters” will grow but at different paces in different sectors and are unlikely to be anything more than niche in for example banking

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Get out of the office and look at the real world

A useful corrective would be to visit your local Tesco (still with us ) and have a look at the aisles. There is change – but some of it is slow and the cumulative effect of years of innovation ( think Cider and Snacks). The success of Aldi and Lidl is not sudden but the product of prolonged recession ( ie the slowing down of markets) and decades of building their reputations for quality. Amazon is trying to be the winner takes all in e-commerce (with some success) but that will slow down change. In some markets change will slow as there is consolidation on the supply side ( think Beer). Your Iphone 6 is much like your iphone 5 with a few bells and whistles. The apps you use are the same that you used a few years ago ( Google, Facebook, Twitter, Youtube ) and will be the same in three years time as all in a well funded arms race to keep you in the habit. When it comes to “user behaviour”  a different picture emerges . Some change is constant and some slow.

Counter trend to small and slow: Market consolidation (a bit trend in USA at the moment)  and the market strength of the big brands will have the effect of slowing change. Much change will be a reaction to this and take the form of a counter trend towards small, niche, personal and craft- and therefore rooted in our un-changing humanity. Slow change in other words

Just back from the Marketing Society Annual conference where much of the talk was about how technology +data are leading to innovation. It’s all about brand building through better more personal experiences, services and speed of new products to market ( with advertising getting barely a mention.)

What are good examples of this? Here is one of my favourites

Disney ‘Magic Band’: “Park guests” use the Magic Band to gain access to the park, get in priority queues for the attractions, pay for their purchases at the concession stands, and even get into their hotel room. Each family member has a wearable band with GPS and radio transmitters that track each other’s location in the park. At the end of their stay, Disney presents the family with a photo diary of their park adventures, having used automatic cameras to snap pictures when the Magic Bands are nearby. And imagine the face of a newly-turned six-year-old who just had his favourite Disney character address him by name and wish him a happy birthday. Disney made a billion dollar investment to create a wearable accessory that changes their park experience completely.imgres-1.jpgimgres.jpg