Advertising & Marketing

Data, Culture, and Thinking – Forming the Marketer of the Future

Culture & Communication, Marketing

The development of a strong company culture has been a major prerogative of today’s most successful Chief People Officers. The goal is to unite staff under a banner of shared values, goals, norms, and ethics. Some visionary marketing leaders are leveraging cultural understanding and awareness to drive success.

The value story we tell external audiences must be nothing more than a variation of the internal value story that motivates staff to do their best work.
By aligning internal and external value stories, friction is minimized between audience and brand so all people can thrive, symbiotically. What’s more intriguing to me is just how impactful this is for market strategy, sustained business viability, and high growth. This is modern stuff. As aligned internal and external stories are adopted, the correlation to business performance is plotted as data points. As with any other performance data, this can be used to continuously improve and plan for the future by building out predictive, prescriptive, and anticipatory analytics models. For companies that already have growing data science practices, this is easily within reach.

Let the machines grind through models while we create meaningful change through hypothesis-driven thinking.
Though I’m all about the data, it’s silly to run data science-based marketing and human capital programs without considering just how liberating these technological advancements are for today’s workforce. As our analytic capabilities become stronger, humans become more important as thinkers. That’s right, we are moving from doing only what we have time and resources for, to thinking of the possibilities and then using smart methods and computational power to plot out the most efficient path to success.

But data will only deliver a piece of the insight because it cannot capture the most abstract qualitative observations.
We must truly and deliberately try to understand our customers, constituents, and any other stakeholder. Since aligned value stories result in aligned cultures, we have more direct access to these stakeholders, making it that much easier to observe and derive insight. This is where anthropologists serve as great role models because they are researchers, thinkers, documentarians, and storytellers all at once. In his esteemed book, “The Broken Fountain,” anthropologist Thomas Belmonte wrote about the time he spent conducting field work in an impoverished Neapolitan neighborhood. Belmonte’s work is highly regarded not because he presented a dry outsider’s analysis of subjects, but because he conscientiously sought to become a true resident of Naples that connected with neighbors and vied to understand their actions. The result was an informative and emotional account that painted a vivid picture of daily life in that neighborhood.

In business, the closer we are to customers, the better prepared we are to understand and empathize with our most important stakeholders. The marketers of the future are embedded within the target audience as thinkers and thought leaders that make sense of all this data we may never stop collecting.

We’re All Biased: On Communicating with Purpose

Advertising, Culture & Communication

I’ve been on the road a lot lately. Great memories were made by taking to the road on thousands of miles of highways and byways – traversing metropolitan cities, rural stretches, quaint villages, and international borders. And, just like it was 25 years ago when my family drove thousands of miles coast to coast, billboard advertising is still very much alive in 2017. When you’re driving for hours on end, roadside attractions and billboards offer a fleeting break to the monotony – and it’s so interesting to observe the varying messages and designs, which are markedly different everywhere you go. The fascinating thing about roadside billboard advertising is that you have to be as concise as possible – the impression doesn’t last more than a few seconds. Continue reading …

How to Define Product Benefits That Drive Inbound Demand: Prioritize & Simplify

Marketing, Tech & Web

First of all, buyers want to see “benefits” before they see “features” – so be careful not to jump into technical stuff before building a business case. This also means you need to prioritize the order in which each benefit appears on your website. Think of your top two buyer personas, the segments that are going to drive 80% of your revenue, and hit their specific pain points with the first benefits you list on your website. Hook them with the highest value problem-solution sets (benefits) and you can always offer a “read more” option for those prospects that are compelled to learn more…frankly, most aren’t. In fact, the priority problem-solution sets should be enough to move the prospect to click on the “get started” or “free trial” button.
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How to Use Video Content to Boost Demand Generation: Product Demos & Storytelling

Marketing, Tech & Web

Video is today’s most effective customer education tool. If you’re selling a SaaS product you need to break down product demos into bite-sized screencasts (no longer than 1 minute) that quickly and clearly reveal just how easy, convenient, pain-reducing, and time-saving your product is. No more long-winded 2000s-era comprehensive demos. In fact, no single video should be longer than five minutes unless it’s being stored in a “resources” section – at that point it’s less about marketing and more about customer success. Pro tip: use animated GIFs to bring text to life.
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9 Questions to Answer Before Automating Your Marketing

Marketing, Tech & Web

If you’re considering a new marketing automation platform, your business is at a point where it needs to scale while raising demand and maintaining high-quality customer relationships. Yet, your business is also unique, which is why I put together this list of nine basic questions you have to answer before you even start speaking with technology vendors.

Get in the driver’s seat: Prepared with answers to these questions you’ll be able to build a strong business case with your CFO and CTO, and get technology vendors to deliver a tailored solution rather than a standard sales pitch.

1) Budget: How much are you willing to spend on a marketing automation platform per year? (the technology acquisition cost, not including consulting or people costs)

2) Campaigns: On average, how many e-mail campaigns will you send out per month?
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Three Tips for Influencing People That Think Fast and Slow

Culture & Communication, Marketing

A couple years ago, while writing an economic policy paper, I read Daniel Kahneman’s book, Thinking Fast and Slow – a must-read on human behavior, rationality, and the lack thereof. This book validated my own professional experiences doing business with a diverse lot of characters, and opened my eyes to so much I didn’t realize about decision-making. Kahneman won a nobel prize for defining prospect theory, which evolves the longstanding utility theory, by finding that we make decisions not merely by seeking economic rationalization, but by allowing behavioral biases to envision prospective value. Continue reading …

Trust First – Cold Calling in a World of No Solicitation


When I was 17, I cut my teeth in the sales field by cold calling small businesses in Northern Virginia – always ignoring that absurd “no soliciting” sign. My products were those logo-imprinted goods categorized as “promotional products.” That, they were, but there was more to these branded items than the name implied – and the other name, “advertising specialties,” did the same disservice to their value, undermining the product category even further by labeling them “special” – they could’ve just as well been termed niceties, sundries, or what-nots. I’m not even sure how you’d name the category – but business people simply didn’t know what they were by name. Continue reading …

Before Niche Marketing, Find Your Objective Self


The ability to create successful niche targeting begins with the realization that as marketers we are biased – by default, the decisions we make on behalf of a brand are subjective. When we understand this fact, we can evolve our thinking beyond simple subjectivity and begin thinking like the very audience profiles we seek to target. We step in their shoes, and walk through their buyer journey – observing creative, requesting information, kicking tires, asking friends for recommendations, etc. This approach is beyond what’s apparent to the naked eye – it’s about truly being in tune – so ditch the basic demographics that match up men with sports and cigars, and empty nesters with bucket list travel destinations and time with the grandkids. Continue reading …

Dos Equis, Sunsetting a Strong Campaign Before It’s Too Late

Advertising, Marketing

Several years ago, Dos Equis woke up consumers and the beer industry by introducing the iconic “the most interesting man in the world.” It was a brilliant idea: this classy man, of ambiguous but almost Latin ethnicity, was a successful silver fox, captured on each ad spot while savoring the bounties of fine earthly living, speaking succinctly with authority and righteous pomp to consumers that can only dream of his lifestyle, the pinnacle alpha male, winning, with gorgeous super models vying for his attention.

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Samsung Korea SSD Advertisement…cringeworthy. But the audience loves it?

Advertising, Marketing

Would love to interview the team behind this ad – the actors speak in well-pronounced, basic English at a very slow pace. Facial expressions and body-language are over-emphasized as well…to the point that it feels like an SNL skit. But, does this method activate the new product with the target market?

As a native English speaker…this is painful to sit through. Toddler television moves much faster. One of the actors, the businessman, apparently went to Reddit to explain why the acting seems so…bad? This is apparently how English-language is done on Korean media.

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On-demand Digital Marketing, Powered by technology, expected by the consumer


Great article from the McKinsey Quarterly: The coming era of ‘on-demand’ marketing | McKinsey & Company.

[…] marketing is headed toward being on demand—not just always “on,” but also always relevant, responsive to the consumer’s desire for marketing that cuts through the noise with pinpoint delivery.

The article walks through a couple scenarios of how digital media, analysis, and automation will personalize marketing touches with consumers and prospects more than ever. We’re beyond the age of worrying about cookies – and on to the age of Near Field Communications (NFC) (tapping devices with each other or with NFC tags to transfer data!), and automated, granular, rules-based targeting, retargeting, and co-branding that retargeting!

This is a good read for staying ahead of the curve.

Retail Commerce: Old Brands in a New World, Sears and JC Penney

Advertising, Marketing

Sears: An Innovator and Market Leader
In 1893, Richard Warren Sears and Alvah C. Roebuck started one of America’s retail pioneers, Sears, Roebuck and Co. The founders had some great ideas, in the earliest days they launched the famous Sears catalog to allow folks to order through mail – this was an innovation at the time because farmers used to have to come into town and haggle deals for their supplies. They made so much money that they opened a printing plant just to be able to print the infamous Sears catalog, which by the early 20th century had over 500 pages to it and sold everything a household would need, including hardware, groceries, and stoves! Continue reading …