28 September 2010

Proximity Index & Personal Electronics

The more intimate your relationship with a given product, the more you want to know how it was made, where it was grown and how it came to the market. In developed markets, this translates to open kitchens, cries to cut the kilometers an apple travels from the tree to tart etc.. etc... You get the drift.

However, people curiously don't have the same relationship with personal electronics. If they did, they should have lined up outside Apple stores to return devices when the Foxconn suicides recently came to light. But then they didn't. Is the transient nature of the category, characterized by fast changing models, making people indifferent to products they sleep with and probably can't leave home without?

Posted via email from Suresh Ramaswamy's posterous

20 June 2010

Scott McCloud on Comics & Media

I've greatly enjoyed Understanding Comics as study of the medium and this video provides a quick synopsis. This presentation also helped understand broader media dynamics - which is true of the rapid changes we're seeing in digital.

2 points to note in this TED talk:
  1. Durable mutations - of the mutations we see in media look for the ones with staying power. No easy task, but keep looking for signs of penetration & integration into everyday stuff.
  2. Look at media as providing us a window back into our worlds. When unique media evolves, it provides people with one more way to reenter their worlds. Use it for what it is.
Also, greatly liked his philosophy: Learn from everyone, Follow no one, Watch for patterns & Work like hell on the one thing you love.

Posted via email from Suresh Ramaswamy's posterous

04 June 2010

18 May 2010

Guide to Brand Utility

Great document & examples put together by Ingmar de Lange . Useful frameworks for brands to develop emotive + useful experiences in both physical & digital spaces.

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11 May 2010

Using Data to Change Mindsets

Brilliant! Let your data tell you the story. Look for the phrase "'the world view that my students had, corresponded to the reality in the world the year their teachers were born" early in the presentation. 

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20 April 2010

The Brief in the Post Digital Age

Great presentation by Gareth Kay, Director of Digital Strategy at Goodby, Silverstein & Partners:
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31 March 2010

A Brief History of Marketing

If you are keen and have the time, Lovely article in AdAge listing milestones over the last 80 years  http://adage.com/article?article_id=142967#1950

Interestingly, I just learnt the current Advertising Council evolved from the World War II Advertising Council.

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25 March 2010

Value from Digital Marketing

Nice recent thought piece by McKinsey on Four Ways to Get More Value from Digital Marketing (premium membership required)

It argues, since the days of the internet becoming an important channel to reach & influence, marketers have regarded it as a vast laboratory, launching experiment after experiment to crack the code that generates sales & customer loyalty. Fair point.

But that most experiments fail, as they are not centered around the way consumers are adopting digital channels and fundamentally altering the way they make decisions (see the changing Consumer Decision Journey).

The article goes on to offer 4 suggestions to help improve success:

  1. Coordinate marketing activities, to engage the consumer, throughout an increasingly digital purchase journey. 
  2. Harness expressed interest in brands by syndicating content 
  3. Think like a large-scale multimedia publisher to manage the staggering increase in the content needed to support products, segments, channels, and promotions. 
  4. Finally, plot how to gather and use the plethora of digital data now available.

Whilst the first 3 suggestions are elaborated well, I specifically liked their classification of monitoring & usage of digital data via a simple 2 x 3 matrix

 Y axis specifying intent - Passive Tracking / Active Probing

 X axis seeking answers to 3 basic questions: What are customers seeing? What are customers doing? What are customers saying?


This simple matrix helps map a brands focus around digital data and it's current emphasis on active probing, whilst marketing continues to find ways to crack the Digital Marketing code.

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23 March 2010

Canon, easy darling!

I buy a lens and retail asks me to register the product online for warranty.
I go to the Canon Singapore site, and immediately a 4Q experience survey pops up. I agree to participate, although I had hardly started the registration.
I look to find the link to register. I’m wondering if I should look under Support or Customer Care, but I find the link easily. Click on it and it takes me to the registration page. All good so far.
I go to the registration landing page and it asks me to log in. As I don’t have an account yet  I need to register, before I register my lens. I bring up the form, and pleasantly surprised one gets 3 months extra warranty to register online. Things are getting better.
I start on the form and surprised at the information they need to set up an account. And the excuses they provide to collect key Personal Identifiable Information. (PII) makes me crack up :)!

1.       NRIC or FIN numbers. Click on why do I need this information and you get. 

2.       If you need a unique identifier, why ask for a phone number /email address (captured later in the Contact Number & Email address)? Why not use of these data data fields as your UI?

3.       They then want my full mailing address with pin code, and it’s mandatory. For what?
Now some smart consultant could have told them, “Boss every registrant is potential opportunity. Let’s collect PII, Permission & Multiple modes of Contact. We know their age and if they are M/F from their IC# to segment and plan Up-sell/X Sell. And we can use the mailing address to narrow down communications by postal codes. Make it mandatory, so we have all the information on the first go”.
Noble intention, but it ignores the first rule of good data collection. Collect only what you need at the moment.
Needless to say, I decided to risk the lens without the warranty. Now if only they had sent me a follow up mail, following basic registration, with the extended warranty in exchange for additional PII, we would have had the beginnings of a conversation. Not too late, but is anyone at Canon listening?

22 March 2010

Choosing Data Charts

Gene Zelazny's handy table to choose charts.

 Now, Andrew Abela  has developed this neat flow-chart.

Both great starts to help choose your charts. To help design the chart without junk, Edward Tufte is always a great source.

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16 March 2010

Multivariate Testing for Website Conversion Optimisation. My POV.

Website Conversion Testing is a topic with many gurus, but few practitioners. And even the few tend to follow DM testing practices, without extending it to the possibilities.

There are reasons why this is the case - lack of support from internal Web IT Teams, limitations in the initial site structure, CMS limitations, tracking limitations, budgets, individual KPIs, need to obfuscate results, politics etc..But one of the key issues IMHO, is how the hypothesis for testing is being framed. So let's take a step back into the basics.

Why do we test?
The reason for testing is simple - to know what works. And use the learning to market efficiently. Period. Typical testing paths include Observe > Hypothesis > Test > Evaluate.

In situations where data is available, the hypothesis is mainly re-examining previous research & analysis than collecting new data. In the absence of data, it is usually a strong hunch with a potential big impact on business.

Common Elements of Website Conversion Testing
By it’s very nature, websites are perfect for conversion testing. Elements that can be tested include (treating each page as a Landing Page):

  • Headlines – Content/Format (text/graphic)
  • Offer
  • Descriptive Copy – Bullet/Blocks. Lists of features & benefits and their ordering
  • Presentation of Product/Service – Image/Screen Shots/Tours/Life Styles
  • Call To Actions – Links/Buttons/Forms
  • Elements that build confidence in the proposition – Users/Testimonials/Validation
  • Contextual information – Links/Propositions
  • Design Elements – Template/Layout

All of the above elements, if present on the page, can be tested across the dimensions of Relevance, Location, Quality, Prominence, and Proximity.

User Experience - an additional dimension to framing the testing hypothesis for website conversion optimization.
Besides the above elements that comprise a webpage, it is important to understand the layering of what composes the final user experience  from the abstract to the concrete, namely:

Layer 1 -    Site Objectives/User Needs

Layer 2 -    Content Requirements/Functional Specifications

Layer 3 -   Information Architecture/Interaction Design

Layer 4 -   Interface Design/Navigation Design

Finally, Layer 5 -     Visual Design

Today we have FREE & Paid tools to set up and run the website conversion tests, provided we are not hindered by limitations to testing listed above.  But it’s key we identify the layers impacting user experience being tested, along with the page elements, when framing the hypothesis to ensure the results can be used optimally.

To reiterate, the reason for testing is simple - to know what works. And use the learning to market efficiently. When website conversion hypothesis are framed to include Page & User Experience elements, the results should help you focus on the most important elements you should be tweaking, if any, to maximise the investment & learning. Happy testing!

Posted via web from Suresh Ramaswamy's posterous

23 February 2010

Will Social Media Eat Itself ?

Excellent post by Patricia McDonald, at BBH Labs blog based on one key finding from the Edelman Trust Barometer - seemingly we trust our friends & peers less as sources of information, compared to even 2 years ago.

The trust in P2P, versus trust in corporate communications, has been one of the primary drivers of the social web and it's latent potential to impact investment shifting from ATL to Social Media.

Patricia argues so has our excitement for the potential of the social web been founded on a false set of assumptions?Is it simply an anomaly in the data? Or is social media sowing the seeds of its own demise? The full post is at http://bbh-labs.com/will-social-media-eat-itself
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15 February 2010

Twitter: It's today's Ham Radio, only broader adoption & zero cost

Icom amateur radio by -- LuckyLouie 21:43, 5 J...Image via Wikipedia
This post is past it's sell date, but here goes:

Those of you curious or old enough to know Ham Radios, will get this post instantly.

For others, ham radio is a hobby & service in which participants, called "hams," use various types of radio communications equipment to communicate with other radio amateurs for public services, recreation and self-training (source: Wikipedia). The term "amateur" reflects the principle that amateur radio and its skilled operators are committed to helping communities without financial compensation; whereas commercial radio operates for profit.

Ham operators enjoy personal (often worldwide) wireless communications with each other and are able to support their communities with emergency and disaster communications when necessary, while increasing their personal knowledge of electronics and radio theory. It's still going strong, with an estimated six million people regularly involved with amateur radio across the world.

Twitter, is the internet version of the Ham spirit, with 3 key differences:
  • Broader adoption across ages, interests and geos in a short span (the stats are stunning)
  • Zero set up investment to both broadcast or tune in
  • Connect-able with communication devices most use daily - phone/web

But the broad adoption, zero investment and omnipresence has bought along 3 undesirable changes in how today's "hams" follow the unsaid ham code of conduct:
  • Blatant Narcissism & sharing of TMI
  • Using the medium for 1-to-1 conversation, viewable to the public - Yo! The Truman show is so 1998 :) 
  • And sometimes, airing undesired soiled laundry for public view

Okay, fine with the Ham Radio analogy, but what can a marketer do with Twitter?

For brands looking to be active on today's "Ham", Jeff Pulver has four words which can't be put better: Listen > Connect > Share > Engage
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31 January 2010

The iPad will be an important new channel, if Media evolves

It's not a TV, nor a PC, nor a Smart Phone and nor is it a Netbook, but some off all the above at the same time.

And when Steve Jobs sunk into a couch to show-n-tell, it was also the hint of who it's being primarily targeted at - the couch surfers.

Big iPad media deals are yet to be announced. The media industry that stumbled badly on the web,  a second chance through a device that can bring to life the mobile internet. They will however need to work to adapt their products & services and experiment.

Unlike content one got through the PC, in exchange for eyeballs and email address, I'd be willing to pay for customized content I value &  primarily for the ease of access & use. Steve Woznaik navel gazes, and puts it across nicely in just 90 seconds:

I also see the iPad as an option for publishers to sell & facilitate interactive experiences. TV broadcasters tried this with interactive TV, but failed as they were attempting to change passive couch behavior. But then, to start with the iPad is targeted at the couch surfers and we'll know soon.

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22 January 2010

The IKEA Social Media Campaign. @ the heart of great strategy is simplicity.

Genghis Khan 1221, the greatest of all the Khan conquerors of Asia, Middle East, Russia and most of Europe had these words engraved on a simple stone pillar, as a sort of spiritual signpost for his followers.

"I turn to simplicity;
I turn again to purity"

Today, there is no better advice for anyone developing interactive marketing strategy enabled by complex digital channels. Let alone social media marketing.

Simplicity, as they say, is not about being simple. It's the challenge of articulating what's evolved from a creative or complex thought process to address specific objectives, in a form that's easy to comprehend, execute & measure.

Eons ago, the great Drayton Bird  related a rather damning criticism of advertising once made by a client of his. "You advertising people.... you go very deeply into the surface of things, don't you?" Perhaps, that client would today remark  brands continue to stay put on the surface of digital marketing possibilities - focused on executing broad based, digital marketing efforts, that tick the display, email, search, social media, website, Widgets, Mash Ups, A/B Testing... boxes..., but are shallow on insights and complex in execution.

Amidst this scenario, the recent IKEA Facebook campaign inspired & made me envious at the same time.

The task was to engage people in the opening of a new IKEA store, ensure the campaign can stand on it's own legs and create a ripple effect to extend the campaign beyond the borders of Malmo.

The solution to me is elegant as it's centered around a popular activity (photo tagging) on a popular social network (Facebook) to address all of the above objectives.

The campaign mechanics were simple - an account was created for the store manager, 12 photos featuring catalogues were uploaded as his album, and taggers could be keepers. This simple idea was such a hit that demand for photos grew, the pictures spread to thousands of people via profile pages, newsfeeds & links to address the second part of the brief.

Importantly, all of this was done using existing features & functions. And could still provide key metrics to measure the campaigns success: # items tagged, # participation, # Conversational threads, Conversation Valence, mentions in other social & digital channels and offline coverage of the promotional campaign.

And lastly, the freshness of the idea and it's execution made it a "social object" even for interactive marketing practitioners like myself to post about it 2 months after the campaign!

The IKEA social media campaign is beautifully summarised in this video:

IKEA's Social Media Campaign rocked it. For all those involved in making this happen, congratulations and thank you for raising the bar!
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17 January 2010

The Changing Consumer Decision Journey

In June 2009, McKinsey released survey findings of research efforts to audit purchase decisions of 20,000 customers across the US, Germany & Japan. Called “The Consumer Decision Journey” it advocated a change in how marketing should change in response to how consumers were reaching outside the funnel, changing the way they research and buy products.

The summary of the findings, with credit to McKinsey, were IMHO, as follows:
  • Increased new channels and constant barrage of advertising, had led consumers to choose few brands/category than spends would suggest.
  • When consumers are ready to start the decision process, ignited by a new need, they actively look for information rather than wait. Digital channels have primarily driven this change.
  • The funnel now is circular rather than linear

  • Being in the initial consideration set is no guarantee you will remain there. Your weakest link, is most likely to let you down and you need to have focused plays across stages of the decision journey
  • Finally, it’s not a must a marketer needs to invest at every stage of the decision journey. Insights, budgets and brand’s priorities can be used to build more focus into the investments.
In the last 6 months since the piece was published, I have constantly thought of this framework to base a few of my interactive marketing strategy recommendations. Even if we haven’t gone through the whole of the research & implications with clients, the logic resonates and sells itself very well when we explain our recommendation  – This is where you are - this is where you want to be- these are how consumer decisions are being made - this is what we recommend you do - this is how we will track impact.

And more importantly, I have kept a track of how I am making buying decisions, and it’s not far from the truth.

The Consumer Decision Journey is a fascinating piece of research finding, if you have a McKinsey Premium membership. If you don’t, you the abridged version is a great start.
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16 January 2010

BIG Consumer Brands should invest more in Interactive Marketing. Why & How?

My simplistic take without the crutches of facts, figures & charts. But when the answer is obvious, one need not be complex.

The big consumer brands have it all. They have the brand name, insights, reach, distribution, equity, pricing models, and a huge base of existing customers etc…. And they know how to leverage channels of communication to reach & influence consumers.

But consumers across segments are, and will continue to adopt digital communication channels. This will be in addition to OR in partial replacement of the channels of communication that built these brands in the first place. The big consumer brands need to tackle this challenge head- on.

To follow and engage consumers 360, brands need in-house understanding &, preferably, hands-on experience in implementing marketing solutions across digital channels and Geos. This is imperative to develop insightful agency briefs, jointly build experimental hypotheses and evaluate solutions objectively. And also build relevant measurement & analytics around these marketing solutions - to track & learn from results.

Big Consumer brand companies, the likes of Coca Cola, Unilever, Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson Nokia, McDonalds, Pepsi, Nike, Adidas, Colgate etc… to name a few, have the most to lose and deep pockets. Now is the opportunity to shift gears in building in-house expertise, running experiments to scale and building a base of in-house local knowledge from these focused investments.

1. Building in-house expertise (People & Automation):
Assigning these responsibilities to a Brand Manager is not the solution. This is a specialist role and may not be optimally supported by a brand manager, who has other general business responsibilities. Ideally it should be a cross brand specialist digital marketing team. It’s also imperative individuals in this team are experienced in Integrated Marketing Communications, combined with deep understanding & experience across digital channels.
Start with existing, use SAAS models, agency platforms and build internally when there is a business case for sustained use of the proposed automation.

2. Running Marketing Experiments:
Articulating the communication problem for a digital brief is just one of the tasks that should be assigned to this team. In addition to planning measurement & analytics, they should work with existing insights & agency planners to develop a series of hypotheses that can be priortised for testing & scaling.

3. In-House Knowledge Base
Results from the experiments should be crystallized and shared. The team should also take on the responsibility of inculcating the practice & accelerating digital savvy across marketing first, and the broader company soon.

This, in my opinion, is one of the key challenges for big consumer brands today. Getting it wrong soon will help them stay on this or the equivalent list in the coming years

15 January 2010

Relationship Marketing building blocks - Process & Flows, Systems & People

In my experience from consulting for various B2B clients, when auditing for improvements in clients relationship marketing practices it's key to isolate Process & Flows, Systems & People in blocks.

Process & Flows refers to the client's campaign planning process, campaign flows designed to acquire, qualify, funnel, close & nurture prospects and measurement practices. The idea will be to then develop ideal process, flows & measurements, and pare them back based on what's feasible and what's immediately required. Since they have been pared back rather than added to, it's easy to scale for complexity and integrate testing seamlessly.

Systems Audit will comprise marketing databases, marketing infrastructure, marketing automation and lead management systems at the very least. In my experience, there's very little impact a consultant can make in this area for established practices. This is best done when the Process & Flows have been streamlined and they help identify system deficiencies to build a strong case for modifications/additions. Or when organisations are setting up this practice from scratch

People Audit is designed to identify resourcing & proficiency. This is a low hanging win, usually addressed quickly through outsourcing, in-sourcing, hires, workshops & training.

Also, best to have the owner of this practice brief and then deep-dive with key stakeholders to gather requirements, before designing the ideals & recommendations for all of the above.

This is a simplistic view based on years of experience and has worked for me. I'd like to hear your views & experiences to always improve it any day.

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14 January 2010

Did Brand Management die in 2009?

I found this great post today:
What is a Brand Manager and how will he/she play a role in building the 21st century?

I'd recommend you read Ryan Jones post.
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03 January 2010

Interactive Marketing OR Digital Marketing?

I just completed a good 10 years in Interactive, starting with humble banners ads to support IBM's Network Business campaigns in the late 90's - to today working across platforms & tools to design, test & measure Digital Marketing efforts covering Campaigns, Websites, Online Display, Email, Search, Social Media & Emerging Channels.

A recent read of a post by Colin Drummond, is inspiration for this short post to clarify misconceptions around the terms, “Interactive Marketing” & “Digital Marketing”.
  • Interactive Marketing is NOT the same as Digital Marketing and not to be used interchangeably. I agree.
  •  Interactive Marketing (thanks again Colin) is two-way communication, users and creators inter-dependent, the total experience not nearly as useful, interesting or entertaining if it’s only one-way. When Interactive Marketing is executed via Digital Channels, duh! it’s Digital Marketing.

But this interactivity can and should be extended across channels.

Good Interactive planning should encompass using insights/learning to define clear end goals, flows and  interfaces to facilitate two way interactions that aid completion of these goals - channel & technology agnostic.

Needless to say, measurement of key performance metrics of this 2 way communications across the decision journey & goal completions is a given.
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