Jennifer Beck

A member of the Gartner Blog Network

Jennifer Beck
VP & Gartner Fellow
15.5 years at Gartner
32 years IT industry

Jennifer Beck serves digital marketing leaders, specializing in multichannel marketing across digital and offline channels. She offers advice to CMOs and CEOs on how to competitively position their companies, create and manage their brands, enter the digital arena and maximize marketing and sales investments. ...Read Full Bio

Approach Content Marketing like the Art of Flower Arranging

by Jennifer Beck  |  March 13, 2014  |  7 Comments

 This week, spring is guaranteed to show up in New England at the opening of Boston’s 2014 Flower and Garden Show‎ at the Seaport World Trade center. A New England tradition for over 100 years, this mind-boggling display of flora in every imaginable configuration from single arrangements worthy of an exhibit at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum, to miniature landscapes of entire towns, lures gardening aficionados of all ages and interests.

Now my own home might not get vacuumed regularly, but there’s always a fresh flower arrangement somewhere to distract visitors from the dirt. So I couldn’t help making the comparison to the art of content marketing. What you say? Flower arranging and content marketing? Could this analogy possibly go beyond the idea of using good content to cover up the real dirt? You bet.

What does it take to be a great content marketer or an accomplished flower designer?

To start, there are several ways to acquire the necessary skills. You might just have natural talent. As a kid I watched my mom make impressive arrangements out of whatever her garden offered. She could take common place specimens, the right vase, some nondescript greenery, snip here, tilt there, extend a stem, depress a few others and voila – an eye-catching, often breath-taking centerpiece. She did it on instinct. But you can be taught this art. Search for flower design courses and up come about 492 million hits in about 52 seconds. Try content marketing courses and you get 125 million results in 32 seconds. So content marketing may not be as mature an art form as flower design, but we’re getting there.  And you can always learn from others. It might take some practice, experimentation and failure before you hone your particular skill.

So why do we create content or arrange flowers in interesting ways for all to see?

When we select a bud vase it’s like the decisions we make on packaging content or the choice of vessel. When we choose a single bloom it’s like the big brand headline, or story we want our audience to focus on. And when we place the arrangement on the right table top it’s akin to positioning our content or moving it through the right channel. But it all comes together for the desired effect; to attract attention, delight your audience, maybe surprise them, be memorable, celebrate a special occasion, deliver a personal message, display your finery, or just fill an empty space. All notable artists and content marketers are driven by some basic instinct to create – to fill a perceived void.

But like flora, content can die or live on to create great impressions.  

In choosing content, like your flower selections, there are some fundamental considerations as you plan, design and deliver the product. Some flowers are extremely durable and easily accessible. I personally can’t stand any variety of chrysanthemums – “mums” for short. Their colors are brassy oranges and yellows and their tight blooms are so uniform as to be boring. They last forever and appear to be indestructible. No wonder they are a favorite for commercial real estate landscapers. I will admit to having kicked a few on my way out of a building on a bad day. Ah, but the spider mum is the exception. Its color is less vulgar, its petals quite pointed and distinguishable – but its lifespan is half that of its more pedestrian cousin. My dad always bought a single white spider mum for me when he’d take me to the Thanksgiving Day football game at White Plains High. We sat in the bleachers with his high school buddies; doctors, lawyers, and chiefs of industry now, their temples as white as the flower pinned to my lapel. But ah, the tradition and the memories that one flower represents still.

Consider this when choosing your flora ingredients.

Marketing content and flowers come at a price. The exotic varieties might require longer cultivation or a worldwide search. The common carnation is a commodity compared to the orchid. But the orchid makes quite a statement. Some have little faces that look exactly like primates and suggest some primordial species cross-over – a curation of epic proportions.  Content, like flowers come in all shapes, colors, sizes and textures. Do you go with a huge display of red roses – with an accepted and easily understood message, or take a chance on that single apricot rose set against an ancient gnarled vine of sea grape that will define you, once you define it? The precious, exotic hybrids convey you’re unique. They have stopping power in the crowded shop. Head-turners, but pricey and perishable. Many flowers are seasonal and certainly vary in value based on geography. The hibiscus is a hedge in the Caribbean and a pampered house plant in a New York penthouse.

And then there are weeds…

On-line search terms are the weeds of content marketing – easily seen, literally everywhere, constantly proliferating – even sprouting from brick and mortar where no one would think they could find nourishment.  But when your gardening is time-constrained, and grass is the enemy, you might selectively weed, leaving the great sprawling comfrey and powerful burdock as ground cover. Some content creates the backdrop for more showy and colorful specimens.

…and seeds

If you’re lost in the analogy, just remember this. Great marketing content is a renewable asset. Create it with care. Nurture it. Spread it around like Johnny Appleseed with a good cause as your guide. Be ready to trim it back or replant each season. Choose the focal point of your arrangements commensurate with the statement you’re trying to make. Be brave, but behave. Some plants are carnivorous and some cause a nasty rash.

As my colleague and avid blogger, Jake Sorofman will tell you on this subject, “You can’t fake passion”. He says content marketers, “have an insatiable curiosity and a relentless pursuit for excellence in the craft”. And just like my mom made an impression for all to enjoy, content marketers have an interest in leaving a mark on the otherwise barren landscape of their marketplace.

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What Happens When Your Government Goes Off the Grid?

by Jennifer Beck  |  October 3, 2013  |  1 Comment

I asked French Caldwell, my colleague and analyst at Gartner. He said, “At this point 800,000 of the 2.1 million government workers are not required to go to work. The other 1.3 million have to show up. But social security checks will continue, food stamps will still be provided, Medicare claims will be processed, and passports will still be issued. The typical citizen won’t notice much for a while, unless you had a vacation planned to a national park.”

So what’s the impact on the “citizen’s experience”?

Unlike many “customer experiences” that are developed to appeal to various types of buyers, at different points in time, this one impacts all of us simultaneously. Now that’s an enticing Petri dish to watch. So what will we miss and how will this situation impact the Federal Government’s brand image?

Many government websites are down or have notices that information may be out of date. The National Park Service has closed parks and access to the National Mall and DC-area monuments, too, including bike trails in the area. You can’t go to the Smithsonian or the National Gallery of Art. Our shared waters with Canada better stay put cause no one is watching that. The Federal Maritime Commission turned off the lights at noon Tuesday. You better hope there aren’t any chemical spills or accidents because no one is going to investigate it. There won’t be any funds going to improve state election systems or anything going on in campaign finance. And hopefully you don’t have an employment discrimination claim to file. The FCC is on a break except in situations that threaten life or property.  You might start getting some of those annoying tele-marketing calls again since the FTC is out of commission. The USDA is not functioning so ethics, general counsel, civil rights, and our chief economist – are all furloughed now. No one’s overseeing fraud or waste in the US Postal Service. If you’re homeless, your situation isn’t about to improve. We won’t be promoting our economic interests in foreign countries. No one is handling cases at the national labor board. And I found this most ironic: the Office of Government Ethics is closed for business. There are plenty of partial shutdowns in other agencies, offices and commissions, but the ones mentioned are “closed and not able to function”.

If the federal government were a lifestyle brand, what would it do?

Those brands persist on quality of product, they differentiate with services, and they reward their high value customers. As citizens we’re not really that different from customers in this case since we’re the money trail for everything — “Of the people, for the people, by the people.” So Washington needs some marketing advice.

First, they have a big public relations problem — both domestic and abroad. When a lifestyle brand fails to deliver on its promise, it has to regain trust very quickly or risk alienating its loyal followers. This is about repairing reputation and image and potentially a chance to reverse the inside out approach Washington has practiced like so many brands still do, to a more outside-in exploration of what its citizens actually want.  

Second, manage the noise. People love to riff on the negative aspect of anything. I’m reminded of Don Henley’s hit song “Dirty Laundry”. The relevant lyrics being “I make my living off the evening news; people love it when you lose. Kick ‘em when they’re up, kick ‘em when they’re down.” We are inexplicably drawn to bad news. We can’t help but rubber neck at the accident site, and we’d much prefer the disaster to the Good Samaritan story. So you have to turn up the volume on the good aspects to drown out the negative. Look at all that still continues in our best interest regardless of a government shutdown. So they need to spin up the social media mavens and major influencers that can put a balanced voice of reason into the hyped conversations.

And lastly, creating moments of truth could be a new mantra. In digital marketing-speak, there are literally millions of touch points between our government and its citizens. But which are the most critical for each citizen as we would define them? Each of us is a paying customer albeit with different lifetime values. Imagine using social platforms for the express purpose of identifying the critical touch points and redesigning those interactions. Could we re-engage citizens in ways we haven’t ever explored?

The current administration was the first to name a CTO. How about a digital CMO?

 

 

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Are you a Delighted Consumer?

by Jennifer Beck  |  August 27, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

Last I checked you and me as consumers and citizens of governments were paying for EVERYTHING. That’s right. We’re the only righteous money trail fueling every business, association, fund, or service from raw steel manufacturers to hamburger joints. In every B2B model, there’s a huge C in there somewhere. If we play out the alphabet, let’s add an ‘‘S” for service. We are living in a service-oriented world. Hard to believe, isn’t it? Cause I don’t know about you, but I rarely experience great service. And I’m the kind of patron who invites it. I’m courteous, respectful and sometimes even chatty and amusing in my dealings with people trying to satisfy me. Admittedly I’m always doing a little field research in the back of my mind.

So what has that field research turned up? I’ll throw in the formal focus groups, the CMO interview series, the comparison data we track on customer experiences, and plenty of anecdotal evidence and here’s what I’ve discovered. There are three overarching elements that characterize a stellar experience. They show up in everyone’s stories and examples from hotels and restaurants to their physicians and  retailers.

First one is no big shocker – know who I am. Personalization is not just about knowing my name and my interests, or correctly logging my demographic data. It’s about your ability to turn that information into an experience that saves me time and money, gives me confidence in your ability to serve me and makes me feel special. Why does my doctor’s office always ask me my address when they even know my blood type? Why does every interaction on a phone require me to dial in my account number and then the people I finally talk to ask all the same questions all over again? Data is being hoarded, but not connected back out to the actual front line experience. And context matters. Who I am when I’m working and who I am on vacation are two different target profiles, with different needs, desires, and interests. Don’t ever get the wires crossed on those differences.

Next, a can-do attitude can make my day. Whether you train them, find them or incubate them – people with a great service mindset are gold for your business.  Travel around the world and you’ll discover this can be a cultural thing. Service in the U.S. feels legislated compare to Asia where it’s a question of personal honor.  In some European countries they try to adopt you. In others you’re treated like a smelly fish. The old adage – “the customer’s always right” – has virtually disappeared from the language of brands – replaced with customer-centricity. But that phrase is more often trendy lip service than an enforced corporate value. We’ve all encountered the front line sales or service person who would rather point fingers at other departments regaling you with excuses, than try to make you happy. Contrast that with those who perhaps can’t satisfy your request, but try so hard as they pull out all the stops to deliver the goods that you can’t help but feel good – even if they can’t deliver.

Then there’s that final element of slightly exceeded expectations. When asked, most everyone who had a fantastic customer experience and couldn’t wait to tell you about it – was pleasantly surprised to get just a little more attention than they were expecting. The amazing thing about exceeding expectations is it rarely costs much to do, but has a huge ROI in reducing price sensitivities, building brand and viral advocacy. My car dealership called me asking how my Acura was running after routine service. Dealership service isn’t the cheapest alternative, but they’re just so darn accommodating, I keep going back. New Gartner analyst, Jennifer Polk, gets excited telling you how Starbucks gave her a free latte when their rewards systems hit a glitch and couldn’t take a dollar off her morning coffee. L.L. Bean will send replacements for just about anything you buy there – catalog or store — if it wears funny, rips, comes unglued, whatever. No questions asked. That kind of customer promise takes the edge off spending a bit more for their merchandise.

So as brands circle in on what will make their customer experiences more engaging, get the basics right first. Consumers today are drawn to your company’s values as much as they’re persuaded by the value of your products and services. So push decision-making way out to the front lines to those customer touch points. Empower your systems and your people to make decisions on behalf of every customer.  How you get treated as an individual matters more than a discount coupon. And anyone can offer a coupon. Not every brand can offer a memorable experience.

 

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Multichannel Marketing is a Perfect Storm of Synergies.

by Jennifer Beck  |  July 3, 2013  |  1 Comment

I had a dream last night that my awesomely aggressive sales targets were dressed up as old men in overalls, smoking cigars, in red wooden rocking chairs on the front porch of the county store. One was wheezing out a tune. The other was playing a pretty mean harmonica riff of Bob Dylan’s “It’s all Over Now, Baby Blue”. I shook myself fully awake and reached for the notes I’d left bedside at around 3:00 that morning. It was the final definition of Gartner’s take on multichannel marketing. It reads:

“Gartner defines Multichannel marketing as optimizing the customer engagement according to the way customers want to talk, shop, buy and obtain services through digital and/or offline channels, orchestrated to build ensemble interactions that create differentiated and compelling experiences.”

Whew. Ensemble interactions, you say? Pretty fancy talk. And how did Dylan, cigars and mellow old men creep into my dream time? In some odd way it was a lesson in this much talked about, but often misunderstood method of creating the perfect marketing campaign design to match every individual buyer’s preferences and permissions. You look for synergies. And you look for the images they create.

So old men, rockers (as in the chairs) and cigars kind of worked for me. They go together in my head. Add in the Dylan and the harmonica and it was a perfect storm.  Like fireworks, a BBQ and the Fourth of July appeals to the patriotic American. Or the way a popular cause, one YouTube viral video, and about a million smart phones can mobilize some major momentum in about an hour. There are plenty of examples of solid multichannel marketing out there, but how do you choose just the right number and type of channels that complement each other, and reach your buyer? And what about the content moving through those carefully crafted set of channels?

Many marketers can get one or the other right. But most are over-engineering their campaign designs and cheating on the content side. If you don’t have a really brilliant concept like Dove’s idea to have a forensic sketch artist draw women as others see them, or Kraft’s risky Fun My Life Jell-O Twitter campaign, then it won’t matter if you get the execution right, no one will be listening. It’s that connection between something intellectually interesting, hilariously funny, or uplifting that makes for great multichannel marketing.

Adam Sarner, Julie Hopkins and I are designing a trio approach to a free webinar on July 23rd for anyone interested in:

  • Forces changing how we think about multichannel initiatives.
  • Models for planning and investing in multichannel programs
  • Compelling examples of multichannel marketing done right

If the subject matter isn’t compelling enough, listening to three Gartner analysts trying to get everything they know across in less than an hour should provide some entertainment value. And let’s kick the definition around, shall we? There’s a reason Gartner doesn’t call it omnichannel or cross-channel. We’ll be asking questions so you may not want to be multi-tasking during a webinar on multichannel. Join the discussion.

 

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Dancing in the Deterministic, Data-driven World of Digital Marketing

by Jennifer Beck  |  May 30, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

A major force shaping this world of digital marketing is the move to a more deterministic approach to everything from the creation of marketing assets to the design of campaigns.  “Know your customer” has gone from lip service to hip science.  The lofty notion of business intelligence has gone back to the basics of business analytics whether it’s involving big, little, predictive or psycho-graphic data.  And it’s all in the name of accelerating outcomes.  Those outcomes may be the strategic business of market expansion or the fast spinning activity of ramping sales. It may be the cross-functional work of new product development or a singular focus on improving customer service.  Regardless, this journey that is turning marketing into a more scientific, data-driven discipline is proving to be a treacherous path, with shaky guardrails, for many digital marketers.

Dancing with Data

We’ve set ourselves up for success or failure based on the promise that we can create lines of sight to the truths that lie in the data. Well now we have to deliver. But that data dance needs careful choreography and rehearsal.  You may as well get good at this because data-driven marketing decisions are the hallmark of successful digital marketers of the future.  But the data dance is more Latin salsa than Viennese waltz. You won’t be learning a box step and then spinning around in circles. It’s more like Zumba and developing rippled abs and marketing muscle.

You need to ensure your data sources are clean and complimentary and your hypotheses don’t get in the way of new insights. That can be a very difficult step for marketers who often act on instincts and gut feel. You also have to make sure data comes together in ways that get to the truths about your market, your offers, and your buyers. Even bad news, like failures, can offer valuable lessons.

When Data Lies

Data-driven decisions are good, right? Who can argue with facts? You want to sell a crazy idea to your executive team – hit them with the charts and graphs, and if you can animate them, all the better. But data can also lie to us. Without standards of practice, skilled mathematicians with honed interpretative skills and the right models – you can run aground very fast. Even with the basics in place, many marketers struggle to make analysis actionable.

It’s frightening to think that today nearly 60% of data is still coming from internally owned sources in a world where most of the marketing relevant information is external to the enterprise. Many of these organizations admit their analytics capabilities are immature and disconnected. That’s a symptom of islands of marketing expertise and functional disciplines that have yet to be integrated and rationalized.

Getting to the Truth

One of the recommendations coming out of Gartner’s Data-Driven Marketing Survey 2013 is to make marketing analytics a strategic advantage by focusing on strong leadership, role training, analytic skills, and tactical use of system integrators.  Think of your data strategy as a tapestry. Each thread represents a source and stream of data. They collectively create pieces of the overall image. Not until they are expertly woven, and you can stand back and see the entire set, do they reveal the complete picture.

Don’t miss hearing Andrew Frank when he reveals additional insights on data-driven marketing in a webinar on May 30 titled “How Data is Transforming Marketing.” The data alone is interesting. The conclusions are the unvarnished truth.

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CMOs and CIOs Have More in Common Than You Think

by Jennifer Beck  |  April 26, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

The conversation about CIOs and CMOs as partners is focused primarily on why these two executives can’t get along. But if you fundamentally believe IT and marketing need to work effectively together in more creative and collaborative ways, then continuing to harp on their differences just isn’t helpful.

There will be a spectrum of collaborative models for these two functions across different organizations that will hinge primarily on how aggressively digital the business wants to be, whether these two executives have lived in each other’s disciplines previously, and how well they know each other and share like views of the business.

So a better starting point to improve their working relationship is searching out the common ground. Interviews with both CIOs and CMOs have uncovered five aspects of their thinking and their areas of responsibility that actually suggest they may be more similar than you think.

Love Their Tech Toys

This may seem really obvious, but they both LOVE their tech toys. And they feel this urgent need to show them to everyone. If you want to quickly facilitate an easy chat between these two executives, ask them any question about the latest technology or the 700,000 apps on an iPhone or their favorite website, and you’ll have plenty of time to get another cocktail before that conversation hits an uncomfortable lull.

Dependent on Good Technology Decisions

They both rely on making significant and really smart decisions about technology to  create value for the business. But it doesn’t stop there. They then become very dependent on a stable of providers to deliver on their promises. And that adds up to some serious exposure if things go wrong, but rarely deserved celebrations when things go right.

Target of Budget Cuts

They both suffer from indiscriminate budget cut-backs when the business goes soft. Even though these two executives together own decision rights for both keeping the lights on and growing the business – they are viewed as “discretionary expenses”. Crazy? Yes. But they’ve both sat around the big mahogany table during an operations review or waited for the memo to be handed down from the CFO about how their budgets will take a hit in the next belt-tightening.

Victims of Experts

They both have huge virtual suggestion boxes hanging off their office doors. Everyone is a self-appointed expert in their fields. That’s never been truer than today.  Everyone is a marketing expert because we’re all marketed to – and who doesn’t fancy themselves with sage advice on how IT should do things?   We’re all either victims or beneficiaries of the services they provide.

Produce Magical Results

And finally, they are often equals at the leadership table and report to the CEO or one level down. However, CEOs expect they can produce magical results within their current constraints because they continue to do so. But neither can afford to let things break so things get fixed. Their charters are too critical to the minute to minute realities of running the business. They get creative. They figure it out. They try to do more with less even though that’s impossible. Yes, they compete for resources. Imagine if they combined resources and jointly funded projects of mutual value.

Have Sexy Jobs

In the 30 years I’ve been advising and observing leadership teams, I’ve also often thought there is something a bit more Machiavellian going on here. It’s jealously. In my opinion, the CEO, CIO, and CMO are the triumvirate that is best positioned to think big and bold. These are the members of the leadership team who represent the leader part. Everyone else is part of the team that has to operationalize and support their ideas.

So I think it’s not true to say CMOs have the sexy job and CIOs – not so much. CIOs are sexy too. And everyone else is just jealous of both of you because today, technology and marketing rule.

 

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Survey Reveals Survival Tips for Social Marketers

by Jennifer Beck  |  April 23, 2013  |  1 Comment

One stand out conclusion from Gartner’s Social Marketing 2013 study is this idea that the real struggle for social marketers is finding the balance between the company’s goals and those of the customer. Executives are demanding social ROI before they’ll even fund the efforts.  No one is interested in “social experiments”. CIOs are threatening security lock downs.  Legal is rewriting the rules about blogging. And product managers are thinking they don’t need to wait for all the drama to play out – they’ll just go off the reservation and do some stuff on their own.

The customer needs almost seem straight forward in contrast to those organizational challenges. But social marketers continue to be obsessed with sniffing out the BIG Hairy Data problems, evaluating new technologies, and wondering how they can take advantage of Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. They dig through piles of data, get confused by conflicting free advice and consume a daily diet of data with their non-fat lattes.  Surprisingly, what too many are not doing is laying the solid foundations for basic survival.

In an upcoming webinar scheduled for April 25th, Gartner will present some surprising findings from the Social Marketing Study 2013. After reading through the results, I started thinking they could be summarized in The Three Basic Rules of Survival. 

Rule #1 Have Plenty of Good Food

Think of your content as the life-sustaining nutrients of your social programs. As in any healthy diet, you need the basic food groups covered. Social content has to be viewed as your contribution to the conversation, not another blatant promotional shout out. So if you go spicy hot make sure that community can handle it. Future case studies will show the winners who created authentic brands really got the content game figured out in advance and were managing an innovation pipeline of ideas. All the brilliant social platform choices and perfect campaign choreography won’t matter a bit if you don’t have something interesting and worthwhile to say.

Rule #2 Reproduce

Preservation of the species requires successful courtship rituals, mating and viable births in healthy numbers. At the end of the day, commercial enterprises are about making money. So “what’s the ROI on social?” isn’t so much the question but rather does the creation of continuous, connected, and productive conversations result in leads and convert to sales? And according to the study, less than half of social marketers are exploring the links between social and commerce. The potential there is not just a lower cost of sale; it’s become, for many brands, a matter of convenience and preference for their buyers and for the company – a powerful reinforcement in multichannel and transmedia strategies.

Rule #3 Secure the Habitat

You need a hospitable place where your social strategy can thrive.  Think how you’ll manage the operation – from infrastructure, business processes and policies to skills, training and social R&D. And as the rules of nature continue to teach us, sustainable ecosystems need everything in balance.  Your social marketing exists side by side with mobile, the website, multichannel campaigns, display, search, etc. It works with other techniques and channels like customer support to achieve a business outcome. A purpose-built social platform will stand the tests of time and give you that terra-firma essential for the long term success of the business.

And don’t fall too far behind the herd. You could get eaten.

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Treat Your Website like the Front Door to Your Home

by Jennifer Beck  |  April 2, 2013  |  1 Comment

Knock, knock. Who’s there? It could be a salesman with vinyl siding samples, a fireman raising funds for the families of fallen comrades, my neighbor returning my iron frying pan, a friend I haven’t seen since high school, a lost traveler seeking directions, or someone I actually invited over for drinks and was expecting. They all have equal access to my front door. But am I happy see them all and treat them equally? Maybe they only make it as far as the foyer. Maybe I step outside and deal with them there. Or perhaps I’ve left a note on the door. Maybe I hide in the upstairs bedroom until they go away.

It’s no mistake we call the first page of our websites – the Home Page. Just like my front entrance, it wants to be welcoming and make a good first impression. It also wants to make a distinction between friend and foe, opportunity or risk. The Reader’s Digest ran a great article years ago on the disappearance of the front porch and the rise of the back deck. The article lamented the fact that those nodes on the neighborhood network were all but gone and you had to hunt for the front entrance in new contemporary houses. You were often greeted by locked, looming garage doors. That front porch linked the entire town to stories of triumph and defeat. They were the original viral mechanisms keeping people connected and in the know. That’s a time when people knew their neighbors and felt part of a community.

We invite people to the front door of our businesses – through that website – the obligatory marketplace billboard for our organizations. We use the right terminology; communities, networks, visitors, and hope to craft continuous, connected conversations. We invest in technology that tracks and chats, and pings and bumps. We talk navigation, experience, and personalization. But nearly all the websites I’ve reviewed are static content, with little true interaction beyond a chat and a movie. And we dare to call it a customer experience. Those sites bark the latest deals, spin the carousel of offers and assume we know what our visitors need. We design for call avoidance, and serve up a menu of options WE want them to take. Yet we never ask the fundamental question, “What would you like to do?”

But these are places to window shop, comparison shop and nurture a relationship. Your website creates first impressions about your brand and is the design center of your campaigns. It can take a prospect from cold to conversion in minutes or it can frustrate and disappoint them so they never return. Few websites today are crafted for the visitor’s experience first, the brand’s need to communicate second. Even fewer make meaningful distinctions between current customers and new guests beyond the sign-in. But they all do a great job of screaming at you without making a sound.

Forget the sophisticated usability and UX testing. It’s clearly not enlightening you. Have someone who knows nothing about your company knock on your front door. Watch over their shoulder as they look for it, find it, open the door and step into the foyer.  Have you offered them a drink and a place to get comfy? Have you accommodated their needs and fanned their interests? Have you given them paths to follow and catered to their preferences? If they get lost, do they find their way again? Are you engaging them at every turn or did you just leave a note on the front door and you’re hiding under the bed?

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The Super Bowl Ads Take Brands Digital

by Jennifer Beck  |  February 6, 2013  |  3 Comments

It’s Day 3 of the post game evaluations of over 50 big bucks ads that ran during the Super Bowl. I watched them all, some several times. And I have a slightly different spin here.  The success and pay off of those investments will play out over time as consumers vote with their spending. But the real winners, IMHO, were the social media sites and digital marketing agencies and the advertisers who all took full advantage of consumer engagement and helped create the big brand buzz. Twitter won the day, with a reported increase of over 300%¹ in hash tag use from 2012. But it wasn’t all pretty. If you create the buzz, better be able to capitalize on it. Keynote, a provider of mobile and internet cloud testing and monitoring, reported some disappointing results on website readiness for some of this year’s advertisers. The fact that some of these very sophisticated brands failed on the basics perhaps points to a surprising level of immaturity still in applying process and technology innovations to this art of digital marketing.   Or maybe they just underestimated the power of those empowered consumers.

What fascinated me is the concept-to-flawless-execution of some of these $4 million works of art and their trans-media experiences. Here are some of the attributes we look for when taking brands digital – and my top picks for who got it right.

Attribute: Emotional Appeal

At the end of our digital day, we ultimately make an emotional decision about a product. Sure, we’ve done due diligence. We’ve gone from window shopping to kicking tires. We’ve watched the video or done the taste test. We’ve read the ratings and reviews, and then tracked down the best price. But eventually our consumer brains can do no more analysis and we make the gut decision.  It just felt right. Don’t tell me you didn’t cry during both of these:

JB’s Picks

Budweiser Clydesdales: Brotherhood – This one has two things going for it – one, animals are still one of those images that has stopping power. And even if you’re not a horse person, most people can identify with the raising of young, letting go and lifelong connections that remain, even when they’re all grown up and have a job. So this ad hit home.  And two – the colt needs a name. Talk about extending the life of a 60 second spot with a crowd-sourcing contest and all the virtual ink that will generate. Nice.

Dodge Ram Trucks: Farmer – The overwhelming majority of Americans believe in God and this one hit the heartland in its heart. The political message was not lost either. It’s brave to turn brand building into a movement with a moral message.  The choice of visuals was simply brilliant – stark stills – no gimmicky animation or high production values here. We’re talking down home facts – truths to be held self-evident. It preached without being preachy. It played on national pride without polarizing. Image building at its best.

Attribute: Psychographic Profiling

Even sophisticated demographics are failing a lot of advertisers so they’ve added new dimensions to their profiles to drive personalization and relevance. Even short of neuromarketing mechanisms that claim to predict the success of products based on wiring up the brains of test consumers, it’s easy to see why these picks had target audience appeal.

JB’s Picks

Taco Bell’s Viva Young – Pretty obvious what demographic this was attracting. But what really held appeal were the generational cross-overs. From those innocent days of harmless pranks and stolen moments to the hip tattoo craze and rave dancing.  It breaks through the age barrier using the common denominator of fun. The young viewers can imagine their grandparents in those scenarios and the grandparents equate a new lease on life with – yes, a Taco.

Best Buy’s Asking Amy – Did anyone else see the Cougar Town connections? The thematic innuendo is glaringly obvious. Amy is hitting on the sales guy at every turn. But she’s very current; smart TV, touch screens and noise cancelling head gear are front runner products that appeal to the football watching demographic. The celebrity personality as mascot is high risk if they fall from favor, but when you have a winner like Amy Poehler, who pulled top numbers in net sentiment analysis², you run with them as long as you can. Best Buy’s corporate messages about no commissions and full on customer services, pop against the backdrop of common consumer questions.

Attribute: Basic Instincts

You can get all outraged, but sex sells. It always has and it always will. Agencies will tell you there are a few images with major stopping appeal – basically they make you look. Those are animals, children and faces. Well people, faces may make you look; the whole body shot holds your undivided attention. But the artsy technique this year is the “slow mo” effect. Oiled and wet bodies take a back seat, to the slow turns, stretches and pan shots.

JB’s Picks

Calvin Klein’s Matthew Terry – CK’s answer to Victoria Secret’s angels? You only need one Matthew Terry to match what a runway full of Victoria Secret’s models project.  But what’s with the demographic match up here? 100% all beef ball game viewers gawking over the rippled perfection of Terry in black, hip-hugging briefs? Get real. I suspect this didn’t swing anyone in the net sentiment scores even though it dripped sexy and garnered plenty of postings. Note the subtle choreography that subliminally makes the connection to the audience. Those were football warm up moves at their best.

Mercedes Benz, Kate Upton’s Sexy Car Wash – compared to the Southwest Patti Melt, (one that was too hot to air) – this is rated PG. You can hate her shoes, her legs or her hair, but there’s no denying the built-in tease. Reminiscent of Cameron Diaz’s car wash scene in Bad Teacher, this wasn’t as hot cause she didn’t follow through. With the long tail run ups to this year’s ad parade, the promise of a slow motion car wash by a supermodel is all it takes to draw you in. Our kudos to the copywriter for the best one-liner ad this season.  “You missed a spot.”

Attribute: Lifestyle Appeal

If you can’t differentiate on product features – go for the lifestyle image.  From carbonated water to autos, just make buyers believe they can attain, compete, be beautiful, be cool, brave, smart or strong and you’ve dialed in to some very basic human experience stuff with powerful mojo. What remains to be seen is how well these advertisers extend the seconds of connections they made in traditional media into multichannel campaigns that incorporate second screens, mobile, social and live events that cater to the life style persona.

JB’s Picks

Audi’s “Prom” – This one has it all. It’s well-written, precisely timed, the characters are actually believable for ad actors and it races over the finish line with a simple punch line – (pun intended). It invokes images of a brave, sensual, winner, and propels the underdog dude persona into James Bond stardom. The message is simple. You drive an Audi, you go from loser to hot hero in 60 seconds or less.

Mercedes: Soul – This ad is a great example of the marketing mantra go brave, bold and big or go home.  Pretty brave move to hang Mercedes image on a pact with the Devil even if you do have one of the all time great rock and roll songs of our times as the sound track.  Really bold to talk price, and a low price at that, for a luxury auto when the traditional buyers have lived by the credo, “If you have to ask what it costs, you can’t afford it.” And then enter the rather average looking young kid with big dreams of fame who decides he doesn’t have to sell his soul to own a Mercedes. We’re left with the idea that maybe the car is enough.

I’ll confess, like most of us today, I avoid all TV commercials by various means. But I watched an hour of them on CBS’s special. Funny how very few of us are actually talking about the game. According to Networked Insights’ analysis Beyonce’s half time show was more the buzz than the 49ers or the Ravens. Maybe the NFL should add more digital marketing techniques to the playoff series as the run-up to the big day. But be ready to catch the darn ball.

Note¹ Networked Insights

Note² net sentiment analysis is the process of measuring the nature of responses, positive and negative, across social media channels.

 

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Marketing Maturity: Where Do You Rank?

by Jennifer Beck  |  January 31, 2013  |  Submit a Comment

We have this obsession with where we rank, rate and score in our world. It’s one of the reasons Cosmopolitan Magazine flies off the newsstands. It’s not just the alluring, over-the-top fashion model on the cover. It’s those addicting quizzes, like “Are you a good lover?” Who can’t take 5 minutes to check that one out?

So in the marketing world, we see everything from the Cosmo Quiz approach and free self-assessments, to the more sophisticated maturity models that peg where you are today and offer advice on how to get to the next level. But why measure marketing maturity? What’s the point of knowing if you’re clueless or mature? What aspects of marketing should you even consider? Here’s some current thinking.

First, if you want to get to a desired future state of marketing, it helps to know the nature of the current state so you can plot a course forward. And maturity in marketing means simply that the more advanced the function the more impact it can have on the business.

Take buyer affinity for example. There’s a big difference between being opportunistic or even a fast follower and having the predictive analytic chops to actually anticipate future requirements. Heck you can create new market categories and even create new customers with the right set of tools, intelligence and innovation.

What about the way marketing’s measured today? I just had a conversation with a client asking how to show an ROI on their marketing. I laughed and asked how they were proving an ROI on HR, legal and finance functions. Perhaps a little snarky, but the point is marketing should be measured on the overall business objectives. It takes a lot of coordinated mojo from many contributors to get to that final result. ROI on isolated marketing activities is madness. Who cares how many hits you have on websites or the traffic in social channels, if it’s not helping you make money?

Let’s look at creativity. Most marketing organizations can claim they have the occasional brilliant idea, but most externally source that to their agencies. The mature organization is managing an innovation pipeline of ideas, new storylines, product concepts, etc. And they’re open to creative juices from anywhere from informed conclusions based on their own intelligence to crowd-sourcing.

And then we have the digital deal. You’ve got the less mature still watching their screens for the bounce back on SEO and e-mail campaigns to those sipping a dirty martini as they create trans-media buyer experiences that not just sell product, but industrialize the power of word-of-mouth.

Richard Fouts, my “clued-in” Gartner colleague and I sat around his dining room table in his flat in San Francisco and pondered this concept of marketing maturity. He took notes on his tablet. I had to draw it out with printer paper and crayons. The result is a new Marketing Maturity Model* that attempts to hit all the relevant dimensions of the function. After disciplining ourselves not to do the funny, irreverent version first because it was so compelling to label phase 1 as “clueless”, we landed on 17 dimensions of this marvelous thing called marketing in the digital age.

For those who will take the self-assessment, it will be like a mash-up of Myers-Briggs meets Moody Me.

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