Facebook Proves (Again) That Great User Experiences, Not Flashy AdTech Stacks, Are Advertising’s Future

Consumer-centric advertising solutions trump “ad-tech” stacks

Nearly four years ago, I penned an article that outlined various cutting-edge approaches to retail loyalty, new ways to drive in-store foot traffic and the technology companies making it all possible. Tough many of the companies highlighted in the aforementioned piece are still around, none have created “drive-to-store” opportunities anywhere near as compelling as the ad unit that Facebook launched two days ago.

Facebook’s new local ads are brilliant. Why? Because they are simple, sensible and most of all, they serve the user first.

Without ever leaving the Facebook app, a user can now achieve their goal without disruption. The fact that there is an advertising technology stack and multiple partnerships playing a role in quantifying the retail transaction doesn’t slow down the experience for the user nor divert the user from their intended action.

(This is in stark contrast to the javascript-laden web which has become heavy with “ad-tech bloat.”)

As an agent who is responsible for helping brands plan great advertising experiences, it continues to be worrisome to me that these delightful experiences emerge from only a handful of companies — most of whom are consumer-facing tech companies.

My hope is that, as the world of publishing evolves and publishers start sounding more like hybrid, publisher/technologists, we will see more advertising experiences that embody the tenets of advertising’s golden triangle. And, hat they will be created by a larger pool of media companies.

The shallow pool of innovative media partners we currently swim in may ultimately degrade the possibility for advertising’s golden triangle, due to sheer lack of competition and need by the big fish to innovate.

Unlike advertising technology stacks which aim to gather consumer information in order to serve partially relevant and largely unwanted ads, beautifully planned consumer experiences that incorporate profit-making elements in a smooth manner are the ones that win—you know, those ad placements that achieve a greater than .001 percent click-through rate.

When ads themselves live as added value for the end user, a great advertising accomplishment is achieved. It is what I like to refer to as advertising’s golden triangle—a scenario where the advertiser, media channel and consumer equally benefit.  In the world of digital advertising, many credit Google with the first notable advertising golden triangle.In Facebook’s press release about the new unit, they state that “people use mobile in 45% of all shopping journeys” and “the majority of sales still happen in brick-and-mortar businesses.”

In Facebook’s press release about the new unit, they state that “people use mobile in 45% of all shopping journeys” and “the majority of sales still happen in brick-and-mortar businesses.”Facebook’s scaled distribution and market power have created a scenario where, with the right partners in place, retailers will be able to track users from a mobile device interaction to an actual purchase in a brick and mortar store. That’s an achievement dreamed of since the very first interactive ads hit the market.

Facebook’s scaled distribution and market power have created a scenario where, with the right partners in place, retailers will be able to track users from a mobile device interaction to an actual purchase in a brick and mortar store. That’s an achievement dreamed of since the very first interactive ads hit the market.But make no mistake, it is not technology alone that marks this announcement a true game changer.

But make no mistake, it is not technology alone that marks this announcement a true game changer.

Three Ways Customer Service Has Me Excited in 2016

As we head into February and I have read every last prediction about what will be hot in marketing, advertising and technology in 2016, nothing excites me more than the potential around customer service.

Service Everywhere

The realm where growth marketers can be most effective is in making their customers happy enough to talk to their friends. With Facebook Messenger opening up for business, companies no longer have an excuse to be where their customers are when they need help. Aref JDEY does a nice job of outlining the various ways in which Facebook and Twitter are allowing for brands and startups to serve their customers better. I was going to create my own list, but better I sent traffic to Aref.

Service Will Be Simple

Live chat support on websites used to be a bit spammy. Now it is just a simpler way to interact and get your questions answers quickly. Why bother making a phone call when you can chat. For businesses, why bother pushing all support to phone if you can have support reps around the world? But if you do need the type of support that requires the nuance of voice interaction, there are plenty of new business making this easier than every before. Toky is one of them.

Service Will be Smart

And finally, artificial intelligence and cross-platform integration will make customer service achieve amazing new heights. Once again, in thinking about this post I referenced this amazing post so many times, I decided to just delete my musings and direct you to it (go here for the best post I have read in a while).

I recognize that this is a short post largely pointing to others—well, genius steals!

Why The Creation of the Growth Hacker Was Unavoidable

And why it was marketers who made it essential

While the tenets of growth hacking (or growth marketing) are an essential part of any startup or established business, the mistake in perception that I see quite often is the belief in the fact that the principles of growth hacking are wholly new. There is a lot to learn from the way Dropbox acquired its vast user base in an astonishingly short period of time, or how Airbnb implemented a Craigslist “hack” to achieve broad distribution, but one could argue that there is an equal amount to learn from fast food entrepreneur Ray Kroc’s product growth strategies. In order to truly learn from the best business “hacks,” one must look at the underlying approach as opposed to simply the physical and tactical executions. For example, one must acknowledge that a “user funnel” is a concept, not a feature in an analytics dashboard, and that effective marketers and businesspeople have been beholden to key performance indicators (KPIs) since the dawn of modern business. With these acknowledgements one can more easily assess their business situation and develop more creative strategies — unencumbered by a formulaic mindset that comes along with stringent labeling.

Prior to the era of mass communications, the role of the marketer was to achieve product market fit by any means available, and subsequently to grow a consumer base using an equally undefined set of tools. With the onset of mass communications and the growth of conglomerate companies serving mass markets with relatively few product alternatives, gaining market share often resulted in mass media “shouting matches” with little accountability regarding which voice was most effective and which tactics were responsible for gains in market share. Product communications grew separate from product development as corporate silos emerged within corporations; the marketing profession became synonymous with advertising and media and little more, and many complacent marketing professionals relished in the grandeur of these “larger than life” industries.

The separation of product and product communications coupled with the opulence of big advertising and media budgets led to a bifurcation of thought regarding what marketing is, and what it should be. Many modern marketing professionals operate so far from the core product they are promoting, not only could they not tell you how the product itself works, some may not even be able to tell you how their efforts have grown adoption of the product they are meant to promote. This reality has led to the need to reclassify the role of customer acquisition and retention in The Digital Age. In addition to a reunited symmetry between product and communications, this reclassification also addresses a set of professionals who often lack the resources of large advertising and media-driven companies. But make no mistake; the underlying challenges of the growth hacker are not fundamentally different than entrepreneurs throughout history. The tools have drastically changed, but the past still has a lot to teach us about the present and the future. There is no immediate harm in role reclassification in order to fit the modern state of business, but there is always potential harm in creating new silos within companies; departments with similar goals operating with potentially divergent visions.
Except from http://www.imediaconnection.com/content/39781.asp?imcid=topnavcontent#multiview




The Anti-Sharing Economy?

“Sharing is caring, that’s what they told us” is how this new spot from Saatchi & Saatchi London on behalf of HomeAway starts.

The spot is more than a dig on Airbnb, this spot takes aim at the entire movement known as The Sharing Economy. While somewhat humorous (though not terribly) the spot attempts to point out the downfalls of an industry-changing trend championed by many of Silicon Valley’s finest including the great Jeremiah Owyang. Sure, there is a dark underbelly to everything, including the sharing economy, but has HomeAway really exposed it in this spot?

Whenever I see an “attack ad” I, as a consumer, am generally turned off. I believe that brands should be touting the things that make them great as opposed to exposing the negative elements of other brands. In this spot, a weak case is made against the sharing economy and worse, no claim is made for HomeAway other than a mere question that is asked, “Why share it?”

Here are a few reasons that answer this question:

  1. Sharing is less expensive
  2. Sharing affords you opportunities you otherwise may not have encountered (at any price)
  3. Sharing connects you with people and experiences that money cannot buy. This is especially beneficial, especially when traveling. As a user of Airbnb I can say that sharing is part of the reason why I use it

I love questioning things, especially social and business trends. Many companies aiming to take advantage of the sharing economy are, in many ways, a caricature of what the sharing economy is meant to be. I believe that start-ups should start with a problem and solve it by any means possible as opposed to starting with a solution (e.g. let’s use the sharing economy). The notion of the sharing economy is a solution to a variety of problems and for the companies successfully using it, it likely came about as an end point, not a starting point.

I love my privacy and am not always interested in using Airbnb, Uber Pool or others, but the fact of the matter is that each of these companies offer a unique selling proposition made possible by the sharing economy; whereas HomeAway, in this spot, offers none. After all, you can get a hotel room and you will equally not have to share that.

What do you think about this spot? Does it do a good job of selling HomeAway ? Does it educate on why you might use HomeAway? Does it turn you off to the sharing economy?

Looking forward to your thoughts.







Building Brand Awareness In The “Product Education” Phase

Growing start-ups in need of awareness still need to educate prospects through their advertising strategy…

Often times ads are created that are either funny OR product focused and informative. Two posts ago I questioned Slack’s strategy behind this piece of work:

The piece above speaks to the net value of the Slack’s product, but it does so in such a broad manner that, if you are not already familiar with the product and how it works, the spot does little to inform as to how the product is different from other products that claim to provide streamlined communications. Although Slack has achieved product market fit, it is under three years old and has not reached maximum scale. It strikes me as odd to that the company has created this type of ad as opposed to continuing to focus on specific benefits of the product in a very concise manner–and though I am all for an “above the line” approach where the goal is awareness, I think there are more effective ways to achieve this. Rather than taking creative inspiration from external factors that have nothing to do with the product (fake animals) it makes sense to look at the product itself and find inspiration from core features. Just because you are focused on core product, does not mean that you cannot be clever, funny or imaginative.

Slack competitor HipChat uses the approach that I reference above:

While their ad is just as entertaining as Slack’s, if not more so, it manages to highlight the functional reasons to use the product. It clearly shows what the product does and how it does it in a real like context. For growing companies looking for growth and adoption it is essential to keep communications as close to the product as possible as this is still the “education phase”.

Large commodity products may need to create “cult of brand” through advertising that merely tells a story loosely related to the product itself, but more often these days it is critical to get people using your product and let the surprise and delight within the product itself do the storytelling (unless your product is rubbish, then you are screwed no matter what).

Uber Growth Marketing That Makes Mom Happy

It was Thanksgiving day and my mother was expecting her son (me) and his girlfriend (now fiance) home for Thanksgiving dinner. Our plane arrived at 2PM in NYC and we were expected to be on Long Island by five. We knew we would get there on time, but like any loving mom, mine could not wait.

We hoped in our Uber and I “shared” our trip with my mother.

Share My ETA from Uber
Share My ETA from Uber

My mother was thrilled. She had seen Uber before and loved it, but had not seen this feature. Her ability to watch her son drive home for Thanksgiving dinner was better advertising for Uber than any TV spot could ever be and the beauty was, no media dollars were required for this magical connection. This feature likely came from Uber’s growth team, but it could also be used as a branding mechanic; “Uber brings home the people you love”. 

If I were Uber, I would potentially take this “baked in” product feature and create video out of it, highlighting how Uber brings people together in a way that shows off the brilliance of the product design itself. That is what great advertising is all about. Finding an area where there is a strong product market fit and amplifying in a meaningful human way for all to see.

Team Uber, if you read, feel free to use my idea next holiday season, gratis!




Product Usage: The Hot New Marketing Channel

Where do  marketing strategies end and product design begin?

What makes for great marketing strategies? Sure, you need to achieve awareness but awareness of something people do not like will land you in a negative place. In addition, the more people that use your product, the more they are likely to talk about it, and subsequently become the best marketing vehicle around. I recognize this is a bit obvious, but these days I see a lot of marketing that seems unnecessary. Take this video from Slack.

While cute, it does not seem like an essential marketing tactic.

There are three potential groups this video can be targeted at:

  • Slack Users: If you are already a slack user you likely don’t need to see this video. It may serve as brand building tool and could be a nice retention vehicle, but by and large, this does not seem worth the money it likely cost to create it.
  • Non Users (aware): If you don’t use Slack but have heard of it, this could be the hand that pushes you over the edge; though somehow, given that it really does not focus on product, I doubt it. Furthermore, the savvy audience that this is targeted at has, in my experience, a general distrust of this type of advertising. Perhaps the ad is aimed at a broader audience, in which case I see more of a reason for the existence of such a video.
  • Non Users (unaware): For these users this video is useless as I don’t think it defines how it solves a needs in a specific enough manner to get people to act right away. That said, it could be a good first impression. If retargeting is used to follow this up with a more tactical sell, this might make a bit more sense.

In contrast to this ad product enhancements can be viewed as marketing in that they get people to use a product more and more–so much so that it becomes habitual and the addictive nature of the product becomes fodder for word of mouth marketing. Facebook is king when it comes to this strategy. A recent update to the Facebook app (picture below) detects when new images have been shot on a device–the app asks if you want to add them to Facebook.

facebook_photo_product marketing strategies(shout out to JR Badian for being top of my feed)

Insanely simple, but effective. One might ask, “is this a marketing strategy?” In my opinion it is as it addresses a market need with a response aimed at growing business.

What do you think? Is this marketing or is it simply product design?


Does The World Need Another Tech Focused Marketing Blog? (a New Year resolution)

Many of you have New Year resolutions. Well, here is mine.

I blogged at AMediaCirc.us for about four years during 2004-2008 (the site eventually became my agency Circ.us’ site. Now it redirects to my personal home page as I sold the agency). At that time, blogging about media, marketing and advertising at the cross roads of technology was pretty popular—fast forward to 2015 and it is REALLY popular. But I miss it. I miss having a reason to hone my thoughts and share them with the world, even if only a few hundred people are listening.

Blogging helped me solidify my ideas and it made me a better professional. Blogging got me exposure and speaking gigs that I otherwise would not have gotten. And finally, blogging helped my agency attract prospects.

I am considering starting again but the world of marketing blogs, in particular, is so crowded that I have struggled to find a unique angle so I decided to take a stab and just write about what I am interested in; maybe people will care, maybe they will not.

Enter BrandNewX.

My career has been heavily focused on finding new technologies and leveraging them to build market value for customers. As I get older and more…”seasoned” I am realizing that many of the new marketing approaches are strategically tethered to tried and true strategies, despite their use of new technology. At the end of the day, creating value through great products and services is what really wins.

And so I will attempt to blog again, once or twice a week. I will published on on www.brandnewx.com and cross post to Medium. The truth is I have been planning this for a month already; creating the perfect site design and logo, and you know what, none of that really matters (notice there is no design and the theme is a standard WordPress theme). Oh, and I don’t plan on editing much, so don’t mind the grammar—hopefully the ideas are strong enough.

I hope you enjoy it enough to participate.

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