Story telling is dead

Story telling is dead

This title of a talk given this afternoon by Mastercard CMO Raja Rajamannar at New York’s Advertising Week was a contrarian statement aimed at raising awareness of the need for advertisers to find a different way to connect to their customers.

No, story telling is not dead. Instead Rajamannar made the point that given the ubiquity of ad blockers and short attention spans, advertisers need to change the focus of their stories. In fact, one slide in his presentation read, Story telling is dead. Long live story telling.

Rajamannar suggested that instead of brands telling their own story, brands should facilitate the means for their customers to tell their personal story–one facilitated by their use of the brand. Laying the groundwork for this perspective, Rajamannar claimed that we are in Marketing 4.0. Our progression of communication leading to 4.0 has been:

  • Marketing 1.0: Logic
  • Marketing 2.0: Emotions
  • Marketing 3.0: Data
  • Marketing 4.0: Connections

The strongest connections we can facilitate between our brands and consumers come from meeting our customers in their area of passion. Create a non-intrusive experience that moves them into an experiential relationship with our brand and we will see strong long-term connections, purchasing, and brand loyalty.

Mastercard’s Priceless campaign has evolved into the experiential and Rajamannar gave us examples including:

  1. Priceless Surprises. A drawing in which winners are surprised to find Justin Timberlake at their door ready to hang out and play some music.
  2. Priceless Emotions. Mastercard Black holders receive a 15% discount on luxury treatments at the Kennzur Spa in Sao Paulo Brazil.
  3. Priceless Cities. For the Broadway show “Rock of Ages,” MasterCard didn’t just offer card members cheaper tickets. People who bought tickets were also invited to rehearse with the “Rock of Ages” cast and have a walk-on role.
  4. Priceless Causes. Mastercard donates a small portion of certain purchases including dining and airline tickets to a cause called Stand up to Cancer. The promotion ended up raising more than $35MM for cancer research. The experience given to Mastercard customers was that of helping further this important medical research.

There have been other variations on this Priceless theme including Priceless Elevators in which lucky participants in the Northside festival in Brooklyn’s McCarren Park had an opportunity to take a 60-second elevator ride during which they pitched a business or business idea for a chance to win a $15,000 grand prize.

Mastercard is tying the use of its product to “priceless” experiences that money alone just can’t buy. The feeling of those customers experiencing the use of their Mastercard builds an unforgettable connection to the brand and allows a story to be told, not by Mastercard about the superiority of their brand, but by their customers about their love of the brand.

Google’s Eddystone and a look at beacon technology

Google’s Eddystone and a look at beacon technology

eddystoneLast month, Google released Eddystone, its own version of Apple’s iBeacon technology. In true Apple form, iBeacon is a closed system that works only on iPhones. Eddystone is an open sourced platform-agnostic beacon technology that provides several other advantages. Google said it set out to build a “new class of beacons that addresses real-life use-cases, cross-platform support, and security.”

Google named their beacon technology after the UK Eddystone Lighthouse. The idea is that beacons guide users and apps in the real world the same way lighthouses guide ship captains in the night. There are many places you can go to learn about the technical aspects of beacons, and specifically Eddystone, so let’s talk about the applications of beacon technology.

Similar to the GPS technology behind geofencing, beacons are becoming an important part of out-of-home marketing and advertising. Because GPS tends not to work very well indoors and because it lacks the more precise location-determining capabilities of beacons, each technology plays a unique role for marketers looking to communicate with their audience.

Beacons are small battery operated devices the size of a cookie that can be placed virtually anywhere in a store or outdoor location. The emit a unique Bluetooth (BLE) signal one to ten times a second to any device (smartphone) turned on and capable of hearing it within about 200 feet. Beacons are different from GPS signals in that beacons can be set to ping a phone several feet away to just a few inches. It can also provide this pinging on a moving object such as a bus or taxi.

Unlike GPS technology, beacons don’t send information to your phone. Rather, it is up to your phone and its app to make sense of the signal. Geofencing, the common use of GPS satellite technology, is relatively expensive to use, causes a greater drain on phone batteries, and requires satellites and cell phone towers in order to pinpoint location. Beacons require small inexpensive devices using batteries lasting years to transmit signals that can be interpreted in a wide variety of applications.

Beacons open up a whole new way for people to interact with their immediate environment. Retailers can strategically place beacons throughout a store to send coupons to customers within specific departments or isles. Offers for electronics can be segregated from offers on food items for big box stores. Information on new products can be sent to customers walking within a few feet from those products, the assumption being that they may be looking at those very products at that moment. Offers to loyalty customers can be different from offers to non-loyalty customers. Once integrated with unique customer buying history, the possibilities are endless.

I look forward to seeing how marketers utilize beacons as their size and cost decrease – beacon wafers the size of a postage stamp is certainly possible. Now, that’s something I could hide in my wallet for the next time it’s lost.




What does your brand stand for?

What does your brand stand for?

1984_woman_with_hammer_5Every brand needs a purpose. In fact, your reason for being can often be your most compelling selling point. Simon Sinek delivered one of the more popular TED talks about this very subject. His talk was called, Start with the Why. How great leaders inspire action.

People are attracted by the “why”. It tells us the motivation behind your company and the products you sell, going well beyond simply the desire to make a profit. It doesn’t necessarily have to be “to change the world”, although that’s a good mission if you can fulfill it. For Apple, that message is, We make products to challenge the status quo. For Harley Davidson, it is to allow people the freedom to express their individuality. That’s certainly a lot more attractive than, “We make better computers” or “We’re the only American Heavyweight motorcycle manufacturer.”

There are three reasons you should define your “why”:

  1. Your company’s “why” generates loyalty. Like Apple and Harley Davidson, their reason for being attracts a much broader appeal than simply computers and motorcycles. Freedom-loving rebels identify themselves with Harley Davidson and therefore, the long line of products and services adorning their iconic logo. My personal resonance with Apple’s “why” makes it virtually impossible for me to imagine buying a Windows machine.
  2. It ties to your company’s original reason for being. Most companies were started from a vision, a passion or a heart-felt need fulfillment. Keeping that original passion alive will keep your employees tied to a common principle and focussed on what’s truly important in their day to day activities. Companies frequently get fuzzy on their founding principles and start doing things or selling products or services that depart from those attributes over which their customers originally fell in love.
  3. It creates the non-verbal emotional reason to buy. If you ask the average person why they buy a certain brand, they’ll tell you it’s because they want high quality, they want good service, and they want a lot of features all at a competitive price. But is that really what drives purchasing? Your compelling “why” – your mission – has the capacity to attract customers far more powerfully than the fact that it comes in seven popular colors.

Can you define your “why”? Chances are if you can’t, you may be defining yourself instead as just another peddler of price-driven commodities.

8 points of millennial DNA for marketers

8 points of millennial DNA for marketers

Young-People-loooking-up-cutAccording to census data from last year, there are more 23 year olds in the US – 4.3 million of them – than any other age group. The 80 million millennials (born 1980-2000) living in the US have rapidly become an attractive target for marketers. Still being significantly outspent by their generational predecessor, the baby boomers, millennials will some day dominate the world economy.

Marketers are reinventing both products and messaging as they compete for the growing dollars being spent by this influential generation. According to Diane Swonk, chief economist for Mesirow Financial, “Our whole consumer model is based on the baby boom”, but now the coming generation is “setting up a whole new consumer model.”

As you contemplate the most effective ways to sell to millennials, here are a few interesting characteristics of this generation:

  • According to Pew Research, millennials get along better with their parents than their mom and dad did as teens. They are also living at home longer with their parents. More than a third of millennials of all ages say they influence what products their parents buy, what shops and restaurants they visit, and what trips they take. Think your millennial marketing investment is directed only in the purchasing of young people? Think again.
  • Millennials see much less of a distinction between the customer and the brand. They enjoy collaborating with the brand and want their opinion on products and the their sense of social responsibility to matter to the seller. Growing up with shows like Bob the Builder, Dora, and Blue’s Clues, Millennials see collaboration as a natural part of life. Alex Castellarnau at Dropbox, the popular file transfer service says “Millennials are a generation that wants to co-create the product with you. Companies that understand this and discover ways to engage in this co-creation relationship with millennials will have an edge.” Brands like Airbnb, Uber, Nike and Target are successful examples incorporating this idea into their product DNA.
  • Labeled “the cheapest generation”, millennials have grown up through the financial crisis and many struggle with college debt and the difficulty of finding a job. As price-conscious shoppers, they look for deals. Before booking a hotel, they will review at least 10 other sites, reading reviews and comparing prices. In a survey conducted by Harris Interactive of Millennials, over 77% participate in loyalty reward programs and 44% are willing to promote products or services through social media in exchange for rewards.
  • They put a premium on convenience. Don’t bog them down with tasks requiring them to hunt down transactional details. This generation wants information quick and easy such as shipping confirmations or receipts sent to their mobil device.  They won’t appreciate having to search through your web site to see the status of their order. They expect to see transparent integration between your brick and mortar and online experiences.
  • Wow them with your product or service experience. Millennials care less about just getting from point A to point B than they are about the experience. According to Jay Coldren, Marriott VP of Lifestyle Brands, Marriott’s experiential hotel brand: “Generation Y views business travel not as a necessary evil but as a perk and an opportunity to view the world.”
  • Advertising does reach them. In a study done by re:fuel agency and Crux Research, 77% of millennials pay attention to television ads, 68% to posters and billboards and 62% to radio ads. They found that the top three ad types appealing to college students were 1. humorous, 2. creatively unique, and 3. relevant or meaningful. And 55% of students receiving product samples went on to purchase the product.
  • They care and pay attention to your brand’s values. Call it “values-based buying”. They will reward your company if it reflects their values in terms of social responsibility, green profile and how ethically you treat your employees and suppliers. Research done by the advertising agency Barkley found that more than 50% of millennials will buy products from companies that support the causes about which they care deeply.
  • Last, speak their language. Millennials communicate in Tweets, texts and Facebook posts. Their language is informal. Your corporate-speak and highly sanitized mission statements will fall on deaf ears. When in doubt about how best to communicate to this important audience, think “authentic”. Be authentic.


Three tips for more effective customer surveys

Three tips for more effective customer surveys

The questionnaireThese days, most of us are awash in satisfaction surveys – after a hotel stay, a flight, a call to customer service, etc. You are probably sending them out to YOUR customers. So what makes for a good survey versus one that never gets completed or worse yet, wastes the time of you and your valuable customers? Here are three tips.

1. Even though it’s the quickest possible survey, the “one question” variety rarely gives you anything actionable. I’m talking about the automated request at the end of a call for you to answer just one question. Often that question is, “Would you recommend our service?”. If, “no”, what does that tell you? Maybe they are annoyed at your product or service or they like you but maybe they just don’t feel comfortable taking the risk of making a recommendation to others. Surveys should be actionable, and there’s nothing you can really do with the limited answer to this one question.

Instead, ask if the call completely satisfied their need. Assuming you are tracking the person on your end who took the call, a preponderance of “yes” or “no” is actionable in the form of either providing praise to your agent or further training.

2. On the opposite end, surveys that are too long prevent many from completing them. I’ve received surveys from my car dealer after a service call that never seem to end. Most times, I will quit after I’ve had enough. I’m willing to provide honest feedback, but they didn’t get it because they irritated me with their lack of respect for my time.

It’s a bit like web forms. Find the balance between getting just enough information to improve your product or service but not so much that you prevent people from giving it to you. Face it, you’ll always want to learn more, but providing you all the detail you want is just not a priority for your customers.

Start with a prioritized list from the most important piece of information you can gain from your customers down to the optional pieces. Then figure out where to draw the line – and you should probably draw it earlier than what feels good to you. Remember that you want people to think about their answers, and after a while, they’ll just start checking boxes in order to just be finished with it. Think about when YOU’VE done that!

3. Consider the pacing of your surveys. If you’re in a business where people use your product or service frequently, do you really need to ask them for feedback every time? It would be nice to get an opinion every time a frequent traveler stays at your hotel, but how many will give you a thoughtful reflection for every trip? Instead, pace them out and ask questions that give you actionable information about their overall satisfaction. Technology allows you to easily do this. Perhaps ask them to give you the standout location that was great and the one that was least satisfying from the past month for frequent guests or longer period for more casual travelers. And ask them WHY and how THEY would improve it. Relative to point one above, dig a bit beneath the surface answer.

Surveying customers has become very popular. Now we need to improve the information we gain and the effectiveness with which we gain it.


Top 10 takeaways from the Digital Summit Phoenix

Top 10 takeaways from the Digital Summit Phoenix

Last week, I attended the Digital Summit Phoenix. A full day and a half of all things digital media that got my juices going and my writing inspiration jump started.

Here are some random tidbits I picked up that you might find useful:

  1. For email inspiration, see It’s a dense collection of very well crafted and written emails.
  2. Even if you’re not in the market to buy clothes online, sign up for Banobos. They do email very well and provide a great example of a very deliberate style coming through on every message and touch point.
  3. Two very good tools for video are and Check out the white papers and video inspiration. Check these out if you want to take your marketing videos to the next level.
  4. I head different numbers, but in B to B, 60% of buying is already done on line before people talk to you. It’s somewhere around 90% for B to C. The lesson is: your website matters and so does your social presence.
  5. According to Silverpop, “Buyers are learning on their own and delaying their contact with suppliers until late in the purchase cycle.”
  6. Be aware of the length of your email components: up to 25 characters for your From name, 35 characters for your Subject, and 85 characters for your pre-header.
  7. Speaking of your pre-header, look at what it says. You might be surprised to see that it contains simply the text encouraging people to click here to view the email in the browser. That’s a waste of opportunity to say something meaningful for sure.
  8. Consider using SMS for marketing messages following up email. Just don’t abuse it. After all, text is more personal that email. Intruding too much on your prospect’s text messaging will surely hurt the relationship you’re trying to build.
  9. A general marketing thought: Don’t focus your communication on the person – focus on the problem.
  10. Check out It’s a very powerful marketing automation plugin for WordPress. Surprising what it will do as a free tool.

I may do another post containing more, but if you are a fan of 75 degree Februaries, come see for yourself next year!

Digital Summit Phoenix – part 2

Digital Summit Phoenix – part 2

Digital-Summit-signOne of the hot topics in the recent Digital Summit was Content Marketing. Half the first day and four separate sessions throughout the rest of the conference were dedicated to this important topic.

Content marketing is the practice of generating articles, infographics, video and other web content relating to your brand that will demonstrate authority to Google and therefore rank you higher in search.

Gone are the days of filling your page titles, H1 tags and body content with keywords hoping to get Google’s attention. That was effective SEO in the past, but as Google evolved and became smarter – and to prevent people from gaming the system – semantic search arose as the new standard through which Google would serve results to your searches.

As a symbolic gesture to its 15th birthday, Google unveiled Hummingbird on September 27, 2013. Google had launched updates to its search algorithms before, but Hummingbird was the most thorough revamping of Google since its founding. Google can now look at the context of a search rather than the individual words. At also allows longer search queries, and now that we can speak full sentences into our smartphones, Google needed to create a way to interpret those full sentences and serve back more relevant pages.

What does that have to do with Content Marketing? Well, Google is now much better at understanding full-sentence (long-tail) searches and it is now also much smarter about interpreting the content of your blog posts and other page content. And, Google is using that “skill” to read through your site to judge the relevancy and quality of your content. As an example, this particular post on marketing is being written because it is relevant to our audience of marketers. After all, much of the business of Evergreen Trading is about placing media on behalf of the marketing team at our clients.

Here are some key takeaways from the conference relative to Content Marketing:

  • SEO is all about content. Google rewards great content
  • Add fresh content to your site often. Three new pages/posts per day was suggested as optimal
  • Research your customers to understand their problems and pain. Then write about solutions.
  • Leverage your knowledge base. Invite others within and outside your company to contribute great content.
  • Whenever possible, write in a problem/solution style. Google likes that.
  • Your content should not have an expiration date. Make it evergreen.


5 compelling reasons for Marketing to embrace trade (with Evergreen Trading)

5 compelling reasons for Marketing to embrace trade (with Evergreen Trading)

Boy with 5 fingersCorporate trade has been around for more than 50 years, and much of the Fortune 1000 have used it to alleviate their excess inventories or surplus real estate problems. Given trade’s long history and the significant number of trading firms that have provided their services, it’s not surprising that within your organization there may be push-back from various individuals, chief among them, the people who oversee marketing and media buying.

Especially for consumer product companies, marketing and advertising are the lifeblood of the organization. So, no marketing person wants their carefully developed media plans compromised. Here are five very good reasons why Marketing can embrace trade when done with Evergreen Trading.

1. The portion of media that you place through us is YOUR media, not ours. Your rates, your markets, your chosen magazines, your commercial terms, and your schedule. We are simply placing the schedule you provide to us.

2. Horizon Media is doing your media buy.  The portion of media we place for you is being bought by the largest independent media placement company in the world – Horizon Media. With $3.5 billion in broadcast, print, outdoor, and digital media placed annually, you will gain the full resources of this award-winning placement agency at no cost. There are no fees or commissions paid to either Evergreen Trading or Horizon Media.

3. To reap the full benefit of the transaction, you’ll place less media through us. We enjoy a cost advantage over other trading companies because of our market position, buying tools, resources, and our significant cash buying clout. That cost advantage translates into a higher percentage of trade that you use to pay for your media resulting in less overall media placed on your behalf. Our time together will be shorter.

4. All media placed through us is bought at net, allowing for full normal commission of your advertising agency. We are not taking the place of your advertising agency. In fact, your agency plays an important role by providing us with the media schedule and commercial terms that we implement on your behalf.

5. We can create transaction structures that provide significant financial benefit to marketing. In our view, Marketing shouldn’t simply be accommodating the financial, sales, and operational needs of the organization through the placement of their media. We look for Marketing to gain through either our delivery of additional media for the existing budget, or to put incremental dollars into Marketing’s media budget.

One additional reason for Marketing to embrace trade with Evergreen Trading is the transparency with which we lay bare the inner workings of our media acquisision, our role and relationship with you as a client, and our guidance on how to gain the most from the transaction and measure the result.

To that end, we have published a short white paper called, Your Marketing Advantage. Click here to download it. This document will empower you to make an informed decision on how to best evaluate trade for your organization’s marketing. And, let us know how else we can provide you with a benefit to your marketing and media efforts using corporate trade. We’d like to hear from you.

How Marketing can most effectively evaluate trade

How Marketing can most effectively evaluate trade

There's a saying that's been around for about four years: Marketing is the new Finance. Because of digital advertising, measurement is not only possible but paramount. I think Adobe SVP of Marketing Ann Lewnes said it best. "Data is the digital revolution's gift to marketing".

Those of us who have been in corporate trade for the past 20 years, we have a different interpretation of the phrase, Marketing is the new Finance. To us it means, Marketing is the decison maker, as it should be.  Inevitably, our industry has evolved through the years. There was a time when Finance reviewed the financial benefits of corporate trade and ultimately approved or disapproved the transaction. If an approval was made, Marketing was informed of the trade transaction and asked to begin the process of working with the trading company on the media to be placed as part of the financial transaction. In the early days, Marketing didn't have as much say in the approval process of a corporate trade.

Yes, Marketing IS the new Finance. The pendulum has swung and now, much of the vetting and approval of a trade transaction is led by Marketing. Evergreen Trading sees this as a benefit for companies considering trade in today's marketplace. Remember that the payment made to a client is in media. Without a successful placement of the client's advertising by the trading company, the financial value of the transaction is in doubt. Marketing needs to confirm that the trading company can indeed place the advertising that has been planned and budgeted by Marketing.

As the pendulum swings, however, it's not surplrising that Marketing often remembers the days when media wasn't discussed beforehand and when marketing plans changed unbeknownst to Finance. Marketing therefore now assumes that the resulting media problems are preordained. Their belief is that trade doesn't work.  And for those marketing professionals who suffered through an ill-conceived trade, we understand their reticence to get back on the horse and ride.

So, we have a few considerations that we believe will help Marketing determine whether the trading company's media placement will fully measure up to the initial promises of the trading company. Keep in mind that trade works exceedingly well under the right circumstances. Are your circumstances right for a corporate trade relationship?

Ensure that:

  • The amount of uncommitted future media planned by your media department is at least 5 times the amount of the advertising credit being issued by the trading company
  • The trading company is given the chance to review a representative portion of the upcoming media plan complete with costs and anticipated commercial terms. Any reputable trading company will gladly sign an NDA prior to their media evaluation.
  • You, as the client, have been given a transparent look at the trading company's media delivery platform. You are clear on the types of media they routinely place, how they gain the necessary lower cost with the media vendors, remedies for missed spots or lower ratings (just like agencies occasionally encounter), and their research and reporting tools and capabilities.
  • Your advertising agency has been brought in early to the evaluation process and has had the opportunity to ask the right questions and meet the people placing the media through trade. In the "old days" the agency was even behind Marketing in the process of evaluating trade. Not an empowering experience for them, to say the least.
  • An arrangement has been proposed for Marketing to share in the financial benefit of the trade. Often this is not needed, but for organizations who are structured financially to spread the benefit beyond Sales, Operations or Finance, this can be ideal for motivating Marketing to accept trade.
  • You are comfortable with the person at the trading company who will be your day-to-day contact. Don't let the senior people at the trading company monopolize your conversations. Get to know the person handling your account – just like in an agency review.

Armed with this information, your marketing people won't be left to guess as to whether or not corporate trading will integrate well with their media plans. If it is ultimately deemed by Marketing that trade is not right for your organization, then you can be assured that the decision was made based on facts, rather than on a preconcieved notion or stereotype.

As the trading industry has evolved, and companies like Evergreen Trading emerges to provide clients with superior media delivery platforms, it is our hope that Marketing will take an important seat at the table evaluating trade for the benefit of their organization.

The current evolution to Real-Time Interactive Marketing

The current evolution to Real-Time Interactive Marketing

A New York-based digital technology company named Pulsepoint created an interesting study. A report containing their findings is entitled, Bridging the Digital Divide: How Marketers, Agencies and Publishers Can Evolve From Channel Specialists to Consumer Specialists.

As online advertising placement evolves from Multi-Channel to Cross-Channel to Real-Time Interactive, Pulsepoint compares the self-proclaimed proficiencies and practices of Marketers, Agencies, and Publishers. Pulsepoint defines these three areas as follows:

Multi-Channel Marketing: Marketing programs using two or more digital channels.

Cross-Channel Marketing: Marketing programs across multiple digital channels that are more highly coordinated. Lessons from specific channels are used to inform marketing activities in other channels.

Real-Time Interactive Marketing: The most sophisticated marketing capability that leverages real-time or dynamic interactions to automatically deliver the most relevant messages and content across digital channels and programs.

Pulsepoint slices and dices the data a number of interesting ways, but the bottom line is that of Marketers, Agencies and Publishers, Marketers admit a serious lack of understanding and therefore use of Real-Time marketing. They demonstrate the current evolution occuring from Muti-Channel to Real-Time, and illustrate the claims of agencies, publishers, and marketers of their understanding and implemention of new interactive marketing technologies.

Their Findings

Marketers gave a rating of only 6% regarding their company's current ability or effectiveness to implement Real-Time Interactive Marketing. When asked the top priority over the next 12 months, 65% of marketers listed "Measuring Campaign Performance", and one third listed Real-Time Measurement & Optimization. Marketers know the tools exist, but they know they are not yet utilizing them as they would like to in the near future.

Perhaps related to the desire to improve their ability to buy on a real-time basis, 58% of marketers stated that they expect to increase their relationships with digital agencies. But those agencies better be prepared to deliver results because 48% of marketers expect to change their agency compensation to performance based on sales revenues. John Wanamaker will soon know exactly where his 50% of wasted advertising dollars is going!

All this points to two core benefits of working with Evergreen Trading. Marketers face two potential problems today: Excess inventories due to the difficulty to predict proper inventory levels with certainty, and inefficient media buying due to a lack of expertise in the constantly evolving technology of buying digital media in a real time bid basis.

To download a free copy of this interesting report, go to:

Contact us to learn how we can help you reduce your excess inventories, and at the same time, make your digital media buying more efficient and cost-effective.