From Big Data Science to Big Data Action

From the dawn of civilisation through to the year 2003, Google calculates that humans have produced 5 exabytes of data. That’s a lot of stone tablets. But with the explosion of mobile devices, 3G and 4G networks and social networks, we now produce 5 exabytes of data every two days. That means that every photo you upload to Flickr or Facebook, every video you share with friends on YouTube or Vimeo and every one of the billions of tweets broadcast on Twitter is contributing to the avalanche of data.

But add to this the fact that each of these items comes with contextual data. At the same time that you update your profile or publish a photo, you may also be sharing your geolocation, your likes and preferences, your upstream and downstream behaviours, and your attitude to topics (based on sentiment). You may also be sharing your trust network of on and offline friends.

And this is just the tip of the big data iceberg.

The rise of big data is a blessing and a curse for CMOs

While analytics have been available to businesses for decades, but it has largely been the domain of business analysts and researchers. The rise of big data now places analytics firmly in the marketers court. Earlier in the year, a CMO Council and SAS report indicated that only 26% of marketers leverage customer data and analytics to improve decisions, targeting and personalisation.

The blessing of big data is that it is readily available to most organisations in the form of structured business data and the publicly available unstructured data coming from social networks. The curse is that in-house skills and experience with big data is scarce – with a number of marketers now looking to bolster their teams with big data scientists and data analysts.

Marketers don’t need data they need action

It’s not data scientists that marketers need, however. Already we are seeing software vendors emerging who are able to tap structured and unstructured data sources to produce business-ready dashboards. Mapped to best practice business processes, these dashboards and analytic tools promise to release marketers from the fear-inducing data tsunami that looms on the horizon.

Platform players such as Anametrix, for example, transform the science of data into actionable business knowledge for key business processes. This means you can spend less time and resources understanding the data and its various relationships, and focus instead on making decisions that impact the top and bottom lines of your business.

A great example of what can be achieved is the BrandWatch US Electoral Compass. Drawing on Twitter data and press discussion generated since July 2012, the compass matches structured information (location, policies and dates) with unstructured information (tweets, sentiment etc) to reveal the topics that are important to American voters. Now, this is not data from focus groups – it’s stated intention as revealed via status updates, commentary and attitude.

And as business analytics packages get better at mapping business flows, these reporting systems will become ever more granular. They promise to revolutionise the way that businesses engage with their customers – and that will bring another set of challenges for CMOs. The question is – are you ready for this new form of customer engagement?


Hey Sexy Lady – It’s Servant of Chaos Style

It’s that time of year … projects are being finalised for the holiday rush, colleagues are moving on to new roles or new employers and everyone is about ready to let off a little steam. But what happens when a christmas party gets a little out of hand? I have a feeling that we’ll be seeing plenty of real life Gangnam Style videos emerging over the coming weeks.

But if you can’t wait to see what the Twitterverse serves up, you can go ahead and make your own. Thanks to the JibJab folks, you can star in your very own Gangnam Style video.

Of course, that video can also star your friends, your boss or even your partner. Share it around, sexy lady.

Personalize funny videos and birthday eCards at JibJab!

Mobile Isn’t Just a Marketing Conversation

  • “Mobile first” won’t cut it – businesses need to think “mobile only”
  • It’s time for CMOs to climb aboard the technology bus
  • CIOs need to buy-into the marketing conversation

Could it be that 2013 will indeed be the “year of mobile”? Mobile internet traffic is now accounting for 20-30% of total web traffic working from a 5-7% base only 12 months ago. These usage patterns, when combined with strong demand for mobile devices (smartphones, tablets etc), indicate that businesses are going to have move quickly to address this changing engagement landscape. eMarketer suggests that “mobile first” will be a priority for 2013, but recent research by Constellation Research Group indicates that this will not be enough – that brands must consider a “mobile only” landscape.

Digital disruption is impacting every industry – from retail to financial services, mining to tourism and everything in-between. Driven by the five forces of the consumerization of IT – social, cloud, mobile, big data and unified communications – CMOs are challenged to respond to the rapidly changing business landscape. And for those who are not already engaged with technology transformation, it may be too late. As a matter of priority, marketers must not just consider and evaluate technology – they must grapple with it, engage and implement. In short – it’s time to get on the technology bus or look for a new role.

This, however, is more easily said than done. Mobile isn’t just a marketing conversation. IBM’s new Worklight solution highlights the fact that mobile is also – rightly – part of technology strategy. And that means talking with the CIO.

Innovate 2012 – Start Now for 2013 Success

Many businesses are now planning for 2013 projects. But if the consumerization of IT has taught us anything, it is that your customers move at the speed of social, not the speed of enterprise. And that means, executing now and executing again later. If you want to be successful in 2013, you cannot afford to wait until Q1.

IBM’s Innovate2012 event showcases the transformational aspect of mobile devices and platforms:

  • There will be 10 billion devices in market by 2020
  • 61% of CIOs view mobile as a priority
  • Businesses are seeing 45% increased productivity with mobile apps

CMO to CIO – It’s Time We Talked

But CIOs cannot hive off mobility as a technology-only direction. Just as CMOs must start to engage with the nuts and bolts of technology, it’s also time that CIOs bought into the marketing conversation. CIOs have the experience of delivering large scale, high value technology projects with enterprise level governance and business change management. CMOs can benefit from this experience and expertise. Conversely, CMOs are experiencing unprecedented pressure to deliver customer value. This means speed to market. Collaborating around these challenges will see massive benefit for marketers and technology teams.

Event Report:’s Social Media Forum


Connecting Up is a not for profit organisation that provides vital products, resources and programs designed to make the Australian not for profit and community sector stronger and more resilient. As part of this charter, Connecting Up recently held a social media forum in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide, showcasing the work of local organisations and sharing approaches and best practices.

In each of the locations I delivered a keynote address designed to set the scene – “Signs on the Road Ahead”. Rather than covering the basics of digital strategy and planning, many not for profits have moved beyond the social media basics and are looking for more targeted information. The aim was to provide communicators with a heads up on some of the trends and disruptions taking place in the world of digital communications. From this starting point, the participants then heard case studies from innovators working with not for profit organisations based in each city – rounding out a fantastic day with Q+A and an inspirational wrap up from Connecting Up’s Ben Teoh.

Adelaide – the hotbed of social media innovation

I am always amazed at the vibrance and innovation that emanates from the social media scene in Adelaide. The evening before the forum I was able to spend some time with some of the speakers and some of the energetic people who drive much of the online creativity coming out of Adelaide. It was clear that social media is maturing as a business discipline and Adelaide businesses are fortunate to be able to call upon professionals like Michelle Prak and Mal Chia.

During the presentation from Ben Osborne (University of Adelaide), many around the room were hastily taking notes and jotting down tips for handling challenging and sometimes volatile communities. His communications and crisis management flow chart was a huge hit and showed just how much planning and thought had gone into not only handling issues, but generating engagement and activating students across the campus.

Petra Durvocinova from RiAus sent all the geeks in the audience into paroxysms of bliss talking about science, story telling and community building. Linking curiosity, emotion, imagination and research together, Petra explained how storytelling can help audiences discover the wonders of science. The use of Livestreaming was a great opportunity to test and learn for RiAus, but the identification and nurturing of those passionate science communicators within the community was seen as essential to the long term success of their social media efforts.

Noriko Wynn from Conservation Council SA shared an in-depth dive into the world of Facebook ads and campaigns. Working not only in social media but across a range of communications and media, Noriko explained that the challenge was that sometimes there was too much to say. Social can accordingly, plan an important role in creating relevant and target communications.


Sydney – the niche and the scale

I was still a little jetlagged for the Sydney event, but a jolt of strong coffee soon had me ready for a full audience.

Rafi Cooper from WSPA delved into the narrative structure of digital storytelling. Using public narrative to focus and drive change and action (self->us->now), Rafi showed how WSPA campaigns were able to achieve impact at scale via social media. He did hint that WSPA have an advantage thanks to plenty of good stories and cute images of animals.

Yves Calamette from ACON shared a great – but niche case study on the power of social media to engage men on the topic of HIV prevention. While there was a niche focus for the campaign, Yves was able to show specific impact, ROI and best practices that are now being extended for an upcoming campaign.

Dae Levine from Republic of Everyone showcased how social media can help connect policy, planning and persuasion, presenting a case study on the Say Yes campaign. Integrated planning and digital strategy, events, installations, social proof and widespread educative communications were all used to influence the public debate around climate change and carbon pricing. While not all not for profit organisations can work on such a scale, Dae explained how various elements slotted together to create an overall impact. (And yes, the campaign was successful – with a carbon tax now in effect in Australia)

Treassa Joseph hit to podium like a dynamo. Armed with data analytics and a geek’s passion for statistics, Treassa introduced the audience to Twitter, Tweetups and Twitter festivals and showed how social media can mobilise a community to come together and take action around a cause. Expect to see more non profit tweetups in the near future!

Melbourne – from grass root to the oak tree

Cate Lawrence talked through the Green Renters experience – cultivating a niche community with style and grace on a shoestring budget. Many in the room marvelled at Cate’s grasp of social media and the impact that a very small team (see the presentation) can have when focused on the most important channels.

Chris Roberts from the Brotherhood of St Lawrence provided a great case study on how social media can be integrated into advocacy programs. Their efforts focused on a dental care initiative – and required audience education, influencer management, leveraging of existing marketing and integration of all channels towards very specific objectives. Again, this campaign was considered a success with dental now covered as part of the government’s Medicare scheme.

Daniel Lewis-Toakley from the Oaktree Foundation stepped through the Live Below the Line campaign that challenged Australians to live on $2 a day and share their experience via social media. The approach again followed the public narrative storytelling arc to create champions, engage a community and track engagement towards success. Another great not for profit success, the campaign showed the power of enabling a community not just corralling it.

Richenda Vermuelen from ntegrity provided a deep dive into the social media activation of a blogger program for World Vision. From the detailed selection process, storytelling approaches and on-the-ground management, Richenda stepped through the pitfalls and benefits that come from working with bloggers. It was a great presentation for any not for profit wanting to tap into the social media space.

Marketing the First Step for Retailers Matrix Commerce

Australian retailers have lost a decade on their US-based rivals. Since the early 2000s, many of the US retailers have been actively gathering and analysing the mountains of behaviour-oriented data generated by web traffic and putting it to work. Sites like eBay and Amazon use this information to transform their business from the outside-in – taking the data, extracting the insight and taking action.

However, as Michael Wu, Lithium’s principal scientist of analytics points out, information does NOT equal insights. He identifies three elements that transform information to insight:

  1. Interpretability – the hformation must be able to be interpreted. For example, unstructured data can float by in a sea of big data but unless it can be interpreted, its value is nil
  2. Relevance – if the information is not relevant – if it has no context, then again, it has limited value
  3. Novelty – the data must yield some insight that we do not already know. Otherwise it is reinforcing or validating an already available insight

The recent ClickFrenzy campaign run by Australian retailers would have yielded a tremendous amount of clickstream data. I presume, however, that this data was aggregated by the ClickFrenzy affiliate program and not the retailers themselves. In effect, local retailers have provided a significant boost to the ClickFrenzy business, allowing them to rapidly build a contact list, understand buying preferences of identified (and traceable) customers and creating a brand that is, itself, capable of disrupting the entire retail industry. This is the true power of big data.

This infographic from Monetate shows that while big data is available to retailers, many are unprepared or unable to leverage this data to gain insight or act.  And yet, US retailers also indicate that the highest priority for investment in big data is in the field of marketing.

The shift to a matrix commerce focus for retailers is occurring now

The explosion of structured and unstructured data over the last two years has levelled the retail playing field. Bricks and mortar businesses can no longer rely on their business models or supply chains to attract and retain customers. New entrants are flooding the digital marketplace with compelling, relevant and novel offerings that are attracting connected consumers. Matrix commerce sees the convergence of demand signals and supply chains in an ever increasingly complex world where connected consumers are seeking frictionless buying experiences.

  • Is your retail marketing ready for that world?
  • Is your technology up for the challenge?
  • Do your teams have the skill to deliver?

You know that a disruptive competitor is already only a click away.


Five Must-Read Posts from Last Week

5MustReads Where do you draw the line? Are you forwards thinking or a procrastinator? Are you a talker or a walker? Do you feel safest putting your ideas and thoughts out into the world or do you huddle them together and prize them like a ring of power?

This week’s five must-read posts tread the line of all kinds of boundaries. I hope they inspire your thinking (and doing) this week.

  1. Where do we draw the line between personal and professional? Where does it count? The Level343 team think it is time that we considered social media ethics. Have you thought about it?
  2. And on the subject of getting personal, few do it as well or as bravely as Amber Naslund. Here she shares her TEDx talk on transcending the messiness of mental illness.
  3. We all believe that we have the best interests of our customers at heart. But Christopher Brown says we need to ask ourselves, are we customer centric or do we have a customer culture.
  4. Finding it hard to keep up with the behaviours exhibited on social media? You are not alone in wanting to more precisely understand dynamic aggregation and content curation. Luckily Stefano Maggi shares his insight into content curation and the way it builds value.
  5. As we wind our way towards the end of 2013, it’s easy to look backwards rather than forwards. But Rowan Gibson thinks there’s still plenty of time to get things done. It’s not too late. Get going!

A Change as Good as a Holiday

For the last three or four years I have been thinking about switching from Typepad to WordPress. I had originally chosen Typepad because it was easy, simple and powerful, but it is essentially the same platform that I began using seven or more years ago.

WordPress, on the other hand, continues to improve. With a strong developer ecosystem producing improvements to user experience, functionality through plugins and connecting web publishing to social networks, WordPress has consistently innovated – transforming from a blogging system to a matrix commerce platform.

So, I bit the bullet and moved Servant of Chaos to the WordPress platform. I had a couple of key criteria in moving:

  • Maintain inbound links: After writing almost 2000 articles there was a lot of inbound links. I wanted to maintain these wherever possible. This meant enforcing a strict permalink structure within WordPress that mirrored Typepad
  • Carry over content: I wanted to bring over images, articles, links and embedded material as easily as possible. Unfortunately images are an issue which means I will have to slowly republish images over time (before switching off Typepad)
  • Improve the mobile experience: After writing so much recently about mobility and the need to cater to a mobile only audience, I felt I needed to walk the talk. I chose onswipe to handle the iPad experience of the site and WPtouch for the iPhone/mobile version.

So far, the site seems to be stable and functioning as hoped. There will be more tweaks along the way, but I trust it now helps you read, comment and engage with the site more easily.

Trust is Up for Financial Services’ Connected Consumers

While the retail sector continues to flounder, the Financial Services industry seems to finally have cottoned on to the digital business opportunity presented by social media.  A new report published by ING shows that frequent social media users (ie that lucrative and market-making early adopter segment) view social media as being as reliable as other online media.

Moreover, social media goes beyond simple information dissemination. The report indicates that “financial information posted on social media changes opinions, preferences or behaviour more often”. Clearly, as we have noted previously, our connected consumers are discovering, debating and deciding what to purchase and when independently of our marketing funnel.

Financial services leaders will increasingly need to develop and execute strategies that reach, engage and transform their relationships with their connected consumers. The impact has been felt in 2012, but the power will grow through 2013. Is your company ready?


How ClickFrenzy Became a ClickFizzer

It should have been a raging online success for Australian retailers – a pre-Christmas event bringing together hundreds of local stores to create an online marketplace unrivalled in Australia’s digital history.

The aptly named ClickFrenzy was designed to kick start the holiday purchasing season with an Australian flavour – with local retailers aiming for a greater slice of the estimated $16 billion spent each year online. It appeared to be a match made in virtual heaven – retailers with full warehouses and consumers waiting with wallets fattened off the back of low unemployment and stable economic growth. What could go wrong?

Like Any Failure, It’s Not About the Technology

When the ClickFrenzy servers went down minutes before the 7PM launch, Facebook and Twitter exploded with frustration. But the seeds of this failure go back years.

For decades the retail sector has been under-investing in technology. Despite having international eCommerce startup superstar BigCommerce sitting on their doorsteps, most Australian retailers steadfastly resisted committing to the online purchasing experience. Some of the largest of retailers launched  poorly designed digital stores with clunky and outdated user experience, limited product lines and pricing models that were less than sharp. The excuses are many and varied, but at the heart I believe it’s a case of the The Innovator’s Dilemma – retailers past success has created the obstacles preventing them from succeeding in the face of changing markets and technologies.

Retailers Were Blindsided by the Connected Consumer

Over the last couple of weeks I have been speaking a lot about the disruptive impact of technology. The Connected Consumer has transformed the landscape and outflanked most brands. They are discovering, debating and deciding what they will buy well ahead of the traditional marketing funnel.

Retailers may have seen this change taking place but have not undertaken the transformation in strategic thinking, execution and delivery that is required. They did not dig their well before needing the water. They did not follow the most basic of customer centric models (see below).


The Good News – Retail Now Has a Burning Platform

As I suggested recently, the under-investment in technology by the retail sector has been possible because there was no “burning platform”:

People still bought goods – especially appliances and larger items in stores, and “online” was considered risky, unreliable, and difficult to navigate when it came to returns, warranties and customer service.

Many retailers in the past have made many excuses for poor online execution, appalling digital strategy and non-existent or simplistic social media engagement. I am half expecting to see the same again.

But Australian retailers should wake up and smell the smoke. It’s time for a dramatic rethink from the ground up. It’s time to delve deep and understand the fundamental transformation that has taken place in consumer markets and to work with the disruption in a way that transforms the nature of retail. It’s time for digital marketing transformation.

Funnel Conversion: Make it About Your Customers

It’s one thing to have a marketing insight, but quite another to do something valuable with it.

Living as we do with an abundance of data, what marketers increasingly need is a way to filter the information, distil it for insight and apply their business and brand knowledge in a way that creates value for both the business and their customers.

But where do you start?

Eloqua has compiled 40 infographics covering a swathe of marketing disciples from the back office to the front of house. There are charts on analytics and marketing automation, social media, email marketing and lead management.


Armed with this data:

  • Consider your own marketing challenge
  • Find a chart that speaks to your problem
  • Compare and contrast the chart data to what you know about your business

Now … think about how you can close the gap or solve your challenge. Do you need help? Resources? Budget? What can you do within the next three weeks and what can be delayed until 2013?


All this makes perfect sense. But before progressing, consider how this plays out with customer experience in mind. Which of your priorities also provide wins for your customers? What does it mean to recast your efforts through the lens of the customer?

With an abundance of data we can easily lose sight of our customers. Marketers must continue to maintain focus not on their marketing processes but on the constantly changing customer landscape. If you aren’t focusing on your customers, rest assured your competitors are.