Topics of conversation have become depressingly heavy across most social media channels. What with Brexit, Trumpmania, Climate Change and a general sense of dystopia pervading Twitter and Facebook, not even the #inspiration hashtag of Instagram can compete.
Years ago, when I worked on digital and promotional strategy for McDonald’s, we’d constantly return to the simple premise – what would it take to “surprise and delight” our customers? We would put this at the heart of each and every promotion.
From the surprise and delight, we’d then move onto “play”. We’d ask more simple questions:
How do we create or generate a sense of playfulness?
P — for power L — for learning and curiosity A — for adventure Y — the yelp of surprise and delight.
Notice, we still have surprise and delight – but to make this work, you need more. You need to understand that great brands have and can wield power – to influence, engage and stimulate. But our customers have this agency too. We need to build adventure into our brand narratives and promote a sense of curiosity.
And all this comes down to great copy. Fabulous storytelling can change lives.
When you’ve been beyond Earth’s orbit, I expect you have a different view of the world, it’s people and it’s leaders. And as someone who has “the right stuff”, Buzz Aldrin, certainly can lay claim to having firm views and a sharp ability to analyse the data laid out before him.
Here he is providing Marcel Marceau level commentary on a speech by Donald Trump. It seems he has no poker face – and doesn’t care who knows it.
Technology shifts and changes so quickly that it can be hard to keep up. Almost every day there are updates to your computers, “patches” to fix software, improvements to the apps on your phone and more. If you are like me, you’ll have automatic updates on so that these changes take place in the background – often overnight – so that when you turn on your device for the day – voila! – new improvements at your fingertips.
But not all updates are created equally – or with your best interests in mind.
A recent Snapchat upgrade added a new feature – Snap Maps. It’s a way to “view Snaps of sporting events, celebrations, breaking news and more from all across the world”. Sounds great, right?
But it’s also a way for you and your friends (or the general Snap user) to share your location with each other. So now, if you are wondering where your friends are and what they are doing, you can seek them out.
It’s super easy to use, just open the Camera screen and “pinch out” like you are zooming out from a photo and Snap Maps will be activated.
From the map you can see snaps from interesting locations and events as well as photos of people that you know or are connected to.
But isn’t that stalking?
It’s rather cool that you can see where your friends are. In fact, Google has variations on this functionality in its maps – and even had the standalone product, Latitude, until it was closed down in 2013. At the time, I had concerns with Latitude and with the data that we uncaringly share with the people who make our phones and create the apps we run on them – and so too do I have concerns with Snap Maps.
Don’t get me wrong, as a marketer, location information can be super useful. And as a person with friends all around the world, I get a particular kick out of knowing where my friends and connections are and what they are doing.
For example, I know my friend Suzanne is travelling in the US at the moment. Thanks to Snap Map I now know that she was just on Mariposa Street in San Francisco. No doubt checking out the local fried chicken shops.
That’s kind of fun. But as a consumer it makes me nervous.
We know that on social media, the concept of “friendship” is fairly loose. There will be a lot of randomness in your friend list – plenty of people who you don’t know, have never met, and probably wouldn’t invite to your home to stay for the weekend. Yet, you can trust them with your location, each and every second of the day.
A warning for parents
As adults, we can make choices about who shares our personal information, location and so on. But parents with children who use Snap Chat may not realise what has become available with the new Snap Map functionality. In fact, most parents won’t know that some children have open privacy settings meaning that anyone can “friend” and connect/share information with them without asking.
Imagine, for example, your child has a group of friends who use Snap Chat to share photos, chat and keep connected outside of school. Then imagine that there’s an incident – like some bullying or bad behaviour – a falling out of some kind.
Thanks to Snap Maps, all your child’s connections (including the bully) will know where your child is whenever they are logged in.
No doubt, parents have asked their children about their connections and “friends”, and have received assurances that “no, I don’t add people I don’t know” … but words and actions are sometimes strangers. In this video, Joey Salads conducts a Snap Map stalking experiment with the parent of a young girl. The results are compelling.
Turn on Ghost Mode to protect your Snap Chat privacy
The only way to stop your location being shared across your Snap Chat network is to enable “Ghost Mode”. You will be prompted for location sharing the first time you upgrade to Snap Maps, but you can also edit your privacy settings later.
If you have children, I’d recommend you enable Ghost Mode immediately. In fact, unless you’re confident that you know your connections well, I’d enable ghost mode on every device. Being location aware can be useful, but data sometimes reveals more than we expect – and there’s no reason for us to turn a blind eye to it.
Living, as we do, in a time of rapid change. Of transformation and uncertainty. It can be difficult to see what our long term future holds.
You can see it in the words we use to describe our lives. These words are flat. Uninspired. Transactional. We have entire governments swept to power on the back of the laziest of phrases and political slogans masquerading as thought-through policy agendas.
But we have not arrived in this desolate landscape randomly. It is the end-result of a thousand micro choices that consolidate our misery.
It is as if we have abdicated our personal responsibility for imagination in favour of a strange wariness of close fears. Today, in Australia, it was announced that we now hold the record for economic growth without a recession. We have experienced 26 years without interruption to our prosperity. Twenty six years without a downturn.
We have a generation of people who have known only growth. There have been few labour strikes. Precious few public protests. This perceived prosperity has dulled our senses to our own personal agency. The storytellers who ignite our hearts and passions no longer tread the public boards of our most important debates – they pop up in our Facebook news feeds, talking at TED or singing on “Insert Your Country Here’s” Got Talent.
But this can change. The story is the trick. And if we do want to reclaim our sense of the future, then there’s much to learn from the careful crafting that goes into the stories of digital media’s emerging heroes. Just watch this clip from America’s Got Talent. Think about the one clear message. See how you are drawn in to this story. Understand how and why you respond to what you see and what you hear. And see how the foreground, backstory and framing create the conditions for you to take the story into your heart.
Then think about what you can do to change your sense of what is possible. You only need try.
One of my favourite bands from the 80s, The Sundays, slipped from public view in the late 1990s. And yet their alternative, melodic pop still sounds as sweet today as I remember it decades ago.
When I play their music, it makes me feel like I am padding my way through the Enmore Theatre, shoes sticking to the crunchy carpet, the sound reaching all the way around me. It transports me back to unknown, particular moments that are a fine pastiche of worn through memories. Were you there? Was it this band or that? And what did we eat for dinner – maybe kebabs. Or Thai. It’s all jangling around in my mind like the guitars in this song.
If you are like me, you’ll enjoy The Sundays this sunday, with a blast from YouTube.
For the last few years I have been using BizCover for business insurance. It has been very competitive and convenient. Until now.
A couple of weeks ago, my bank noticed a suspicious transaction on my account and alerted me. After a quick call, we realised that it was entirely fraudulent – which meant that my card number had been compromised and needed to be cancelled.
Happily, the new card arrived within days and normal operations resumed. Except, of course, that regular payments had to be updated.
Which brings us back to BizCover.
As a small business owner, I seek convenience and flexibility. I look for the best deal possible. And I have recommended BizCover to many people – colleagues, contractors and other small businesses. Their rates are competitive and they are flexible. You can review policy options, check rates and signup online. It is a fantastic service.
Up to a point.
But what happens when things change? Surely, you can just login and update your details, right?
It appears not.
Now, it feels like I am making a mountain out of a mole hill. After all, tomorrow I will call and sort out the details. But I see this as a more instructive challenge for most digital businesses. Which – for better or worse – is all businesses.
We have spent the last decade figuring out how to get our customers to buy online – and we have done this relatively successfully. But now we need to go further. To figure out how to get them to remain our customers, and to serve them online.
Sure, this can be challenging when you offer a brokerage service. But that’s part of the deal.
If you want the sale, you’ve got to continue to service the channel.
It’s time that fintech – and especially insurance companies, brokers and stakeholders invested the effort to understand this new marketplace. It’s not just about the upfront dollars, but the ongoing relationship. This really is an internet driven commercial world now, and customer service and convenience should not be a special service. It just gives you a seat at the customer’s table.
The promise of digital targeting has had marketers salivating for years. We would be able to identify, reach, engage and convert consumers one-to-one at scale thanks to technology. Better yet, with mobile devices, we could bring an offer to a consumer who was physically close to our retail outlet thanks to big data, mapping and location services.
Accordingly, substantial investments have been made in a wide variety of technologies from CRM and data mining, to automation, analysis and beyond. In fact, Scott Brinker’s infographic on the landscape of marketing technology (2016) suggests that there were almost 4000 marketing technology solutions vying for your attention and purchase. With so many choices, it’s hardly surprising that marketers wonder where to start with the MarTech stack.
But Byron Sharp, Professor of Marketing Science at the University of South Australia says that the promise of digital marketing is unfulfilled. Or perhaps, we have over stated the role of digital at the expense of brand. This video segment by the Australian Association of National Advertisers (AANA) touches on these topics, raising interesting challenges for us all.
Now, there is plenty that I could argue with. There is a huge assumption that analogue marketing metrics are/were valid, and also that marketers are not following through on data, analytics and measurement of business value. But these are quibbles – because the most interesting aspect of this interview is the refocusing of marketing towards strategy.
In many ways, the pursuit of digital marketing and technology has seen us become reliant on tactics masquerading as strategy. We put some technology in place and think that the strategy will magically be enabled.
But this is never the case. As Byron reminds us, “We are in a battle for attention – for physical and mental availability … people [consumers] just don’t think of you enough”. Segmentation, data and technology alone won’t solve that problem – only a tightly threaded strategy and approach to execution will. And that means doubling down on your marketing skills. So don’t just re-evaluate digital – re-evaluate your team and yourself.
One of the challenges of digital strategy is that you are – in most instances – wedded to a history of previous technology decisions. So while you may come in to an organisation to overhaul the strategy, you might find yourself constrained by some bad search engine optimisation, platform and publishing choices or hosting restrictions.
Generally these kind of problems can be undone with time. With money. With resources.
But there is one particular challenge that can be terribly difficult to unlock. And it happens at the very beginning of your digital journey – with your domain name registration.
Domain names are like your business name on the internet. They tell everyone where to find us. We all know that to order a book online, we visit Amazon.com. To search, we visit Google.com or Bing.com. These are domain names.
To get one of these domain names, we need to register that name with a Domain Name Registrar. These are companies that are authorised to sell and manage domain names. Popular registrars include GoDaddy.com, NetRegistry.com.au in Australia – and many others.
But registering your domain name is like registering your business name. You may register with the relevant authorities, but you don’t setup your business in the same office. You do so elsewhere.
And you should do the same with your domain name and your online business.
When you register your domain name, you will usually be offered hosting. That means that you will be provided space online to upload your website. While this may be convenient – and perhaps even cheap (or free) – I tend to avoid this situation.
Like any business, domain name registrars go through ups and downs. And should the registrar’s business fail, it can take your registration details with it.
If you have your website hosted with the registrar, you can lose both the website and the domain name.
I had a client recently who purchased a small business package with one of the country’s largest and most reputable brands. This included domain name AND hosting AND email and more. It sounded like a no-brainer and the package was purchased.
A couple of years down the track this package was discontinued. As it turned out, the domain names were registered through a European registrar (not locally as we expected), and the email, domain name registration and hosting were all outsourced and rebranded locally.
My client had expected that the emails that were being sent were just marketing spam, so ignored them until the website was offline. What followed was literally months of follow-up, documentation and phone calls until the domain name could be transferred.
Even the largest and most powerful brands can change their strategy mid-stream. So even if you are registering your domain name with a brand you know and trust, my advice is to host your website elsewhere. At least if something changes you won’t lose both the name and the business/technology.
So much advertising is bland, characterless, unimaginative. It makes me wonder how agencies are briefed and sometimes why. But it’s easy to live in a bubble and only see what you are directed to see. Some days you need to burst that bubble.
I am always interested to see how different lenses on the same subject reveal insights. For example, B2B marketers have a particular skew when it comes to digital and social media – it is hard edged, data driven and technology enabled. This is particularly true for large scale tech companies – but is an approach that has been resonating across industries for some time. B2C marketing, on the other hand, operates in a high velocity world that can turn on a tweet – responsiveness is no longer just a customer service issue but one that impacts the entire value chain.
We are, after all, ever closer to our customers than ever before.
Social and digital media, however, often feels like it operates in a bubble. An ever-increasing bubble it seems, but a bubble nonetheless. When I watch Gruen, for example, I struggle to recall even the most popular or widely discussed TV commercials shown – my habits have now been so deeply skewed by on-demand viewing and timeshifting that TV by timetable seems so last century.
But this is merely the bubble that we choose. The lens that we select.
And there are movements and trends that continue in their own parallel universe that operate at different speeds.
The GroupM Interaction 2017 report is interesting particularly because it applies a media lens across everything from ecommerce to fake news, television to bandwidth. I particularly like the section on privacy and the impacts that widespread security breaches are having on consumers’ sense of trust.
The report identifies four creative challenges facing both brands and agencies:
Getting the attention of the consumer in a low attention world. As the buyer pushes the seller towards viewability, the consumer is pushing the brand to greater ‘watchability.’
Meeting the costs and measurement implications of the constant iterations of formats and functionality.
Finding the balance of enough variation to meet the needs of ever finer segments without undermining the overall brand proposition. (The Marriott Hotel Bogota has 57 images on Expedia.com. Marriott / Starwood operates over 7000 properties. That’s a lot of images.)
The creation of new classes of content for e commerce environments.
While I can agree on the surface with these challenges, I wonder really whether our attention spans truly are shrinking – do we really have the attention span of a goldfish? And if this is not true, what does this mean for the remaining three challenges?
I have a sense that we are consuming ever-larger volumes of media each and every day – but it’s not necessarily in the format and channel that lends itself to the kind of tracking and measurement that business clients have come to expect.
A recent article from BBC Health questions the notion of the shrinking attention span by unearthing the starting point for this theory – a Microsoft report referencing the Statistic Brain website. Apparently there is no evidence pointing towards a shrinking attention span, nor support for the widely held view that goldfish have attention spans. In fact, Dr Gemma Briggs from Open University suggests that attention is entirely contextual – ”How we apply our attention to different tasks depends very much about what the individual brings to that situation”.
And that brings us back to the question of lenses and touches on the topic of Fake News – a subject also covered in the GroupM report. One of the suggestions in the report points towards the emergence of a “purpose driven media” and an incentive structure created to drive this:
The most shared and most monetized stories come from authentic news sources. A way of decreasing the incentives to the bad guys is to increase the incentives to the good guys. A simple adjustment in the revenue sharing model would go a long way.
And that’s where the future of media becomes extremely interesting. Given the emergence of organisations like Sleeping Giants, a purpose driven media may be a necessary development to help restore trust, authenticity and – dare I say it – respect in the media and advertising industry.