Selling Different World Views

Selling Ideas = Selling a World View

When a client buys into an idea, they are latching onto your worldview. When a client picks you as a partner, they are really saying, "Your understanding of how the world works is both believable and exciting."

In my experience, I see these world views that we're selling fragmented into two main arguments: The Manipulator view and the Dreamer view. 

The Two World Views

The Manipulators:

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This school of thought emphasizes the power of technology and data to improve customer segmentation, customer journey mapping, and creative optimizations. Advertising messaging is still relevant, and improved tactics will drive desired outcomes. Advertising messaging can be relevant in the awareness, consideration, and purchase phase informed by better information, and optimized based on customer response. This article by Richard Ting in the Harvard Business Review sums up this worldview pretty nicely: 

 "Brands already have siloes of data about their consumers. Combined, this information would be enough to create the ultimate 360-degree customer profile, which would allow enhanced targeting and personalization."

Fundamental Belief: Artfully architected databases and data analysis will reveal opportunities to personalize communications and drive customer engagement, affinity, and loyalty.

The Dreamers:

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This school of thought emphasizes that the power of brands stems from their ability to create culture. We live in a world where consumer culture has replaced popular culture, and the brands you associate with and buy are an integral part of personal identity formation.  

For marketers then, the best way to win and stay culturally relevant is to create communications and tools that are either too useful or too cool to be ignored. The best brands provide consumers all the tools they need to "hijack" the brand, co-creating a brand promise and meaning more authentic, impactful, and spreadable than anything that could have been dreamt up in a board room. 

Fundamental Belief: Authentic and transparent brands that make things people want  will win in a world where push messaging falls on deaf ears and brands without purpose fail to be relevant.

Coming Together

No longer can these imagined futures (or presents) be mutually exclusive.

Those who have the manipulator world view have the incredibly important job of delivering information based on customer needs (on demand information).  

Our friends the dreamers help brands create demand by articulating a promise in a way that is culturally relevant and aligned with potential customer interests.  

Both approaches require empathy, understanding, and data. It is my view that the ability to create demand is largely driven by creative ideas, while the ability to deliver effective on demand content is primarily driven by technology and effective analysis. 

We need advertising professionals who can bring together these two world views.

As advertisers we need to define a brand's promise, give a brand cultural relevance, and understand and capitalize on customer needs.

Let's build authentic brands with real promise, communicated with purpose, that fulfill customer needs. 

Inductive and Deductive Approaches to Customer Relationship Mapping

As more marketing shifts from valuing broad reach and awareness to valuing engagement, understanding the consumer  brand "relationship" analogy becomes increasingly important. 

When you think about it, relationship is an incredibly broad term that is applicable to just about an interaction we have as humans with anything in our lives. 

Many times, when marketers talk about brand "Relationships" they are drooling at the notion of consumer access.  In today's splintered media landscape where consumers have unparalleled agency, our very access to consumers relies heavily on a quest for opt in. At times, we are nearly begging for consumers to opt into our messaging or "content". 

Like us on Facebook. Sing up for our emails. Download our app. Read our list of things we think are funny because that's what you're looking at on the internet anyway.  

As marketers, how do we generally derive "insights" that find relationship opportunities for brands?

We deductively look at potential avenues for relationships. We look for gaps in communication, in experience, and in product delivery --

Similar to the "Business Model Canvas" (Explained Below), "Consumer Journey Mapping", allows for a similar "gap" or process analysis. 

Customer Journey Mapping takes a similar holistic approach to deductively uncover opportunities for relationship building or improvement. 

There is no question that  deductive gap analyses based on customer journeys or life-cycles  is a  remarkably powerful overview that can lead to improved decision making. This lifecycle mapping becomes even more powerful when communication architecture is layered on top of it.

Recently, in response to an "multi-channel" world, we would tailor messaging, creative or channel to match with these lifecycle maps.  But what happens when consumers are making decisions in their journey based on consumer to consumer communication? When consumers are making decisions based on actual product interactions rather than messaging?

We need to architect experiences and content that resonate with individuals (I've taken the graphic below from Bud Caddell's impressive slideshare here)

If we are looking to create long term brand experiences, built on top of real enduring value understanding the consumer brand relationship becomes paramount . How does our product, service, or even messaging fit within the context of a consumers life? What can we learn about the brand relationships in this consumers life to give our message or creative the best chance of being spread? What affinities does he / she share  with their network?

Instead of solely looking for broad gaps, where we can throw in micro-optimized communication we need to create communication experiences that cohesively have a point of view, and both deliver on a brand promise and purpose outside of solely generating profit.  

Inductive reasoning becomes increasingly important -- 

This fantastic paper, by Susan Fournier: 

"Consumers and Their Brands: Developing Relationship Theory in Consumer Research" overviews a process for coding and understanding relationships between consumers and brands in human terms. 

For example: The relationship between a runner and her shoes is similar in many ways to the relationship between best friends. The relationship between best friends, when modeled, could also look something like "stable maturity". You can see the overlap between stable maturity and the elusive lifetime value. 

By framing and attempting to model both the closeness, and length of relationships between individual consumers and brands we can inductively uncover insights to improve product, purpose, and mission helping to align with groups of individuals who have shared affinities, inciting and inviting a co-created resonant brand interaction.     

The true power lies in layering relationship insights that indicate relationship "quality" on top of consumer journey mapping which uncovers experience gaps. With these powers combined we can architect experiences that fill gaps, while also fitting nicely within consumers lives. 

Grappling With Lead Generation

On any given day, many of the campaigns I have worked on have a "lead generation" component.

In most cases, this translates to: "The client will judge the effectiveness of the campaign based on the number of "leads" it generates, and will judge campaign efficiency on a cost per lead basis." Simple. Linear. Easy to show value.

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Look at this graphic (With a slight addition from yours truly) from a very well respected search engine marketing firm that is generally assumed to know their stuff, that works with many Fortune 50 brands:

This is the reductionist linear thinking that helps create digital landfill. Specifically when it comes to digital "lead generation" campaigns.  How many more landing pages do we need to create for the sake of attribution?

Funnels are a ruse. We live in a world where consumers can find their way into the purchase cycle / funnel at any point in time, and at any point in the process.

A good digital media campaign does not automatically generate leads -

In the graphic above it's pretty simple. If you are good at capturing attention, your media will result in "conversions".

This graphic completely ignores the on site experience, in terms of design, content, accessibility and  simplicity which very often has a greater impact on lead generation than media placement, no matter how good you think you are at gleaning the complexity of consumer purchase intent from keywords.

Does digital direct lead generation ever work? 

Yes. But as consumers get smarter about using technology to create their own paths to actual value, we need to rethink when digital direct lead generation makes sense, and when it doesn't.

So how can we plan for digital lead generation effectively? 

First and foremost as marketers, we need to stop lying to ourselves. We don't control funnels, we don't control consumers, and we don't control information. Rather than pretending we have control, we must align ourselves effectively with customers through simple, empowering, useful, and engaging experiences.

The faux empiricism of digital advertising has allowed us to trick ourselves into thinking we can fully understand, predict, and optimize behavior. It is easy to sell this reductionist attribution. It is more difficult to sell complexity. The constant, iterative process that it takes to create and analyze valuable experiences is what gives a brand a sustainable competitive advantage.

Let me be explicit -- In no way am I against empiricism. I'm just pro-complexity. The fact that something is easily quantifiable or measurable should not be the selling point for its usefulness to consumers or a brand.

Once we have given up the idea of total control, and reductionist measurement, we can re-examine digital lead generation.

Lately, I've been into the idea of splitting digital lead generation into digital associative and digital direct.

Digital Direct: A digital campaign with the explicit goal of generating leads. Media aligns with user intent on various channels and devices -- drives to a form / website to capture a lead.

Digital Associative: A digital campaign with the explicit goal of generating long-term brand engagement, loyalty and advocacy. Lead generation is a secondary goal. Focus is on utilizing technology to create meaningful and useful experiences that capture attention, create ongoing engagement and build long term brand loyalty.

What Drives Success?

It depends on how you frame it.

1) If your focus is on generating leads from a single visit, the focus of the digital campaign should revolve around simplicity and clarity.

Campaign Example: Blue Cross Blue Shield

2) If your focus is on generating brand awareness or association from a single view, the focus of the digital campaign should revolve around inspiration and an awesome first impression.

Campaign Example: Jay-Z + Bing Decoded 

3) If your focus is on generating leads for a complex product where you expect multiple visits, the focus of the digital campaign should revolve around empowerment and education.

Campaign Example: Prudential Bring Your Challenges

4) If your focus is on generating brand awareness or association from multiple views or experiences, the focus of the digital campaign should revolve on saturation (being everywhere), and personalization (unique experiences for each individual).

Example: Nike Fuelband

Hopefully, this little chart can elevate our conversation when it comes to lead generation, and ultimately creates less digital landfill.

Let's make digital skyscrapers, public green spaces, superhighways and bike paths.

Pick the urban planning analogy that best fits your personality.

A B-Zero World

I have a confession to make. I love Planet Money. There is nothing that makes me feel smarter or more informed about the world on a daily basis.

On a recent Planet Money podcast, Ian Bremmer, author of "Every Nation for Itself: Winners and Losers in a G-Zero World" was interviewed (listen to the podcast here) and asked a very specific question --

In this new world order without a singular military, economic, or political leader --

Which countries are going to thrive and which are going to suffer?

This is an extremely complex question which Mr. Bremmer answers eloquently and coherently.

Don't worry, I won't tell you all his answers. But I did plot them so you can easily identify his picks if you're curious.

Listening to him speak, a couple of themes emerged.

The countries that are going to thrive in this "G-Zero" world are those which are first and foremost self-reliant, resource independent, and politically stable. This might be an oversimplification (Ok, I'm sure it is), but it happened anyway. Sorry I'm not sorry.

Every country talked about in the podcast  has internal resources, but I think the key to Bremmer's argument is around this idea of self reliance. What is interesting about this emphasis on self reliance, is that, until this interview, I thought the path to geo-political success was based on carefully calculated  exertions of influence and power (both military and economic).

In Bremmer's argument, Mexico's reliance on the United States is seen as a negative, and Myanmar's reliance on the Chinese is an argument against inevitable success.

On the other hand -- The Eurozone is cited as an example of being too self-reliant, unable to compete on the global stage without an economic jumpstart from China.

To me (for what it's worth), the Eurozone represents an example of remaining overly optimistic when it comes to consistent economic growth, even in the face of severe debt.

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I saw a lot of parallels between Bremmer's argument and Umar Haque's "New Capitalist Manifesto." Haque argues that to succeed in 21st century capitalism, brands need to move from creating "value chains to value cycles". Value chains represent ways to create the cheapest and most efficient means of production, by finding loop holes and shifting costs to both humans and the environment. Value cycles represent ways to create real or thick value by uncovering strategies to efficiently use resources to create sustainable experiences that are profitable long term by understanding the full cost of value creation.

This parallels the argument for the potential success of countries who are transparent and democratic with internal resources that are distributed effectively.

Brands which are customer driven and have created value cycles rather than short sighted value chains are positioned for success.

Both Haque and Bremmer's arguments rest on providing real value (for citizens or customers) and utilizing resources smartly and sustainably to create competitive advantage.

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BMW, Walmart, and Lego are examples of companies that are focused on creating real value for customers and utilizing resources efficiently.

Walmart has a goal to be powered by 100% renewable energy.

Nike is on a path to climate neutrality.

BMW aims to create value not only for the company, but for the environment and society.

Lego has been tracking sustainability efforts since 2006, with the goal of running on 100% renewable energy.

Maybe understanding the value of brands and geopolitics isn't all that different. Maybe.

AnaLINitcs, Cognitive Bias and The Power of Context.

Everyday, our world is becoming more predictable. The sheer volume of data created in recent years, combined with the power of statistical modeling has created a world where we our analytical power is infinite, and our ability to predict future outcomes is growing exponentially, in terms of both data sources available and the reliability of those predictions.

In the context of this increasingly analytical world, the most shocking stories are those which break the mold, which defy the increasingly powerful data fueled logical treasure trove. Jeremy Lin exemplifies the power of this storyline. While this idea may explain his popularity, it does not explain why he went largely unnoticed by NBA scouts and analysts.

In the last five years, basketball has relied more and more on inferential statistics and predictive modeling to drive personell decisions. The explosion of data driven analysis, and the increasing desire to create a model where past performance strongly indicates future results matches with larger analytic trends across industries and verticals.

As someone who works with data to describe and help predict human behavior, I kept asking myself, how did these NBA data monkeys miss Jeremy Lin? Then, last week, I read about a Fed Ex driver with a basketball analytics hobby blog who predicted the potential value of lin based on a score called "RSB40" (rebounds, steals, and blocks per 40 minutes). Well, that seems like a mighty powerful inferential statistic if you ask me. Here's the full table from a cache from Hoops Analyst:

Someone saw Jeremy Lin coming. So why didn't any other NBA scouts? In my mind it is the power of social and cognitive biases and their impact on analytical thinking.

So what kind of social and cognitive bias surrounding Jeremy Lin could have outweighed the power of this empirical data?

Where to begin.

Well, there's Harvard. There's his race. All of these things have been written about profusely, so I will spare you. For great insights into the cognitive and social considerations around Jeremy Lin, these are two of my favorite pieces of writing (Grantland and Slate).

For me, the fact that pretty much every basketball number cruncher missed Jeremy Lin has made me realize more than ever that the value of empirical analysis is only as powerful as your understanding of the context within which it exists, and this context is largely framed by stuff that is hard to quantify.

This is how analysts might describe the process of using statistics to determine future performance and value of a single player.

In reality, there is a lot more to learn. There should be equal focus between developing predictive models and to understanding the context in which they exist:

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Analysts, thinkers, writers, academics,need to focus equally on numbers and on context. Then we'll be better at understanding the world around us and maybe find some more Jeremy Lins along the way.