Book – Challenger Customer

bookExcellent book for marketers!  I would recommend to buy a physical book, which can be easily reviewed later and shared with a colleague.  Audible version, which I purchased, is fantastic to listen while walking in a park (I listened twice), but not as convenient to take notes and share.

The book describes changing of the buying process (buying now includes more diverse groups of people) and sales/marketing strategies that can increase number of “high quality sales” – premium solutions rather than minimum options.

Surprising discovery: finding correct stakeholders boosts the probability of a successful sale by 4%, but positioning the solution for each individual stakeholder reduces the probability of a successful sale by 4% also.


Tailoring to the needs of individual stakeholders more hurt the quality of the deal.


What are the main points of disagreement in customer buying groups?

  1. problem definition
  2. solution identification
  3. supplier selection


Companies needs to concentrate on buyer group agreement on the solution regardless of a supplier.  Decision on the supplier is an easier one for a buyer group.



Medical supply company used to sell their instruments to surgeons.  Now the company is selling to a group of surgeons, CFOs, hospital administrators, etc.  The question is not which supplier is chosen for the surgical instruments, but what needs to be done for the benefit of the business in general, including buying new surgical instruments or building a parking garage.

The disagreement in the buying group is most intense at 37% into the purchase (well before the company will start reaching to any suppliers at 57% into the purchase).


Diverse buying groups would not easily agree on anything disruptive and ambitious.

Customer buying group profiles:

  • go-getter (interested in organizational improvement and known for getting results; will be interested in “how” and not “why”)
  • skeptic (focuses on “why” – weary of complicated projects, concerned that the costs will be higher and the benefit lower than expected – needs a lot of convincing)
  • friend (accessible, can connect with others, happy to talk, though may not get much done)
  • teacher (wants to understand the big picture “Blue Ocean Strategy” person)
  • guide (information dealer – will share internal processes of the organization, though may not get much done)
  • climber (focused on personal gain)
  • blocker (wants to avoid change for a variety of reasons – might designed existing solution or had been burned by suppliers in the past)


Top reps target customers who can build consensus and drive change, disregarding their title or budget authority.  They target “mobilizers” or “challenger customers” – go-getters, teachers, skeptics.  Average reps target guides, friends, and climbers.


What needs to happen for a successful sale?  The supplier needs to teach, tailor (for consensus buying decision), and take control.

Teaching (or, more likely un-teaching)

The organization needs to have “commercial insight” – generating commercial insight is an organizational capability rather than a skill of an individual sales rep.


As teaching the most effective before the prospective buyer is contacting the sales rep of any supplier, a supplier can do it through marketing content.  The effective content that changes customer’s perspective does not have to be easily accessible or easy to find,  it does not have to have interesting facts or anecdotes, it does not have to be easy to understand.  The content does not have to have a smart perspective.

Effective content must:

  • teach customers something new and compelling about their business
  • provide a customer a compelling reason to change their course of actions

In general, the content needs to illustrate that the cost of inaction is greater than the cost of change.  Thought leadership is not an insight.  The insight provides an implicit message: “you are doing it wrong” – and a reaction – “I need to change my approach.”

32:52 – 39:20 – Explanation of the Commercial Insight (though the entire video is very entertaining and helpful for anybody working with content marketing).


Commercial insight content should take the customer from point A to point B.

  • A – current state
  • B – future state

Suppliers typically explain how good B is.  However, suppliers need to explain the “pain of staying with A” first.  The customer seeing adoption of B as “pain of change,” the supplier needs to show that “pain of same” is greater.

4 questions to build commercial insight:

  1. What are our sustainable unique strengths?
  2. Of those unique strengths, which ones are currently under-appreciated by our customers?
  3. What are the customers fail to understand about their business that leads them to under-appreciate our unique sustainable capability now?
  4. What would we need to teach the customer about their business, that leads them to value that capability more then they do now?  OR – how we can credibly break down their A and build their B?

Example:  Dentsply

The company produced light weight, cordless, ergonomically designed instruments.  Though the dentists agreed that the instruments were superior to what they used currently, they did not want to make an investment into “nice to have” instruments.  Dentsply (with the help of hiring a knowledgeable dentist and a consultancy) found a different positioning for the instruments.  They look at what was important for the dental practice in general – and found that absenteeism and turnover of dental hygienists is a significant problem.  Better instruments to keep hygienists from work-related strain could reduce their absenteeism and cost of operating a dental practice.

“Don’t lead with what makes you unique – lead to what makes you unique.”

Un-teaching – the supplier explains that hygienist absenteeism cost more to dental practice than dentists realized.

Example: Xerox

School districts were printing a lot, but in black and white.  How to position color printers (better margins) at the time of shrinking school budgets?

Understanding customers broadly – not only IT who buys tech, but superintendents, lead teachers, etc.  Xerox focused on student performance rather than printer performance, and discovered that vibrant color improved focus and retention in students.  As Xerox printers of that category were low cost on the market (unique competitive advantage), the supplier was able to focus the customer’s attention on the improving students performance with color materials, rather than “buying printers.”

Commercial Insight sparks a new kind of conversation with customers—one that doesn’t start with you or your latest “solution.” It lets you start by teaching the customer something new about themselves. Below, one Xerox business unit that provides solutions to the K-12 education marketplace flipped the script from feature-centric customer interactions to Commercial Insight-led customer interactions.



All content should lead to the commercial insight.  Spark > Introduce > Confront

Spark – a counter-intuitive fact (possible in a sales tweet)


Customer testimonials can be centered on A too.  For example a customer can talk about discovering that the company’s approach cost more than they realized, galvanizing the other stakeholders, and eventually solving the problem.


Example: Smart Technologies 

Who is the most important person for the collaboration software decision?  Facilities?  CIO?  The answer was  – a person who sees the benefit of it in the organization and can champion the case by connecting other stakeholders.  The company targets this persona.

Lead scoring can be adjusted from sale readiness to mental model disruption.

When a commercial insight is ready, who should be approached with this information?  Bad contact in the organization might be worse than no contact at all, as new ideas can be associated with the reputation (unfavorable) of that person.  It is important to connect with a mobilizer, who can play different role in the buying decision.

Possible concern – climber.  If a person talks about personal benefit the solution can bring rather than group or organizational benefit, the person might be a “climber.”  The colleagues of this person already recognized it, and the new idea coming from this individual might not be perceived positively.

Taking control of customer buying process – helping the customer to create a functional buying group.  Important role of group learning.

Getting customer buying group to learn before buying results in 2/3  increase in probability of buying a premium solution.  It also boosts probability of buying additional future offering by 23%.

Collective learning is not getting stakeholders into one room, but getting them interact with each other in a certain way.  Facilitation of customer buying group  debate became more important than presentation.

Important: finding the common languages between different functions of the buying group and use common messaging.

Example: Sisco 

Sisco realized that a new executive is participating in technology purchasing decisions – the CMO.  Sisco used social listening to understand what aspects of technology are important for CMOs and how are they discussed in the industry.  Then, these conversations were compared to conversations generated by (and targeted to) CIOs.  When the common ground was discovered and messaging that addresses concern of both functions was created, the messaging has been tested in social media also – what was picked up and which terminology has been used.

Mobilizers need to be equipped with tools to help build the consensus in the organization – how to talk to other functions about the category of the solutions in general.  

The content can come from existing sales materials, but it needs to be vendor-neutral.

Examples are Marketo and SkillSoft.   

skillsoftMarketo provides a comprehensive guide explaining Marketing Automation solutions in general with instructions for marketers how to discuss this type of solutions with sales and IT, which arms the mobilizers with materials to use at the early stages of the sales cycle.  

SkillSoft created an un-gated guide explaining elearning that can be used by mobilizers and very useful by itself.  The guide has multiple links for additional, gated, content, which helps the company to generate leads.

Social selling

How do top sales reps engage with the potential customers early if the customers contact the organization at 57% of sales cycle, when the type of the solution has already been determined?  These sales reps go where prospects learn… including social media groups and became facilitators of learning, without mentioning their own solution.

Collective learning decreases probability of encountering a blocker by 20%.   There is 35% increase of probability of high quality sale, if collective learning is happening in a stakeholder group that has a blocker. In general, blockers reduce probability of a high quality deal by 47%.

Companies need to shift to supporting the customers’ purchase process. Rather than “How to help our sales people better sell…” the companies need to think “How our sales teams can help our customers better buy.”  Shifting forecasting from sales activities to “customer versifiers” increased accuracy of sales forecast of one organization by 70%.

Explanation major concepts – more from the sales side.

More useful materials on the topic are available on CEB page dedicated to the book.

Excellent book!

Book – Marketing Above the Noise

bookExcellent book – an explanation of what has changed and what has not changed in marketing.  While the book describes case studies using social media (the shiniest of all shiny objects 😉 ), the author puts new marketing tools in perspective, explaining that medium is not the message and each business needs to understand where its limited marketing dollars should be spent more effectively.

Marketing strategy rightly remains the foundation of marketing.

Another fundamental (and rarely understood) point is the need for internal alignment and minimal level of marketing resources to be effective.  No matter how brilliant the idea and dedicated the marketing team, positive impact on the business can not be realized if resources are insufficient and alignment is absent.

The author outlines several points of alignment needed; it is probably first time when I saw all of them emphasized, what makes complete sense.


As we have been discussing marketing and sales for a long time, and marketing and IT conversations in a few last years, product development relation to marketing was somewhat understood, but the idea that executive support AND all of other alignments are needed for marketing to succeed is often missed.  Every marketer probably has more examples of when particular alignment was not working than examples when everything worked perfectly 🙂

Particularly interesting points:

  • Companies are focusing on broader customer life-cycle, including customer’s experience after the initial sale.  In some organizations the CMO is replaced by CCO (Chief Customer Officer)
  • Think which marketing programs you can cut out.  A few strategic programs done well are more valuable than many initiatives adding to the noise…
  • In the five stages of the purchase process (Awareness > Consideration > Purchase > Preference > Loyalty) – the purchase is the middle step, rather than a final one


Moving forward with a marketing program without taking the time to outline a solid strategy is like going mountain climbing without understanding which mountain it is you are going to scale

  • It is impossible to build a successful strategy without understanding the vision and goals of the overall organization.
    • Is the corporate focus on growth in terms of revenue or new customers?
    • Is the business looking at maintaining or growing its business in existing markets, or expanding into new markets?
    • Is the focus on customer acquisition or on improving margins?
  • Organizations that rise above the noise solicit customer input, good or bad, and they act on it to improve their performance and drive their marketing.
  • Sun Microsystems: original customers were the same as the producers of the product – the engineers.  When the product became popular on Wall Street, the target audience was generally the same “but they dressed better.”  When Sun moved to business and commercial space, the audience became different – different goals and objectives and different experience level.  “We had to ask customers what they wanted, because they were no longer us.”
  • Customers will be more open with a third party consultant when discussing the company’s products and services.
  • Many campaigns run effectively for three to four years before being replaced.  Marketers have to understand that their fatigue with a marketing campaign doesn’t necessarily translate to consumers.
  • Discounts:  Bed, Bath and Beyond cut its margins by 20% with aggressive discounts.  That may work for this company’s business model, but may not be beneficial for others.
  • New Digital Divide: companies who use data effectively and companies who do not.
  • Internal communication: a company provided a brand guidebook for employees when branding changed.  A few years later, when this organization merged with another one, employees were asking for the new brand guidebook.
  • Excellent new employee orientation experience stays with the employee for 7 years (maybe longer; it was the extent of the research).
  • There is no ideal definition of employee engagement; what works in one organization, may not work in another.
  • At one point marketers believed that web design and programming (to produce a good web site for the company) needed to be in-house.  Now, the feeling is that web strategy is what is key, but the web design and programming can be outsourced.

You will meet people who believe that today’s marketing decisions should start and stop with data.  The problem is that we can’t abdicate decision-making responsibility to the analysts.  … Even with great insights, we still need people with the right judgement and business acumen to make decisions.

Coursera – An Introduction to Consumer Neuroscience & Neuromarketing

neuromarketingVery interesting introductory course!  The course has just enough deep explanations of the brain structures not to intimidate an average marketer, and plenty of curious examples of experiments.  Discussion about ethics of neuromarketing is also fascinating – this subject is still little known even in the marketing industry.

Consumer neuroscience is located in the middle of the intersection of Neuroscience, Economics, and Psychology. It is interesting to see other new development in the field – behavioral economics in a relatively close proximity.  As the field is increasing in popularity, more interesting subjects will probably populate the triangle in the future.


Thought marketers know that people are influenced by advertising, if we ask consumers, they will typically say “non, I am not influenced by advertisement…” The example below shows eye tracking related to a specific product.  control group have not been exposed to the advertisement and the test group was.


Test group also bought more product.  However, everybody in the test group said that the advertisement had not effect on them 🙂

Neurovision – a tool allowing to determine what people will see automatically, without trying to pay attention to anything specific.  The tool is 85% accurate; based on science and validated eye tracking. Relatively inexpensive, DIY tool.



Linking… is stronger for simple positive association compared to factual association


How do people look at the financial reports when they evaluate companies?  People state that they look at the bottom – revenue numbers.  However, the eye-tracking study indicates that they are looking at key profit numbers more 🙂


Eye-tracking experiment showed that when people are asked to look at the abstract art, they will be distracted by pictures of food (more if they are hungry).  However, the images of high-calorie food are very tempting, but the healthy food not so much.



Typical approach: a problem > a resolution > brand exposure

This approach might be not the most effective as from the perspective of the human brain, the resolution might signify a “conceptual closure;” or “mental door” from one memory “room” to another.

Ad below was analyzed in its impact on memory formation.  At the point of the transition to the product (screen turns white) – neuro-scientists saw a dramatic drop in memory encoding.  “…It was classic conceptual closure…”  The ad was very popular, but sales went down for Avian brand that year and the brand lost market share.

If the popularity of viral video could result in any behavior changes, it would be reasonable to expect an increase of the interest to the brand, and the drop in market share would probably not happen…

Memory encoding for advertisement depends on the environment where the advertisement appears.  If a high-level emotional ad appears in the TV program where people are expected to pay attention to details the impact will be less compared to a situation where the ad matches the environment.

journalExcellent class – highly recommend for any marketer!

Book – The Art of Explanation

explanationThis is one of the books, where every idea seem to whisper “take me to a meeting tomorrow…  your meeting will be much better.”  Ah, dear idea, you are right!  I should take you to a meeting tomorrow – and, definitely, my chances of seeing a favorable result of the meeting will be much higher 😉

The author suggests to concentrate on the “Forrest” before starting to talk about the “trees,” to explain major concepts before diving into specific points.  (Hm…  European educational system I experienced as a child was based on this principle – and math was considered easy while history was considered hard 🙂 ).

Another interesting point (which does not come with any educational system, I guess) is the nature of the question “What is it?”  The question is not “What is it?” but “How can it help me?”  A person who is asking “What is RSS?” does not want to know how RSS functions, but rather how useful can it be for his or her life.

Why is it difficult to explain basic things?  The curse of knowledge…  (Ubiquitous tune tapping experiment) – a new person joining the company often does not hear the tune of company culture and process, but just “tap.. tap… tap.”

In most situations requiring explanations, the target audience is somewhere in the range of understanding the topic.  Low understanding is A, and high understanding is Z, and the range of the understanding can be represented by an alphabet.  The goal of the explanation is to move the people at A further to the direction of Z; we can not start explaining from L if majority of the target audience understand the problem somewhere around C.


How to move your audience from A to Z?

1. Agreement

Statement that is obvious for the audience (we can all agree that gas prices are rising)

2. Context

Moving the points we agreed upon into specific context (more of your hard-earned income is going to pay for transportation)

3. Story

A person who is experiencing a change in perception (Met Sally, she is tired to pay for gas and looked for alternatives; look what she found…)

4. Connections

Analogies and ideas that people already understand (Sally could see that taking a bus was like multitasking – she could commute and work at the same time)

5. Description “how” – Sally saved $20 a week

6. Conclusion – summary – next step  (next time gas prices increase, remember…)

The author’s company Common Craft produced a very interesting collection of “explanation videos” that explain complex topics in a very understandable terms.

Explanation of social media on a ice-cream analogy


Augmented reality explanation

Book – Brandscaping

brandscapingBrandscaping appeared to be a more insightful book than I expected.  The main premise of the book is the advantage of partnership between brands and content producers that use the products to achieve popular objective.  A movies about dogs can increase preference of pets of certain breed, a health-related documentary can increase demand for juicers, and promotion of the idea that chickens can be excellent pets can increase sales of pet supplies.

Brandscaping suggests that brands can gravitate to other brands targeting the same audience similar to mall structure.  Whole Food store at the mall would attract different type of businesses compared to Target.  The book has been created to be not “how to” book, but “how to think” book – what makes sense after finishing it.

101 dalmatians and Finding Nemo  increased total demand for dogs and fish  – what kind of advertising budget you need to do the same?

Instead of advertising (branding), Bank of America partnered with History channel to produce America’s story – where branded content was interwoven into the content and most “commercials” were watched by the viewers of the episodes.



Another brandscape example – a documentary producer (and a star) asked a company for a free juicer to use in his documentary devoted to the topic of health and weight loss (nothing specific about the juicer).  The general interest to the “juicing” as a concept increased.  Juicers used to be sold around new year when people were hoping to start new healthy habits. With the release of the documentary, interest to juicers was related to the popularity of the film.  The company started to buy advertisement for the documentary rather than advertising its own products.


Interesting: searching for “fat sick and nearly dead juicer” produces a lovely option to buy it 🙂


Stop putting your product first – the movie is about changing life..

Companies that found themselves in crowded markets can promote its brands better targeting niche audiences.  The book suggests “fractal marketing” – infinitely devise-able audience.  How to find a niche?  Look for content void in your industry (trade publication) and test if this niche appeal to your target audience.

Book – Tilt: Shifting Your Strategy from Products to Customers

tiltExcellent book!!  I suspect many markets would be happy if their top management took interest in the book 🙂  The book’s site positions the book as a “A Powerful Antidote to Product-centricity” – and it is so wonderfully correct.

My notes (though it was hard to take reasonably concise notes – so many concepts a excellent by themselves and deserve attention):

  •  For many companies the product is their business (building a better product is the path to a less competitive future… is the perception)
  • HarvardHowever, the answer to the question “Why do customers buy from us?” is answered usually not based on the product, but on the “downstream” values.
  • While customers buy because of the downstream values, most of the resources are concentrated in the “upstream” product area.
  • Firms have goals “increase revenue by X” and use strategies how to create value for customers, what may not be concentrated on a product, can include service, emotions (piece of mind, etc.).
  • Firms seek “competitive advantage” – building a way of creating value for customers that competitors can not easily duplicate.

Where is your company’s competitive advantage or “center of gravity” – upstream or downstream?

  • 20th century: competitive advantage used to be in upstream (production lines, teams of engineers, etc. Walmart network).  However, upstream competitive advantage is disappearing as production, logistics, design, and innovation can be outsources.
  • Downstream tilt:
    • Competitive advantage tilts downstream
    • Activities that add value
    • primary fixed costs in the business
  • Why is it happening?  Commodization – anybody can re product the product relatively quickly.
  • Importance of “downstream” example:  pharmaceutical companies at one point offered significant price reduction for the AIDS drubs to African countries, but the countries were not interested.  There was no infrastructure to distribute the medications and monitor the use.  “almost free” product had no value…
  • Parity in products still important, but to “win” a company has to have a downstream focus.

In the 21st century markets are maturing faster than managers

  • Upstream costs are becoming variable, as outsourcing becomes possible
  • Downstream costs are becoming fixed (and increasing)
    • customer acquisition
    • customer satisfaction
    • customer retention

The question is not “how much more of what we make can we sell?”  but the question is “what else our customers need?”  Transition from the economy of scale to the economy of scope.  Manufacturing cost is not a smaller percentage of the product price; downstream costs have increased.

Example: computer game to help 7-19 year old ADHD patients developed by a pharmaceutical company as part of “beyond the pill” initiative.

Identifying customers’ costs and risks:

Example:  Vine in UK seem to be too intimidating for the customers to select – too complicated product.  Solution was a simple limited collection of Vines with easy to understand color-coding.  UK vine consumption increased.

Example: Honda during recession.  Why customers do not buy cars?  They are afraid to loose their jobs.  Offer: you can return a car if you loose your job.  Sales double, while the rest of the industry saw sales decline 37% (2009).

Example: explosives for the quarries – a commodity with practically no switching costs; competition on price – commodity product.  Solution to escape price competition was to reduce the risk of the customer  in buying the product.  The customers (quarries) needed “crushed” rock rather than the explosives.  The risk of the customers were very high – if the blast was unsuccessful, the rock might be too large, what will require additional efforts or the rock might be too small, and their customers won’t buy it.  The explosives company started charging the quarries not for explosives, but for “crushed rock” guaranteeing that certain percentage of the rock will be proper size.  The company used its extensive blast data to guide quarries in proper use of explosives and was able to sell premium and highly differentiated product.

Book – Decoding the New Consumer Mind

bookThe book clearly encourages marketers to perceive their audience from a more “human” perspective and understand the reason for the changes in the consumer behavior that the entire industry has been observing during last years.

As “we are generally designed for survival, not quality of life,” humanity struggles with some modern challenges.  Has technology caused it?  The general answer is no, but both the recession and technological changes that amplified some human traits, helped.

Five Psychological Shifts:

  1. Innovation optimism
  2. Consumer empowerment
  3. Faster way of thinking
  4. Symbol power
  5. New ways of connecting

Interesting psychological phenomenon:  just association with the innovation and technology itself can increase people’s desire to by a product that might look more “modern” than before.  Examples: a restaurant offered vine menu on iPad instead of a paper and sales increased.  Adidas added virtual footwear wall in some of its stored – sales in those stores where the wall was added increased.  The article includes quite interesting video of the “wall.


  • One second delay in a web page loading results in 7% purchase reduction 
  • Gen Y are the most sensitive to waiting – they are the heaviest users of same day delivery
  • Increased numbers of Facebook friends has no impact on general sense of well-being.  However, increase of real friends from 10 to 20 has a positive emotional impact similar to 50% increase in salary.
  • One third of people has feeling of dissatisfaction after using Facebook, particularly envy
  • The more people use Facebook, the more they are dissatisfied
  • College students: more mobile phone use correlated with lower grades and more anxiety
  • As our human “tribe” grows, fame is associated with survival by younger generations… Fame is the top of desires for tweens.
  • 1950 – less than 10% of Americans lived alone; now it is 28%
  • Increase in loneliness in recent years – up to 35%
  • In US trust, support and happiness are in decline
  • Social activity such as belonging to a club increases happiness comparably to doubling your income
  • Associating emotions with the brand – feeling of amazement before being introduced to a brand – extreme sheep video  – Samsung logo.  Samsung has highest emotional engagement in its category.

  • People are more isolated – 25% do not have a single confidant
  • Rising rudeness have not been created by technology, but technology is accelerating the trend allowing people to be less connected
  • Recession resulted in loss of sense of security
  • Increase of number of narcissists and narcissistic tendencies in the population
  • Narcissists like exclusive products, special service, etc.
  • Highly stressed shoppers prefer trusted brands and easier shopping
    • inertia – buying without thinking or not buying at all
    • rely on trusted experts to reduce the number of options
    • rationalize impulsive purchases
    • rely on feelings more and sensitive to complexity
  • Marketing: all channels need to be integrated and not in adversarial relationships.  Macy has an “omni-channel officer” – a senior role in the organization.

Marketing examples:

  • Old school marketer – champions the brand
  • New school marketer champions the consumer, who then champions the brand

Kleenex campaign as an example of “new marketing” approach:


  • Very old school marketing: get a list and send a free tissue sample to potential customers (who many not care)
  • Old school marketing: advertise free samples in the media and invite potential customers to the web site to request the sample (potential customers feel smart after getting a free sample)
  • New school marketing: during the flu season promote an option for potential customers to send a box of tissue to their suffering friends.  Because the tissue is send by friends, it feels softer than it is (warmth of the offer).

Ketchum motivated consumers to share one million free Kleenex products with their friends through the Kleenex “Softness Worth Sharing” program, resulting in a 925% increase in traffic to the Kleenex website and a 6.2% boost in in-store sales.


Integrated Marketing Summit 2014

Integrated-Marketing-SummitEnjoyable and thought provoking marketing conference.  Interestingly, our industry progressed to the point that popular topics are discussed seriously, tactics are evaluated from the business perspective, and, curiously, “what not to do” insight received sufficient time to counteract industry urge to fall in love with the next shiny object.

professonGone are times of recommendations: “Thinking about social media?  Talk with a young person!”  The first keynote presentation on social media was delivered by Don E. Schultz, Professor of Northwestern University, who is not on Twitter or Facebook, but has a Wikipedia page devoted to his marketing expertese.  The Presentation was spectacular!  Wise Professor evaluated the shiny object of the last years for what it was in the thought process that made academic sense.  “Confucius was right…”  he said highlighting an argument.  What a pleasure!!  (Northwestern University Coursera offering suddenly became even more enticing 😉 )

Can Social Media be Killing Brands?

  • Brand loyalty is shifting from manufacturer brands to retails store brands.  “Where am I going to shop?” will define what the person will buy.
  • In general, brand preference is declining and “no preference” is growing.  This observed commodization could be a result of price promotion.  Recession is not a contributing factor, as this trends has been observed independently from the recession.
  • The major contributing factor is change in media usage.  As mass media go down and social media usage goes up – brand preference going down.  Social media is “killing brands softly.”

If you think you can build a brand online, you might be fooling yourself

Forbs published a short overview of the research.

social-mediaThe study also found that only 11% of the respondents “regularly asked for or sought advice” from others, indicating that social media is used primarily for “social conversations” among users, not to provide product recommendations to others. At the other end of the spectrum, nearly 19% of social media users said they “never seek or give advice” about products or services through social media or other forms of word-of-mouth.

Findings from this study seem to confirm that social media usage is primarily for “social purposes” and the potential for marketers invading social media vehicles or encouraging social media users to become product advocates is not only limited, but, may actually be counterproductive in terms of building brand value and brand relationships.

Brands have been invented as a salable device during the era of mass media.  Social media usage results in fragmentation, separation, and creates communities, not markets.

meaningful-logoCorporate brands in cereal do not mean much – there is less and less of differentiation.  Brand preference is different by category; more important (and more differentiated) are beer, soft drink, pet food.  However, one method of differentiating is important for consumers: Meaningful Brands.

Meaningful Brands not only identified positively by consumers, but they are also outperform stock market, what is sufficient proof of the benefit to the bottom line.




The challenge of “big data” – it is often considered as a two-dimensional source; however, we have a multidimensional marketplace.  Companies need not only “big data” but also “long data.”

Social-IMCSocial media can be used, but not we won’t know the right answer…  Will we find it?  Probably not.  However, what we are doing now is not working and we might see an improvement in the future.

Social media contributes to the exposure to information.  Traditional marketing is a marketing to “dumb consumers.”  4P model has been introduced in 1956…   Sales Funnel appeared first in 1961…

Social media is about conversations, not persuasion; “working with customers rather than persuading them.”

Don E. Schultz recommended social media marketing book Social IMC, which should help answering some of the questions.


“Start with facts and use SWAGs as necessary”

SWAG – Scientific Wild Ass Guess 🙂

On average, 60% of leads are now brought by marketing.

Interesting point on dealing with sales – sales would be uncomfortable if marketing claims credit for pineapple contribution – it is better to say that marketing “helped” sales, rather than taking credit for the result.

Note: learn more about CRM.

Where to Begin in Mobile Marketing

curtCurt’s presentations always contain many interesting facts.  The idea that he is trying to convey is using the mobile channel correctly rather than just “doing mobile” for the sake of mobile.  Even if the numbers suggest that mobile devices are becoming ubiquitous, marketers need to think about the customer and their needs first. Curt recommended a book Mobile Magic – it is available on Audible (excellent!)

Yes, the number of the phones is increasing exponentially; but it does not mean marketers need to jump into the “shiny object” game and create something mobile for the sake of something mobile.



  1. Good app costs $150-250K to build
  2. Promotion and update of of an app would cost 1.5x of its original cost
  3. Average user downloads 45 apps, 42 of which are free
  4. Average user uses only 5 apps 
  5. Pay $1.80-$2.50 per download of a paid app
  6. A user is considered“loyal” in the industry benchmarks if he/she uses the app at least 3 times
  7. “Loyal” users represent less then 8% of total app downloads

How to begin with mobile marketing:

  1. magicUnderstand your customers and prospects (create personas, observe them, talk to them)
  2. Find their pain points (look at analytics, talk to your team, talk to your customers)
  3. Mobilize your existing marketing  (mobile web site?  mobile email? mobile PPC? explore other mobile tools; graduate to mobile apps only if it solves your customers’ need – start small and scale with success)

What is a place of mobile app?  It can be useful to reward loyal customers.

I love how Curt takes advantage of the new Twitter layout 🙂


 Creating Advocacy by Engaging Customers

HallmarkHallmark – customer engagement is a very interesting concept – completely new to me.  Hallmark developed a b-to-b business, Hallmark Business Connections, which helps companies to connect to customers, recognize employees, or promote internal wellness initiatives.

Customer engagement is particularly interesting for marketers.  The main idea of the initiative is to empower front-line employees to make human connections with customers, and provide them with easy to use tools to do it easily.  The objective is to move the customers from the engagement with the company to the advocacy.  The measure of success is ubiquitous NPS (Net Promoter Score).

Case study: Using customer engagement techniques to improve NPS and ENPS (Employee Net Promoter Score).  In the first year of program, retention improved by 10% and revenue increased by 32%.

Which type of cards companies use more often:

  • Congratulation – 11%
  • Sympathy – 13%
  • Apology – 16%
  • Thank you – 47%  (Thank you can be used in unique ways – example of a bank employee thanking the wife of an active duty soldier for her family’s contribution to the safety of the country after a conversation with the woman about family’s finances)


One of the approaches is to require front-line employees (call center, etc.) to make a certain number of human connections per day.  More successful employees can share their success with approaches with the rest of the team.

What is the difference between mail and email?  Mailing address is more likely to be available, for some reasons email is not appropriate (Sympathy), and a hand-written card is usually perceived more “personal” than an email.

What is the difference between b-to-b and b-to-c organizations using the program?  B-to-b organizations immediately see the program as lead nurturing, and it can be adjusted to function for this purpose.

Are cards branded by the business that uses them?  Some are branded and some are not – not branded cards are perceived as more personal. Thank you cards are typically branded, but Sympathy cards are never branded.

IBM Case Study

IBM presented a case study for the project “Rethink Customer” – the project was tailored to different audiences, also included email communication and has been translated into several languages.

Interesting: Coremetric tagging has been done on the English version and then the translations happened, what assured that the tagging was in place in all languages.

Update is made based on the prioritization of the audience – the most important/profitable/numerous/strategically important audience receives more updates.  Site uses parallax, but is not optimized for mobile.


I was curious about Parallax design and SEO – MOZ has an excellent explanation on implication for analytics and SEO – Parallax Scrolling Websites and SEO – A Collection of Solutions and Examples



Good article with a PPT and a recording of explanation of agile marketing by the presenter Agile marketing for a world of constant change.  I would love to see a typical marketing project explained in a Waterfall and Agile implementation, as it is still difficult for me to understand how this methodology can be applied to marketing.  Three examples from the article:

  • Content marketing is great for agile marketing. Each piece of content is naturally a discrete unit. You can experiment with many different content themes for different audiences at different stages, iterate and adapt them, scale the ones that work. It’s great to be able to quickly re-prioritize content marketing plans to take advantage of new trends and topics that arise in the market.
  • Marketing automation is great for agile marketing. You’re able to constant expand and refine nurture programs and automated or semi-automated flows along the buyer’s journey. You can break out new audience segments to target on an experimental basis.
  • Landing page optimization is great for agile marketing. This flows seamlessly from agile efforts in social, PPC, and nurturing campaigns. You can generate new post-click experiences quickly, A/B test alternatives to run meaningful experiments on new hypotheses, target different experiences to different audience segments.

Agile marketing assumes iterations rather than following the plan.  “Annual Plan” is not working anymore… 

Modern marketing plan is less gospel and more jazz; it assumes improvisation

Companies with exploratory strategies perform better than companies with “focused exploitation” strategies. However, “continuous exploration is not as good as “moderate exploitative” approach.

Myths of agile marketing:

  • It just mean we have to work faster…  (push to work faster leads to employees changing company or industry).  No, instead of a long cycle, there are many short cycles.
  • “Small” does not mean “quick and dirty” – each component can be done very well.
  • Is agile short-sighted?  No, it is a better process to execute a long-term plan.

Interesting: ion Iterative re-branded as marketing app company and now sporting quite interesting  parallax website 😉




Scott Brinker also writes Chief Marketing Technologist Blog (I subscribed 😉 )



Marketing is changing very fast and all of us in the industry have to love change (or we would not be there 😉 ).  Everybody is generally overwhelmed and often confused.  The only comforting thought is that we are all experiencing the same phenomenon.


MIMA – Native Advertising

nativeThough there are many conversations about native advertisement, the examples of native ads are not quite easy to find.  Content and advertising is converging?

One of the explanation of the transition is commodization of the advertising inventory and publications’ desire to “add value” to the brands – provide something that is not easily available.

Two examples below show native advertisement seamlessly added to the publication, merging with the publication’s style and tone.


The BuzzFeed article is an article fitting well to general content of the publication.  There is no advertisement, just a note on the bottom where to get a dog treat.



The Onion article fits with the tone of the publication.  The link in the article leads to YouTube video, which has a call to action to the promoted product.  It would be better to host the YouTube video on the separate landing page to make the call to action more prominent 🙂

What does not work:

  • Content for the sake of the content

What works:

  • Understanding brand objectives
  • aligning with existing media habits of the target audience

MIMA – The Changing Face of Email

silverpopGreat MIMA event as usually 🙂  entertaining presentation, a few insights to take to the office, industry friends to talk to, and food!  The email is definitely changing, and I guess three main points from the event would be:

  • changing presentation of the email boxes by email clients (as all of us are trying to manage our email boxes)
    • As we have too many emails, mailbox management strategies evolved…  and technology starting to enable these strategies
  • extension of marketing automation from b-to-b to b-to-c (gosh – this probably happened first time in human history – something was pioneered by b-to-b and later adopted by b-to-c!  🙂 )
    • B-to-c seem to be trying to move successful lead nurturing techniques into consumer environment
  • consumers might be revolting against privacy enforcement in some cases, as they like personalized content and find it more convenient.  Wouldn’t it be lovely?

Notes from the event:

  • gmailUnsubscribe caution: sending emails daily will get 40% list reduction over the year if the unsubscribe rate better than average…  Daily send is excessive…
  • Gmail mailbox study “the tabs” –
    • highly engaged: tabs result in reading more
    • medium engagement: tabs result in reading slightly less
    • low engagement: tabs result in dramatic decline of activity, but these audience did not pay much attention anyway, so the loss is irrelevant
  • Second generation of Welcome campaign: welcome campaign based on which pages of the site the person previously visited
  • What people do when they view emails on Mobile phone?  Decide which ones they can delete right now
  • Responsive email design can be used to offer completely different calls to action on desktop and mobile device (check out [something], and download an app)
  • Geo fencing is starting to be used in retail – an email is sent to the staff when the customer is coming into the door
  • – a tool that allows mass unsubscribe from newsletters and combine them into a “digest” to review an a desired time of the day

This is fantastic tool!!  🙂  I discovered that I have almost 200 subscriptions – oh…oh… a marketer’s faith 😉  However, the count included different options of the same publication: for example, I would be subscribed to a daily and weekly, and webinars update from the same source.

subscriptionsThe selection to unsubscribe or to “rollup” is very straightforward.


After I was done, I was presented with the most interesting information: which communications are more likely to be unsubscribed, which rolled up, and which keep as subscriptions (with the lovely option to tweet or post the info on Facebook).



Now my mailbox is perfectly organized!