Author Archive for Tony Quin


Danger: Good Times Ahead

Danger: Good Times Ahead

In case you haven’t noticed there is a sea change happening in business. As companies go into 2015 they are more confident that their marketplace is solid than at any time in the last five plus years. This is very different from every January I can remember since the recession hit. If you recall, as we would roll into each New Year, brands would emerge extremely cautiously, prepared at any moment to run for cover as they watched their consumers crawl back into their shell. Of course they had reason to be gun-shy. Pretty much on schedule every year the promise of the economy turned to ashes usually around the second quarter. Budgets were cut, rosy forecasts trimmed and the rest of the year was usually a matter of subsistence marketing.

This year, however, is different. Confidence is brimming, because the fundamentals are finally, truly strong. More important, consumers feel the wind at the back of the economy for the first time in a long time. As a result brands are bullishly turning their attention to full force competition. That’s a big shift in mind-set. Planning to grow market share in the face of competitive pressure requires a different set of strategies and tactics to those required to just make it through the year.  This is made much more demanding when you consider that consumers have been trained by years of scarcity to be value conscious, sophisticated buyers. The upshot is the most challenging, competitive environment brands have probably ever seen.

The lean years have turned consumers into smart, careful shoppers. Buyers of all stripes have been provided with the tools, education and practice to become adept digital consumers armed with the skills required to make the best possible decisions every time. This has reshaped the buying process and redefined consumer expectations. Now there is really no choice for brands but to deliver enablement, transparency, quality and a superior experience. Anyway you look at it, it’s a tough nut to crack, but the companies that deliver on these expectations will earn a place in the consideration set.

All of this requires not only a different mind-set, but also a different tool kit to what brands used the last time they went out to do battle in a strong economic environment. Some forward thinking companies saw this coming, recognized that buying dynamics would forever be linked to new consumer expectations and put the pieces of a new kind of brand ecosystem in place. This ecosystem intelligently connects all of a brand’s touch-points throughout the consumer decision journey. With technology supplying consumer insights, and content keeping the consumer engaged, the new brand ecosystem has shifted to more science than art, and provides companies with more predictability even in the face of more complexity.

Today as we launch into the best environment in years, those brands that studied the new consumer and invested in the infrastructure and technology, find themselves ready to activate these sophisticated marketing ecosystems. Brands that did not do the work, however, are in a very different position. They will quickly find that they don’t have what they need and will be forced to not just change the tires on the bus at 60 mph, but to try and rebuild the whole bus without stopping.

Within the next few months the gap between the haves and have-nots will play out and for the first time the stark realities of marketing in the digital age will be plain for even the most hitherto blinkered to see.

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3 Technology Game Changers


3 Technology Game-Changers

Part of our job at IQ Agency is to make sure our clients don’t get blind-sided by new technologies, devices or changes in consumer behavior. So we make sure we know what’s going on and what’s coming. Being the founder and board chair of SoDA, the Society of Digital Agencies, helps because it lets us at IQ see what many of the most advanced, innovative agencies and companies in the world are working on. Here is a glimpse of some technologies that look like they might bring big change in the not too distant future.

1. Virtual Reality is Real Now

Virtual Reality

The Oculus headset at SoDA’s “What’s Next” meeting.

The first is virtual reality from Oculus Rift. This is a company, bought by Facebook last year, which is near to perfecting a virtual reality headset. I tried it, it is not a toy, and it is already remarkable. Imagine a viewing experience with normal peripheral vision. The image you see is an environment that responds to your movements almost exactly as it would in life. One of the programs I tried had me as a judge on “The Voice”. When I looked to my left there was the real Blake Shelton, when I looked to my right I could see Gwen Stefani in the next seat over. I can easily see how disruptive immersive, VR experiences will be, first in games, then in entertainment and marketing.  It reminded me of a movie called “Strange Days” which posits a future in which virtual reality is more seductive than life itself. I think this technology, which is going to market very soon, will take a little while to filter down to marketing, but once people have the headsets, the marketing applications will be endless.

2. Augmented Reality – Not a Gimmick Anymore

Style My Floor AR app

“Style My Floor” AR app

Augmented reality is also getting ready for prime time. Right now we use it for things like the “Style My Floor” app my agency just designed for a flooring company, where you can instantly see what your floors would look like in any number of different materials. But this technology is evolving fast to enable a virtual layer on life. Imagine seeing driving directions actually on the street, like the down markers in a football game, or vacancy signs at hotels, or a big arrow in the sky pointing at the building you are going to.  The marketing applications, especially for retail business will know no bounds.

3. The Data Layer is Forming

Google Glass by Luxotica

Fashion versions of Google Glass from Luxottica

Now hold that thought about augmented reality and think about what’s happening with Google Glass. I know, it may seem like an irrelevant novelty after all the empty hype. But things are quietly a-foot. Luxottica, the biggest eyewear company in the World, has partnered with Google to produce fashion versions of Google Glass that will look just like regular glasses. This will enable all of us to walk around life informed by a layer of data. Imagine what might be useful when you can get environment specific data in your glasses. Now combine a wearable device like this with all the data that the “Internet of Things” will produce, AND the possibilities of augmented reality, and you can see the potential. Before long I think this living data layer will be as ubiquitous as the smart phone and we will all, marketers included, wonder what we did without it.

4. Getting Ready for Tomorrow

Connect Cultivate Convert

All these technologies, and others, are on their way, but brands will only be able to take advantage of them if they are ready. That means getting their marketing ecosystem, which is now predominantly digital, wired up and operating.  This is not quite as easy as it sounds, but has to be done. It starts with having a sophisticated consumer centric strategy built round the new dynamics of the digital consumer. All these fantastic new technologies are coming, but if brands haven’t done these basics, they won’t have a marketing ecosystem to connect them to.

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The SoDA Report – Volume 2, 2014

SoDA Report Volume 2 2014

As the founder and board chair of SoDA, the digital society, I’m happy to say it’s time again for the SoDA Report. It is now perhaps the most read digital trends report in the world, clocking almost 300,000 views from our last issue. You can see it here on a responsive site or as a Slideshare.


Publicis buys Sapient in quest to sell the dream

Publicis Sapient Merger Deal

The Publicis Sapient deal announced this morning is part of a trend that has agencies becoming consultants and consultants becoming agencies.  In Sapient, Publicis is buying a technology consultancy with deep technology capabilities across the spectrum of all business activity. This makes sense if Publicis has a vision of itself, not just as a collection of ad agencies, but as a 21st century business consultant; helping companies change the fundamental ways they do business in the digital age. I don’t think they are alone in this vision.

Back in 2002 IBM decided to shift their focus to being essentially a business change and performance consultant. So they bought Price Waterhouse consulting and then a few years later sold their PC business to the Chinese. In 2009 the huge consultant Accenture launched Accenture Interactive with P&G as it’s first client and has continued to buy advertising and design firms around the globe, and WPP is buying business and digital consultants, the latest being Cognifide earlier this year.

All these moves spring from the way that digital is forcing companies to rethink everything they do from product development to marketing and customer service. In the recent Nielson Trust in Advertising report, consumers cited brand websites, which Sapient has made many of, being second only to “recommendations from people I know” for advertising trust. Websites have not been considered advertising, but in the digital age their importance is just another indicator that the lines are blurring between advertising, marketing, service and product.

Feeding all this change is not just the digital consumer, but also the desire of companies to turn their business into a predictable machine. This is being stimulated by the promise that all this business consulting, the systems, data, and models, will reduce risk and increase certainty; every CEO’s dream. But it’s not so simple, because this new approach requires a complacent consumer and unless anyone hasn’t noticed digital consumers are anything but complacent, especially in their own defense. Consumers are not only much faster to adopt new technologies than brands, but they are also less credulous, less tolerant of manipulation, and more sensitive to privacy issues today. That could throw a wrench in the grand plans of these super consultant/agencies as they try to help companies re-take their position as the manipulators in chief.

The good news for mid-sized companies, which probably cannot afford to not hire Accenture anyway, is that they need not fear losing a competitive edge to their larger competitors. Building a brand’s digital ecosystem designed to connect, cultivate and convert consumers, is now I believe accessible to most mid-sized companies for the first time, and while data plays it’s part, success comes more from connecting the pieces intelligently rather than overlaying some massive data crunching system. In fact I think that companies with more nimble cultures, which can react faster to consumer needs and marketplace opportunities, will have an even greater opportunity for success than those that try to build machines to control the unruly digital consumer.





Online Video Top Priority For Brands in 2015

Marketing Content Strat for VideoThe CMO Council’s latest report shows that the two top priorities for brands in the coming year will be social and online video.

Everyone has been focused on social for a while, of course, and it continues to be a fast-evolving space, but video is rapidly becoming the new challenge for brands–and an opportunity for competitive advantage. Compared to text, video is easier to consume, and, if used in the right context and at the right time, consumers prefer it to other types of messaging.

The value proposition for brands is irresistible:

• Instead of paying a network or TV station to deliver your video, you can make your video “findable” by people who are searching using SEO.

• Many of these videos should live on your Web site, so when you drive people there to see a video, they become the gateway into your entire sales story.

• Videos are also powerful with existing customers for upsell, cross-sell, and retention, and can be triggered with email and even by 1-2-1 sales.

• You can also use paid SEM, buying keywords to drive audience to your videos.

• You can, of course, buy preroll video ads just about anywhere, and use display ads to show or link to your videos

• Videos are also social currency and exactly what people like to share in social networks, so they should become a key component in your social strategy

The list of applications for video includes paid (purchased media) exposure, as well as earned (social/PR) and owned (Web site). But clearly it’s smart to exhaust the opportunities to get free exposure before putting your hand in your pocket.

The challenge is that just putting a video out there doesn’t cut it. To succeed, brands have to make the right videos, tailored for the target audience and context. However, many brands still don’t put the time and money into figuring out what videos they should make, what subjects they should address, what they should say, and how they should say it. And the truth is, video is not right for every situation; often, it is very wrong.

All of those questions can be answered with a good content strategy, which studies the consumer decision journey, the context, competition, and so on. Guessing is really not an option, and only when you have a content strategy to guide you should you move to creative and production.

For example, for one of IQ’s clients we learned that consumers were very uneducated about the buying process. So we researched via organic search to discover the top terms, especially long-tail searches, people used in the buying process. These led to videos designed to address those areas and questions, and which, through good SEO, would attract those searches. Since we know that Google favors videos in natural search results, these videos acted as a lead-generation tool, while, at the same time, filled out the brand story on the Web site and acted as content for marketing automation.

The idea is to make an effective video, but what works? Google considers “good” to be videos that are popular, based on such factors as how much people share your video, as well as how many links connect to it; the more popular, the higher the rank. So the objective is to make videos that your target audience find valuable and want to share. But why is one video more compelling than another? While there’s no simple answer, we do know that there are some general rules for what works, what doesn’t, and how to get it done.

Online, brands need a constant stream of compelling content to stay fresh and relevant to their consumers. The ability, therefore, to quickly create high-quality video on an ongoing basis at a reasonable cost is a key to making video online work. The trouble for many brands and their agencies is that making Web videos is not like making TV commercials. TV spots are produced only a couple of times a year, take months to make, and have very large budgets. They’re just too slow and too expensive for Web video.

As brands turn their focus to delivering fresh, relevant, and compelling online video, they will realize that it’s not as easy as checking a box. That means some will be better than others–some will succeed, while others will fail–but in the end isn’t that what competitive advantage is all about?

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Harpoons, Comets, Risk and Marketing

Marketing risks like unto harpooning a comet.

I was listening to the news this morning and heard the amazing story about the Rosetta spacecraft that has finally caught up with a comet it was sent to chase ten years ago. More unbelievable is that the plan is now to land the spacecraft on the comet by firing harpoons at the surface, which will pull the craft down. By the time you read this we should know if this wild plan was successful.

Clearly somebody 10 years ago had an extraordinary vision. The odds on catching the comet were slim and the odds of getting to the surface even slimmer. But despite that they managed to persuade someone to green light the money. Some cold-hearted, penny-pinching bureaucrat said yes to this outrageous plan. When I think of the small daily battles we have in marketing to get our clients to take risks it makes me feel truly humble.

Risk is of course the route to reward. As we are all told: the greater the risk, the greater the reward. Of course, the safer more predictable an investment, the more likely everyone will be doing it and the less likely it will be to produce a game-changing result. Yet it is that game-changing result that all our clients want, and actually deserve. They want the video that gets millions of viral views, the slogan that’s on everyone’s lips, the app that you simply must have. But at the same time, unlike at Rosetta’s organization, the typical corporate appetite for risk is small. This is nowhere more on display than from watching what’s happening in marketing today.

Companies, understandably, prefer investments in which they can accurately predict their risk. That’s really hard with creative, because how do you quantify the emotional impact of a new idea; it’s much easier with data. As a result you can already see the tremendous interest companies have in data. Already the corporate focus on data has started to squeeze out the focus on creative and originality. Instead of how do we capture people’s imagination, the talk is about programmatic buying, analytics, big data and so on. Companies love the idea of turning marketing into a predictable machine so they jump on all these technology investments in the belief that they will eliminate risk and uncertainty from the equation.

This is all well and good, but it ignores the final step in the journey; making the connection with the person. You note I said the person, not the consumer, because we are all people in the final analysis, not cogs in a giant marketing machine. I’m not saying that data is not valuable. At my agency, for example, we map all the customer touch points, aggregate the data and turn it into insights, which in turn leads us to original creative approaches that are more likely to resonate. Data does not replace the role of creative, but rather makes it smarter.

Data is good at telling us what has already happened and can predict, with some accuracy, what will happen in the future under similar circumstances. The problem is that data isn’t so effective when applied to new ideas. As Steve Jobs, who famously eschewed market research, said “people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” So the secret is in the marriage of data and creativity. Data informs the process of originality and innovation, but is not its master.

Don’t tell that to business today, however. Unfortunately, we are entering a phase in the marketing world where the momentum is to connect all the data silos into one unified system that promises to deliver marketing data Shangri-La. Companies will flock to this idea that data and systems will take the risk out of marketing, and will invest like crazy in platforms to predict and manage every thought consumers have. This will all come at the expense of creativity and in the end, I’m afraid, will still leave them short of that magical connection with the target audience. That will still take something that an algorithm will never produce, a completely original, emotionally impactful, idea, sort of like harpooning a comet.

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The Great Social Media Bait & Switch

The social media free ride is over.

Free Social Ride is Over.

Brands are either hip-deep in social media or in the process of getting there. At the center of it all, of course, has been the astonishing rise of the big social platforms. With millions of users at the ready, brands have jumped into this candy store with both feet.

But now their addiction to the free sugar threatens to backfire: It appears that it’s time to pay the piper.

What’s happening is that Facebook is ratcheting down the number of people who can see a post within a brand’s Facebook community. At the moment, only 2.1 percent to 6.2 percent of a brand’s community will see a brand’s post (see chart, below); according to research conducted in February, the amount may go to zero before too long.

That means those huge communities of “likes,” which brands have spent millions to build, will be worthless unless they buy Facebook ads to reach their fans.

FB Marketing Statistics

Of course, the big social networks need to make money. I suppose they could ask consumers to pay for the privilege of using their platforms, but that wouldn’t go very far.

As Jason Loehr, director of global media and digital marketing at Brown-Forman, which has millions of likes on its Facebook pages, described to Digiday: “This is business, after all. It was more of a wake-up call for the marketer that platforms are a ‘leased’ channel. And there are downsides to renting, not owning.”

Loehr went on to say,“It’s not just them, it’s going to be Instagram, it’s going to be Pinterest, it’s going to be Twitter, it’s going to be all of those guys. At the end of the day, they have shareholders to answer to.”

To add insult to injury, research from Forrester shows that social engagement is much more effective than ads. So what’s a brand to do?


The New Social Marketing

Just because brands might not be able to leverage all of those likes on Facebook for nothing anymore doesn’t mean the social marketing party is over. It also doesn’t mean that brands will be forced to pay for notoriously ineffective Facebook ads. Instead, it signals that brands need to refocus on their own digital ecosystems–all of the pieces of their digital marketing infrastructure that they can control without paying someone else.

The good news is that within a its own ecosystem, brands can still take advantage of the power of social posting to attract new prospects and cultivate rich relationships–all without paying a dime for access.

It also means that “owned” media properties are more important than ever for brands. That includes brand Web sites, mobile sites, apps, content, blogs, CRM, and email. If they haven’t done so yet, the time has come for brands to create their own communities built around the content and functionality they offer on their own properties.

With the social networks devolving into just advertising networks, brands have to first maximize the most effective and efficient media opportunities open to them–their own communities.

The brand Web site lies at the heart of the owned brand ecosystem. It has three missions: It should be where prospects get the most persuasive, comprehensive, personalized pitch; where customers can easily accomplish account tasks, and get social community and knowledge; and it should filter other constituencies, such as investors, employee candidates, and press, and get them to the right place.

The brand Web site is also where a brand should build its CRM database, enable brand ambassadors in social media, and attract natural search with content. It should be the hub of everything a brand does not only because it can be controlled, but because it’s where consumers go anyway. According to the 2013 Nielson “Trust in Advertising” study, brand Web sites have become the most trusted form of advertising.

The idea is to build a system. You start with your Web site, which you populate with content designed to attract search. Search and advertising deliver prospects, who you convert into your sales pipeline or your CRM program. Your CRM program uses email and content to cultivate them over time, and you enable social sharing of that content. The result is a self-sustaining marketing system that you own.


Content Deja Vu

The hardest part about building this system is creating the right content. That includes not just articles, pictures, and videos, but also tools, apps, and functionality. Most marketers have already figured out that content is critical–so much so that the amount of all kinds of content being created is enormous.

The challenge is, therefore, to stand out and create content so compelling, relevant, informative, and entertaining that people will want to share it. To begin, every brand needs to develop a first-class content strategy. This guides what to say to each persona at every touch point, and how to say it. Guessing is not an option.

So perhaps the free ride on social media is almost over. Now we all have to work a little harder for our supper. The good news is brands are all a lot smarter and have the tools and experience to build brand ecosystems that can do the job better than ever before.






4 Reasons to Kiss Your Agency this Valentine’s Day

4 reasons to kiss your agency

If you don’t love your agency, you should. Life’s too short to have an agency that makes you miserable.

The fastest way to marketing bliss, however, is not just a likable agency, but also an agency that has the ability to help your brand win the digitally centric consumer.

It’s amazing to me that digital is still an after-thought for so many, even though it has clearly become the center of the marketing universe. I think it’s just because many agencies and their clients don’t know how to comprehensively go about planning for it, and instead seem to lurch from tactic to tactic.

For example, does your agency exhaust the possibilities of Owned media (websites/mobile/CRM/SEO) and Earned media (social media/content syndication) before they dive into the pricey waters of Paid media (broadcast/print/banners)? Of course, they should.  But before anyone starts worrying about tactics, you first need a strategy that will work.

Today digital is so central that any agency that isn’t developing a digitally centric strategy is living in the past. Whether it’s B2C or B2B, consumers discover, explore, evaluate and decide on brands in digital channels. So even though TV, print and outdoor ads are still important, their role in the orchestrated process of influencing a buying decision has changed.

The reality today for marketers is simple: creative and execution today are worthless unless led by the right strategy; almost invariably now a digitally centric strategy.

So as you consider your Valentine’s list make sure your agency has done the following:

1.     Develop segments and personas for your buyers

The consumer is king and needs to be super-served. So you need to identify your target segments and turn them into personas, which allow you to understand what makes them tick.

2.     Map the Consumer Decision Journey for each persona

The path to purchase and beyond is where brands are made or broken, and it’s packed with influences. The only way to know how to connect with consumers at every step along the way is to understand what is important to them at each juncture; and you have to do it for every major persona because they are all different.

3.     Develop a content strategy

Being in the right place at the right time is the first challenge. Then you have to know exactly what to say in order to be relevant and compelling at that particular moment. Content strategy is the bible for your agency, and tells them what to say and how to say it at every point in the consumer decision journey.

4.     Make a Roadmap and Playbook

When you have personas, a map of their decision journey and have a content strategy in hand, you then need to turn it into a plan. This lays out what you should do and when you should do it in detail. For each tactic it shows the rationale for its inclusion, how it ladders up to the strategy, what specific results and ROI are expected, what it will cost, how performance will be measured, what resources are needed and the dates for development and launch.

Most importantly it prioritizes tactics and initiatives over time recognizing that Rome wasn’t built in a day. It not only covers the campaigns and promotions you need to activate the audience, but also the infrastructure you need to make it all work, from websites to mobile apps and POS.

I couldn’t imagine any client moving forward except in the context of these four steps. I suppose every now and then a brand might bet everything on a spot on the Super Bowl and hit it out of the park, but usually the Hail Mary pass fails.

That’s why there is no substitute for a rigorous, digitally centric strategic process. Nothing delivers a reliable stream of prospects like smart strategy, so if you’ve got one, remember to give your agency a big kiss this Valentine’s Day.

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What’s Social Currency Worth?


It seems Marc Jacobs and his marketers are going to find out. His new pop-up store in New York for his Daisy fragrance doesn’t taking folding money, only social currency. In order to get something like perfume or a necklace you have to send a Tweet or an Instagram photo, or post something on Facebook. Visitors that “pay” with social activity win prizes and the best Instagram pic of the day even gets a purse.

Somehow I don’t think you’re going to be buying a car with a Tweet anytime soon, but this story does point up the value of social currency. Getting customers and prospects to “talk” your brand up in social media is worth a lot. The average person using Facebook and Twitter has hundreds of connections and their connections have connections and so on. It’s the cheapest marketing that money can’t buy.

That’s right, you can’t buy it, the only way to get it is to inspire it and that takes ideas. Marc Jacobs and his crew clearly have some ideas.


Better Late Than Never

The 4A’s just announced that they are discontinuing the “Television Production Cost Survey” after 25 years. The last report recorded an average cost to produce a TV spot of $354,000. It seems that the traditional advertising industry has finally realized they’re not in Kansas anymore.

The internet tornado changed everything a while ago, so the idea that anyone would spend $354,000 on just a TV spot  has not made a lot of sense for some time. Video, however, is just as important (if not more important) than it has ever been, especially since broadband has made it so accessible on the web.

But it hasn’t made sense for years to just produce a TV spot. Now every time a brand spends a dime on production they should be not only producing content for TV commercials, but also for digital channels. That might be videos for YouTube, a website, a mobile app, viral sharing or whatever.  Of course it takes special skills to know how to use content in digital channels, but that’s another story.

The big trick has been to get brands to move from the mindset of “we’re going to make a big,  expensive TV spot once a year” to “let’s produce videos all the time”.  It used to be okay to just produce a TV spot once a year before, but now content, especially video content, gets old as soon as it’s been watched. So the challenge is to produce a stream of fresh, high-quality content without it breaking the bank.

That’s where digital agencies like IQ have had an advantage over our traditional friends. We came out of TV production into the digital world back in 2000. But we never lost our skills, and with a studio, editing, sound design and animation in-house, it’s easy for us to quickly and in-expensively produce the stream of content our clients need.

So it’s good to see the 4As acknowledging that the world has changed, if a tad late. Consumers still want lots of video, it’s just the rare brand that can spend a small fortune on just a TV spot without a strategy for the rest of its media world.

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