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Some key takeaways for marketers from CES 2017

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Renowned tech expert Shelly Palmer called CES 2017 “the most important CES probably in the last 20 years.” That’s no small claim considering the groundbreaking, now ubiquitous products that have debuted at the tradeshow in the past two decades, such as DVDs, HDTVs and DVRs.

One reason he believes it was such a landmark event was that it served as a stark reminder for marketers that the velocity of data is increasing, and it will never let up from its torrid pace. Let’s look at three technology trends that emerged from the show impacting marketers in this regard.

Digital Assistants
While CES provided a glimpse at the impending arrival of a more automated economy through self-driving cars, there were also a number of technologies that are transforming consumers’ lives today. By most accounts, the one that took center stage was Amazon Alexa, the company’s voice control service. Alexa seemed to be omnipresent at the show — Palmer estimated there were more than 1,000 products touting an Alexa integration on the floor.

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In 2017, whip your data into shape

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It’s that time of year when everyone is talking New Year, New You. New beginnings, changes in fortune, and for marketers another chance to achieve our “omnichannel” dreams.

Our inboxes will soon be flooded with Key Marketing Trends for 2017, State of the Industry Reports, Statistical Fact Books, 2017 Industry Previews and the like. We will feel the stress of looking back at our past campaigns and determining our success rates. What went right? What went wrong? Was our creative on point? Did we generate revenue? And we will begin asking ourselves what to do to bring marketing to the next level – reaching for the holy grail of “omnichannel.” How does one engage with customers and prospects across channels with consistent messaging without being annoying?

Start with the basics: current, correct and clean data Read More

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Reach out and cuss someone: what Gen Z calling habits reveal about changing customer experience

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Will Gen Z be the first generation to go all digital? Or will they react prosaically, even crassly, to make a point when brands aren’t meeting their expectations?

Perhaps surprisingly, a new Marchex study shows that Gen Z young’uns, the first truly digital native group, actually like to talk to businesses on the phone. In fact, the study reported that they have “a much higher tendency to make old-fashioned phone calls to businesses they found online than any other age group.” Another finding? That many don’t hesitate to curse at lackluster agents when needs aren’t immediately met.

The topic of this post, however, isn’t about the decline of good manners – it’s about the much-probed customer experience. Namely, letting customers engage with your brand relevantly and seamlessly. For omnichannel marketers, these words are a kind of mantra. As we’ll see, Gen Z calling habits suggest that we might want to add “human” to our industry chants.
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The data monetization dilemma

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It’s time to face facts. Data has value, you know it, and I know it. With economic turbulence not likely to settle any time soon nor, for that matter, the rate of innovation in our industry, businesses have to be ever more creative in making money with their assets and one of the fastest appreciating is customer data. The value a brand’s data has to another or to an intermediary like Acxiom who can help them monetize it is now something most senior marketers simply have to have a stance on. The thing is, while everyone seems to be interested in it, far fewer are willing to openly admit to practice it or claim to have mastered it. So why is this?

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Creating legendary customer service between a brand and its sellers

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The world of insurance can be very challenging to understand and very confusing, especially when you look at a company that utilizes an agent-type model. There is one question that always seems to come up as it relates to that model – “Who owns the customer? Is it the agent or the brand?” There are mixed thoughts depending on which carrier you ask.

In my opinion, they both own the customer. We are all in business to help our customers prevent claims or help restore what is lost in a claim. It’s our job as agents and carriers to service that customer and provide the best experience possible while they are connected to the brand, especially when one of the pieces might not be hitting the mark with the customer.

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Identify the customer, and make the journey worth it

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If you were in the vacation travel business, you’d get to know your customers before sending them on a journey to Argentina. Some would want urbane Buenos Aires, others wild Patagonia or the ski slopes of Bariloche, and others with the time and money might want a bit of each.

Minor detail: you’d also want to know they reached their destinations.

Knowing the consumer and watching the routes he or she takes is just as smart for marketers creating customer journeys. Here’s some good news: privacy-compliant identity resolution now enables a better journey for consumers and brands alike.

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Marketing lessons from the 2016 presidential election: Contextualizing Identity

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Do you leverage consumer identity to drive meaningful engagement? Or are you actually eroding the customer experience because of poor identity resolution?

There has been a lot of post-election reporting on the place identity politics played in the 2016 campaign, primarily how it further divided many Americans. Today I’ll focus on how an oversimplification of identity could be a lesson for brand marketers as they evolve and ideally recalibrate their customer engagement strategies for 2017 and beyond.

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Five simple rules for the ethical use of data (Part four of four)

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How do you capture the attention of an audience that’s already being bombarded by hundreds of other marketers trying to attract their attention?

This is the fundamental question every marketer needs to confront. The answer is straightforward: create more personalized and relevant experiences. And the way to do that is with data-driven marketing. It’s proven to deliver tangible results in customer engagement, loyalty, and market growth. In fact, leaders in this area are almost three times more likely to have increased revenues.

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Infographic: Spending & Giving

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It’s no surprise that Americans spend big on Cyber Monday. But we also give big to charitable causes all year long. Thirty-six percent of Americans planned to shop online yesterday —and nearly as many, 33 percent, plan to make charitable donations during the course of the year. This infographic shows you key trends in spending and giving.

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Handling sensitive data with sensible processes (Part three of four)

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Data-driven practices are no longer the exception to the rule. They’re the gold standard of marketing, helping organizations gain better knowledge of their customers and prospects to provide more value and realize greater ROI. Marketing success in 2016 and beyond depends on the ability to combine different types of data to create a full and detailed picture of your target audience. And, in doing so, navigating the minefield that comes with combining data, analyzing data and the potential creation of sensitive data.

Combining data

In the early days of data-driven marketing, organizations relied on first-party data; normally consisting of personally identifiable information actively provided by customers such as addresses, phone numbers, etc. So you knew John Doe, who lived on Main Street, had bought a new pair of boots from you. You had his telephone number, so you could call and let him know about new inventory. You could also mail him a leaflet with your latest offers.

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Give Thanks Through A Digital Detox

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Despite being a “Brit,” I too am reminded at this time of the year to be thankful for so much. However, I do bemoan the absence of one particular experience that so far has eluded me. You see, my bucket list includes experiencing a traditional Thanksgiving with an American family. And since I’ve worked for an American company for 20 years, you’d have thought I’d have nailed this one by now. But, alas, no.

The allure probably comes from idyllic representations on TV and in film, perhaps my favourite being Del and Neal’s unshakeable quest to make it home for Thanksgiving by fair means or, foul. I was going to say fowl but resisted the urge. However, ironically, the joy of Thanksgivings and all kinds of gatherings of friends and families the world over are at risk, owing to the digital technology we’re so thankful to have.

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What kind of data do brands collect and how? (Part two of four)

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What data brands collect today and how

Enormous data growth is raising big questions when it comes to the ethics of data-driven marketing. With customers sharing more and more of their data, and that data growing more and more personal— details about location, fitness, and recently even DNA—the onus is on brands to make sure data is collected, combined and used in ways that delight customers without compromising expectations of privacy.

Acting transparently is a big part of this, saying to your customers ‘this is where the information came from, this is how we will use it, and this is how it will benefit you’. But with data arriving from more sources, in more ways than ever before, keeping up is often easier said than done.
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New Forrester Report Brings Identity Resolution to the Forefront

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Smart marketers realize that to know the customer, you must be able to recognize them first. And to recognize them, you need identity resolution capabilities.

Identity resolution helps you connect the dots. It is the process of connecting the hundreds of identifiers used by different channels, platforms and devices in near real-time, so marketers and the companies that support them — agencies, technology platforms, data owners and publishers — can tie them all back to the same person with confidence. Doing this in a deterministic, privacy-compliant manner is the only way to enable true people-based targeting, measurement and personalization. Read More

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Why is ethical data use important? (Part one of four)

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Welcome to the World of Data-Driven Everything. 

We now live in a world of data-driven everything, and it’s an exciting place to be for consumers and marketers alike. From ordering an Uber to catching Pokémon, from intelligent fridges to cars that show you the way home (or even drive you there). It’s a world of ultimate data-driven convenience for consumers. But with these new levels of experience for consumers, come new levels of responsibility for brands. After all, once data is let out of the bottle, there’s sometimes no getting it back in.

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Who Will Decide Health Insurance Winners and Losers? Part III

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Winners will close the gaps by leveraging strengths and addressing weaknesses, while losers will confront them through attempts to control opportunities and by using threats.

In my role at Acxiom I regularly attend health technology conferences where participants in a substantial number of the keynote and panel sessions share perspectives on how consumers will shape the future of our nation’s healthcare system. A common point speakers make is that consumer expectations are to be able to interact and conduct commerce digitally and that the bar is set by tech titans such as Amazon, Apple and Google. While it’s an easy point to make since it resonates so intuitively with the crowd, rarely does the audience get a succinct explanation as to how and why. In the last in a three-part call-to-action, I encourage further exploration of this point, which is critical to filling one of the major gaps in the tech-enabled modernization of healthcare.

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Gaming the Banking System

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Traditional banks are not nearly as important to many millennials as they are to older generations. When choosing brands, millennials focus on added value and technological simplicity. They also happen to be a generation of video game players. From PCs, to consoles, and even phones, video games are a daily part of the lives of many of them. In 2015, video game giant EA reported revenue of $4.5 billion while Nintendo generated $4.6 billion. On July 6, Niantic released Pokémon-GO, which has since been downloaded more than 100 million times. This is a fantastic example of the reach video games have.

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The Sights and Sounds from New York Advertising Week 2016

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Most of the year, Times Square is a place where New Yorkers avoid going at all costs. Except for last week, when “the brightest leaders from the marketing and entertainment industry” – including many New Yorkers – joined together at The TimesCenter and nearby venues for New York Advertising Week 2016.

For the practicing marketers among us, the main attraction of this annual event is the chance to see and hear senior representatives from every part of the industry share their perspectives and prognostications in lively discourse.

Acxiom’s CEO, Scott Howe, participated in a panel discussion on the evolution of programmatic ad buying over the last 10 years and where it’s going. The panelists – who also included Tim Cadogan, CEO of OpenX; Gregory Raifman from Rubicon Project; Mark Zagorski from Nielsen; and Eric Franci, co-founder of Undertone – all agreed on what programmatic has accomplished so far, but what was their vision for where we’re going from here?

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Advanced TV: Ready For Omnichannel Integration

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Eric Schmitt, Acxiom’s TV and Digital Ad Tech Leader presenting at AdExchanger’s Omni.Digital on September 7th, 2016. Market adoption of data-driven, advanced TV advertising is scaling fast and standard audience segments and measurement can now be activated across TV, digital and direct channels. This video discusses addressable TV, data-driven linear, and digital + TV across targeting, planning and measurement, with practical recommendations and best practices based on real-world case studies.

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Enabling Your Teams to Build Data-Driven Products and Services

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At New York Advertising Week yesterday, I attended “Ways to Simplify the Ecosystem”, a panel session hosted by Dana Hayes, Group VP and head of Global Partner Development at Acxiom. It was a lively and informative session that touched on the subject of how prepared marketers and their organizations are to extract useful customer insights from the volumes of data now available. In the Q&A session, a woman working on the creative side asked an excellent question. In summary, she said, data scientists are backwards looking and analytical; creatives are forward looking and visual. How do you get these two teams to work well together given they have trouble communicating with each other?

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What’s not to like? Lazy marketing.

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In 1979, Gary Numan’s Tubeway Army asked ‘Are Friends Electric?’ and today I can answer their question, ‘No, no they’re not, but they are annoying at times.’

We all know the phrase ‘You can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.’ That’s true, of course, but my advice to  younger readers, or those looking to swap out a few friends that may be annoying for reasons you don’t fully understand, is to add this question to your checklist: ‘Will you tell me I like things I don’t, especially food?’

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Innovation & Emotional Safety PART II

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In my last post, I spoke about two topics – the quiet I in “Teiam” and the need to create a work environment that is emotionally safe. The former rewards individuals for expressing their unique creativity within the larger team – “I” had this cool idea that made the team successful, not “we”. Creativity is not a “we” act; it is an “I” act and needs to be valued as such. The latter allows individuals to feel comfortable taking the reputation risks involved in being creative and inventive. I also promised to explain actions you can take as a manager to create an environment that provides for both of these features that are key to creativity in teams, which is the focus of this post.

So what actions can you take as a manager to create an emotionally-safe environment? Here are some specific suggestions:

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Omni-Channel?

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“Omni-Channel”. That’s a great-sounding phrase, isn’t it? It’s big. It’s powerful. It evokes hope in the future of Consumer Experience and alludes to the payoff for advertisers of all the online/offline data and technology we, our partners and competitors have been telling them about. For years now, we and our clients have been saying that we either are omni-channel, are becoming omni-channel, or will become omni-channel. It’s practically table stakes to say that phrase or something related at least five times per day.

But what does it really mean? Do we even know what we’re saying when we utter those words? Do our clients know what it means when they say they want to be, “omni-channel?” What about omni-channel’s ancestors, Cross-channel, Multi-channel, and (bless its stone-age heart) Single-channel? And finally, if we are truly being honest with ourselves, which of these are we?

Foundational questions, all. Let’s spend a few minutes digging in to them and see if we can’t learn something about how we engage our clients and lead them on the journey to the Consumer Experience future they desire.

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Clouds, Lakes, Gardens and Data (and customers)

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Well of course, customers should come first – but that would have been a rather bland title, wouldn’t it? Still, I believe they do come first, and happily increasingly so, as I explained in my last blog. However, in that same blog whilst I did recognise that the ‘how’ of serving customer needs is still important, it just mustn’t overtake the ‘what’ in terms of focusing on the outcome first. So, building on an acceptance that the modern consumer world relies on data in the same way the living world relies on water, it’s worth considering an important aspect of the ‘how’. Which brings me to clouds, lakes and gardens.

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Rules to Win the Game

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Most people have one favorite basketball team; I happen to have two. I would not be a true Clevelander if I didn’t say that one of them is the Cavs. Why not? They were on fire this year, regardless of how the finals turn out. My second favorite team is the Washington Wizards. I don’t have a clue what their record is, nor do I watch the games. What makes them a favorite of mine is the leadership they have brought on board in the past, particularly the former President, Susan O’Malley. Susan has changed how they play the game both on and off the court.

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Innovation & Emotional Safety PART I

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One of my favorite management topics is the importance of emotional safety as a foundation to driving creativity in individuals and innovation in teams. To begin, let me deal with a related issue that is one of the great modern fallacies regarding teamwork: the phrase “There is no ‘I’ in team.” The implication is that the individual and their ego have no place in productive teams focused on a goal. Everything that is achieved is achieved by the team; every failure is a failure of the team. No one person is above or outside of this band of equals and, to bring one’s individuality into a discussion, whether within the team or when discussing results outside the team, is both inappropriate and counterproductive. Read More

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The Marketing Database and Me

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In a recent conversation with Simon Chatfield, head of Ecommerce and CRM at Heathrow Airport and one of our most valued clients I was stunned that the words ‘marketing database’ were never uttered once by either of us. Which is odd, considering we talked for two hours and the fact that a marketing database is central to the Heathrow solution and story.

The reality is, what matters to Heathrow and to their customers is not how something happens, it’s what happens: the outcomes. What matters to all brands is growth and profitability, which can only come from happy customers who have had and who look forward to further happy customer experiences. Today, that can only come from great data-driven marketing, and it may rely on things like marketing databases, but I’m very pleased to say I feel a shift to what matters most, customer outcomes. Long may it continue! Read More

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Bridging the TV and Digital Divide

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It’s been a long time coming, but the audience-based buying and selling of premium video advertising is finally beginning to unfold at scaleRight now, addressable TV is the hottest use case, and for good reason: more than 40 million US homes can now be reached via one-to-one ads on the big screen in their living room. This means that two neighbors can be watching the exact same program at the same time, and one might see an ad for an electric vehicle, while the other gets a spot promoting a wireless carrier.

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Time for a Marketing Remodel?

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Last year, we bought an old condo near Chicago’s lakefront. Perfect location, ideal size, great bones. It just needs a good remodel. Thankfully, we’re overly practical and did some investigating before buying all our shiny new tiles and fixtures. The electrical lines were 100 years old, pipes needed to be updated, and the original wood windows were rotting out from neglect. It pushed our timeline and budget back about a year, but taking the time to find and update these critical improvements first saved us from creating a pretty but poorly functioning home. What good is a kitchen full of fancy new appliances if your electrical panel can’t handle the load?

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Defining Innovation and Creativity

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My previous post about innovation was about the personality types needed to make up a team with a high likelihood of succeeding at innovation. But that begs the question: what is innovation? What do we mean when we say a team or organization is innovative? We speak about individuals being innovative, but we are just as likely to say they are creative and intend the same meaning. We tend to do the same for teams, although less so. And for organizations it is rare to talk about a “creative organization” vs. an innovation one.

So are creativity and innovation the same thing? And if not, how are they different? What does that mean for how we approach building an innovative organization?

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Start Your Engines…

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Insurance as we know it is about to go from 0 to 60 in record time. ADAPT or be left at the starting line.

I want you to think back to the first time you ever heard the word “insurance.” Is there a memory that comes to mind? For me it’s vague, but I do remember a gray-haired, older gentlemen sitting at our kitchen table trying to sell my parents some kind of expensive thing called a Whole Life Insurance policy. I had no concept of what it was. Come to think of it, I am pretty sure my parents had no clue what it was either. I just remember this gentlemen saying “It’s a good investment. Everyone should have it. By the way, I also sell auto insurance. Tell all your friends.” He left them with a stack of literature that seemed nothing more than mumbo-jumbo and looked very foreign. He told them he would stop by or call them later that week to see if they were interested or had questions. He was the classic encyclopedia/vacuum cleaner salesman that used to go door-to-door, but many of you are probably too young to remember that!

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