Content Marketing Stacks – Do We Need A Universal Framework?

So, you wanna be a CMO? Great, I’m sure you’ve got a lot of creative ideas, but being a marketer today means being able to get your head around a plethora of tools, platforms and services all built to help you and your team do your jobs faster and more efficiently. Sounds great, right? Well, there’s a little problem. The Marketing Tech ecosystem is completely out of control. Scott Brinker, co-founder over at Ion Interactive blogs about this from his Chief Martec site and earlier this year he dropped the Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic on us:

Marketing Stack

The Marketing Technology Landscape Supergraphic has 1,876 vendors listed.

Still want to be a CMO? Because it’s cool if you want to bail out now, I get it. But let’s say you’re determined to stick it out and make a go of it. Fantastic.  In fact, I’ve got a little something that might help. In my role as Head of Global Marketing at Unmetric I have to deal with this stuff every day. So, before I headed off to the MarTech Conference this year  I asked 10 experts for advice on building a Marketing Stack. These pros represent a new breed of marketer that more accurately might be called CMTOs – Chief Marketing Technology Officers. These people may still be outliers, though I don’t think so, but they certainly won’t be for long:

 

The Rise of the CMTO

The Rise of the CMTO

Now, putting these pieces together, a couple of things need to happen. First, we’ve got to see a shakeout. 1,876 vendors is just too many. Consolidation and the law of survival of the fittest should take care of this. But there’s something else that I think we need to see maturity in and that’s the way we collectively think about marketing technology.  Let’s go back to Scott Brinker, and his recently concluded “Stackies.” Scott asked marketers to visually represent their marketing stacks and share them with his audience. It’s a fun idea, but it also reveals some interesting insights.

While the growth of the CMO service industry has exploded, it may have outraced our collective ability to discuss it. The entries Scott received, and I encourage you to study them, run the gamut:

 

I caught up with Scott via email to get his take on the various entries. I asked him if he thought a more formalized framework was necessary and he didn’t think that was necessarily the case at this time:

I was very interested to see how different marketers conceived of their marketing technology stacks. I think it’s important to note that these are not necessarily technical diagrams — actually, most of them aren’t. It’s more conceptual. The high variance among them, I believe, mostly speaks to the different businesses, markets, strategies and processes represented among them.

I think some are probably more helpful than others in communicating their core concept and aligning their technology, process, and strategy. But I’m not sure that the lack of an established visualization is a significant concern at this stage. Hopefully, through sharing of stacks like this, we will start to converge on some best practices.

 

Scott brings up fair points, and I certainly respect his knowledge in this area. I do however think our ‘grammar’ needs to coalesce around some sort of standard for mapping out a marketing stack.  Having a certain established and accepted way of talking about this, visually, would be of great help to everyone. Sure, one company’s needs are going to vary from that of another, and you may not be able to create a single universal ‘one-size-fits-all’ form, but having some type of structure would allow those just building stacks to have a sorely needed foundation.

While I don’t have an answer for this issue, I would like to put forth the elements I think are key in the development of this framework. Any visualization would have to take into account the following:

  • Interconnectivity – Where is the handoff made from one tool to the next? Understanding these connections highlights the need for smooth integration as well. If you have great tools that don’t work well together, you’re going to be in trouble. A framework helps work this out in advance. You don’t want to find out Tool A and Tool B don’t speak the same language after you’ve made that 12 month commitment.
  • Customer Journey – Related to the above, not only should you understand the connections between the tools, but also how they connect to the customer. This will help when you are building your marketing strategy. Understanding the order in which a prospect sees your search ad, landing page, retargeting ad, email, etc. can help ensure you are properly moving them through the funnel with a coherent message.
  •  Future-proof – Chances are the marketing stack you build today will be different than the one you have in 16 months. Don’t build a framework that fits together so tightly that it leaves no room adaptability. If you remove one piece as the features of another grow, will you still have a coherent system?
  • Elegance – If your framework is so convoluted that you can’t make heads or tails of it, it’s not much good to you. This is often overlooked by non-coders who tend to believe that complexity connotes intelligence. In fact, a simple, clean and easy to scan framework will be the most helpful. On some levels this is the hardest element. Taking what is potentially a very complicated issue and keeping it from becoming something unmanageable.
  • Aesthetics/Design – Different than Elegance, aesthetics is more about form and less about function. Font/logo size, color-coding, shapes, lines… all these things play an important part in putting together a framework as well. Even the best thought out system will suffer without proper consideration given to design.

If you’ve got a great idea for designing a marketing technology stack framework, I’d love to hear from you.

Should a Fast Food Outlet Employ an All You Can Eat Strategy in Social Media?

Burger King Norway has decided to “Think Outside The Bun” when it comes to social media. Wait, that’s Taco Bell’s tagline. Ok, let’s just say BK Norway is taking a decidedly unconventional approach in regards to their Facebook page. FastCo.Create has the details. The short version is that BK Norway offered followers to their Facebook page a coupon for a free Big Mac – the key product of their chief rival! – to those people who would unfollow BK Norway. That’s right, they gave away somebody else’s signature item in an effort to lose followers. Why on Earth would they do that?

Social Media strategy, brand loyalty and community engagement all put to the test

Social Media strategy, brand loyalty and community engagement all put to the test

Here’s the thing about Facebook “likes,” especially for brands: Likes are a cheap, and I would say frequently arbitrary and misleading metric. Especially when you lure an audience with free goodies and coupons. Those are fans of your brand, those are fans of a brand called “Gimme Free Stuff.” Listen to what Burger King Scandinavia marketing director Sven Hars said in explaining the rationale for the move:

“This campaign gave us the opportunity to get rid of all the fans that just liked us because of freebies,” says Hars. “We stopped focusing on how many likes we had, and put time and resources into finding out what to talk about and how to engage our fans.”

Bingo. Several key insights here. Let’s break ’em down:

1. They got rid of the “fans” that were just there because of the freebies.

Those people are going to be nothing but a drain on resources. They’ll want to know when they are getting their free food, and then they’ll likely complain about the quality when they do — both in public. Don’t believe me? Go ask TGI Friday’s.

2. They stopped focusing on “likes.”

Quick, go to your Facebook profile and review the brands you’ve “liked.” My bet is that you can’t remember ever “liking” about 30% of them, you have patronized another 30% in the last year (or ever) and then there’s another 30% that you do use/buy, but their Facebook presence has nothing to do with it. Focusing on “likes” is a never-ending race to nowhere. What’s a successful number of “likes” to have? One million? Ten million? Who knows. Likes are a result of doing the right thing, not a means to and ends.

3. They decided to do some research and focus on the people who matter

Most brands, especially in this category, just pump out product promotions, but Facebook – and by extension social media – isn’t, or at least shouldn’t, be about that. It should be about understanding how people live, what they really want, and being part of culture. Then figure how your brand (not your product) fits in.

Yes, BK Norway has a lot fewer fans on their Facebook page. But these are people who, when given the choice, declared they would prefer to stay loyal to Burger King over their chief rival. Now BK has set up an us vs. them situation, just the type of thing that can be the catalyst for building a true community.  Again, here’s Hars on the results of the move…

 “There are so many more conversations going on between both us and the fans, and the fans in general,” he says. “Focus on quality for us has led to a dedicated and loyal fan base, and has also made it easier for our fans to connect to the brand.”

Conversations are a better way of measuring than mere “likes.” In a category where quantity usually trumps quality, at least when it comes to products, it’s great to see a brand focus on the latter.

8 Tips for Hashtags

Digiday’s Saya Weissman has a piece today talking about brands and hashtags. It’s a good piece and a strong reminder that brands employing a GMOOT (Give Me One Of Those) strategy will often be disappointed in the results. So, with that in mind, here are 8 things to remember when thinking about using hashtags as part of your communications strategy:

1. Keep the consumer in mind

Ask yourself the following:

  • Would I use that hashtag?
  • In what context?
  • How does it connect to my life?
  • How often would I use it?
  • Is this hashtag just our strapline, or does it mean something more?

If you’re going to implement a hashtag and it’s only serving the brand I think you’re going to be in trouble.

2. Do you really need to create a new hashtag?

Every day there are tons of existing and new hashtags being tweeted, is yours adding anything new or different to the cacophony? Maybe it would be better just to engage people around hashtags they are already using. Check out hashtags.org to see what’s already going on.

3. Is this hashtag going to be hijacked?

There is no excuse at this point for a brand to be surprised when something like this happens. A hashtag is a type of user generated content and we’ve seen time and time again what happens when brands open up like this. So ask yourself, is your brand currently facing some dicey PR issues?

4. Understand culture

Before launching your hashtag make sure you’ve done a cultural audit. If you’re ad campaign shows to young women sharing a delicious, fresh-brewed tea, #2Girls1Cup is a very bad idea.

5. Connect to culture

The Super Bowl (all sports really), reality programming and awards shows tend to generate a lot of activity on Twitter. How can you leverage this with your hashtag?

6. Support your hashtag

In some ways a hashtag is more like a product itself than a communication tactic. You have to promote it with earned, owned and paid media if you want to see it grow roots and thrive.

7. What’s the longterm plan?

You’re putting a lot of effort into making a hashtag work, but is this campaign only going to last a day or a few weeks? Think about the longterm viability of your hashtag.

8. For God’s sake, measure!

Whatever you do, don’t go to all the trouble of creating a whole plan without having a measurement plan. Understand what you’re trying to accomplish with this hashtag. What does success look like? Use something like Hashtracking to get some analytics on your efforts.

My Son the Achievement Hunter

I love my job. I love it because I get to think about what incidents like last night’s might mean. Maybe this one is meaningless, but my hunch is that my friend Grant McCracken would see something interesting in it. Here’s what happened:

My 14-year old son was excitedly showing off a new t-shirt he just acquired:

That's the shirt, but that's not my son. My 14-year old doesn't have tats.

That’s the shirt, but that’s not my son. My 14-year old doesn’t have tats.

So, kind of an odd shirt, right? Some dude with a full beard and glasses, and the semi-cryptic, pseudo-aspirational ‘achieve.’  The image is a representation of Jack Pattillo, Editor of Achievement Hunter at Rooster Teeth Productions. Yes, I recognize that ‘Editor of Achievement Hunter at Rooster Teeth Productions’ means absolutely nothing to you. Rooster Teeth are one of those companies that didn’t, couldn’t, exist in the previous century.  Their YouTube channel boasts over 3 million subscribers and over 1 billion views!

Rooster Teeth are one of those 21st century companies that is shaping our culture in stealth mode – at least as far as the mainstream understanding of culture goes. But here’s the thing that I really found amazing in talking with my son. As I did a Google search for Jack Patillo his LinkedIn page came up so I clicked on it. As I was looking at it my son noticed the “People Also Viewed” group on the right hand side of Jack’s page. My son pointed to every single person on the list, all Rooster Teeth employee’s, and said, “I know who that is.”

Producers, web designers, VPs, show creators, you name it, my son could have told me all about them. What sort of advantages does this give Rooster Teeth? In building a relationship with their fans, in recruiting talent, in building a larger audience? I’m not sure but when I was my son’s age the only employee at a company that I would have known was Tinker Hatfield, the shoe designer from Nike. Yeah, I was that much of a Nike nut then.

From a marketing perspective I see the vast, yawning cultural chasm between the current C-Suiters and the kids that are my son’s age. Next time you are talking to a brand manager ask them about companies/people like Rooster Teeth, Valve, Tobuscus, Minecraft or Freddie W. My guess is you’ll get blank stares. In the next couple of years you’re going to see an explosion of brands and media companies (there’s a difference?) that will catch those in charge by complete surprise. It’s going to be fun to watch if you’re on the right side of things, but very messy if you’re not.

Don’t focus on Social Media, focus on shareable ideas

What exactly is “social media?” By one definition, it is “the use of web-based and mobile technologies to turn communication into interactive dialogue.” True, but what if I share a graphic novel with a friend, and over lunch we have a discussion about it? Perhaps we haven’t fulfilled the first part, but we’ve certainly generated interactive dialogue.

So the question is, are you more worried about the former or the latter? If you’re focused on web-based and mobile technologies, here’s what you’re going to end up doing:

  • Measuring how many Facebook “likes” your status update received
  • Checking your Twitter followers
  • Seeing how many people circled you in Google+
  • Counting how many Foursquare badges you have

Now here’s my question: What do those have to do with your brand? Unless you’re in the selling Google+ circles or Facebook Likes business, probably nothing.

But what about the other half of that definition? The interactive dialogue part. That has plenty to do with your brand. If you’re interested in developing that, then you are interested in fostering:

  • Product reviews
  • Roundtable discussions
  • Heated debate
  • Recommendations

These are softer metrics. Qualitative metrics rather than the merely quantitative. These support opinion, passion and preference – things that are shareable. So what are you doing to generate those? When you run promotions to get people to “like” you on Facebook, you’re not generating shareable ideas.  When you offer a 10% discount just for checking in on Foursquare, you’re not generating shareable ideas.  Instead, try something like this:

  • Post something provocative on your Facebook page, and give a prize to the comment that receives the most “likes”
  • Create a hashtag on Twitter and reward everyone who uses it with a coupon
  • Got a product on Amazon? Challenge your customers to write a review in haiku format
  • Own a restaurant? Offer to ut the best Yelp review on your menu
  • Reward people on quora.com with the highest rated responses to a question in your industry with an opportunity to write a guest post on your blog

You could probably think of a dozen more. The point is, these all create shareable content that is relevant to your business. But more importantly, don’t become fixated on the platform. Create a print publication or a physical badge instead of a digital one. Reward people with content that can be shared in more intimate, personal ways, not just via a Twitter blast.