A new post:

“By partnering with leaders across departments and teaming marketing efforts with technology capable of deriving the greatest available value from data, CMOs can gain the insights they need to create positive brand interactions across every channel and at every stage of the customer lifecycle.”

Read the full article here.

An article I wrote for CMSWire focused on building a mar-tech stack for success.

“The promise of an all-in-one MarTech solution that opens up new capabilities and accelerates growth is alluring, but it’s rare a single vendor can deliver that.

Not to mention your IT and development counterparts may feel wary of the IT lock-in that can occur with all-in-one solutions.

In reality all marketers (and their teams) will employ a dozen or more vendors to help ensure their B2C e-commerce, B2B partner portal, or other web or mobile-based solution satisfies their customers.”

Read more on CMSWire.

Wire Stone Adds Jason Michaels as Vice President and Managing Director of California Offices

SAN FRANCISCO, CA–(Marketwired – Aug 25, 2016) – Wire Stone, a top-25 independent digital marketing agency, today announced Jason Michaels will serve as vice president and managing director of the company’s California operations. In this role, Michaels is expected to drive growth through client success, operational excellence, and strategic expansion for the agency (which recently acquired Tenthwave Digital).

Read more on Yahoo Finance.

YDesign Group Acquires Lumens, a Leading Multi-Channel Retail Brand in Lighting, Modern Furniture and Home Accessories

YDesign Group, LLC (YDesign Group), today announced a definitive agreement to acquire Lumens, LLC (Lumens), a leading multi-channel retail brand in lighting, modern furniture and home accessories. The Lumens brand will join YLighting, YLiving, and YBath in the YDesign Group portfolio.

Retail leaders with a combined 25-plus years in online commerce, the combination of YDesign Group and Lumens creates new retail leadership in the design-driven lighting, modern furniture, home accessories, and decorative plumbing retail vertical. YDesign Group now has an unparalleled product catalog of over 500 partner brands, a customer base of more than 400,000 trade professional, residential, and commercial customers, and boasts an annual revenue growth rate of more than 24% since 2012.

Read more on PRWeb.

My sister is a Counter Burger fan and frequent air traveler. When I shared on Twitter that she chooses to layover at San Diego International Airport (SAN) because of The Counter, Co-CEO Craig Albert responded. Our initial Twitter exchange was friendly and brief.

Fast forward a few weeks. My sister was again headed to SAN, but risked missing The Counter’s closing time by 15 minutes. I tweeted and Craig immediately took action. We coordinated flight arrival time and burger service with the efficiency and excitement of a lunar landing. The result: a fun tweet stream, a great photo, and a brand advocacy story that’s hard to beat. Here’s the interaction:

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Craig’s tone and communication style is reflected in every Counter Burger touchpoint: on their website, in social media, and behind the sales counter. The company has created one voice – a voice that’s open, human, and fresh – and that obviously resonates with their loyal customers.

Many thanks to Craig and The Counter team.

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The future of retail does not hinge on any one device or technology. The future of retail demands a commitment to the customer experience above all else; technology is simply an enabler for a brand’s contextual and personalized connection to the customer.

The biggest challenge for CMOs and their agencies is threefold:

  1. To engage: create moments that engage, surprise and delight the customer
  2. To bring context and relevance to the customer experience: harness multichannel data to increase engagement and conversion
  3. To drive actionable insight: through data, to derive an accurate view of the successes, failures, and opportunities that new technologies afford the business

What is hype? It depends on your desired business outcomes. If your goal is to be seen as a progressive organization whose use of Google Glass personalizes the customer experience – such as Virgin Airlines use of Glass – then Glass is not hype. If iBeacon successfully delivers incentives and streamlines checkout, then iBeacon is not hype. Hype is a condition of unsuccessful implementations.

I believe that the future of retail can be found at the intersection of personalization, utility, and stopping power, or engagement; to synch the shopper’s journey with the right technology – tools, data inputs, and measured insights – to enrich the shopper’s experience.

What do we know?

“70% of the buying process in a complex sale is already complete by the time prospects interact with a sales person.” – Sirius Decisions Research

“80 percent of people who own three devices switch between devices to complete tasks or activities.” – GfK Market Research

“60% of Millennials are already willing to provide their details about their personal preferences and habits with marketers.” – Mintel

“For Starbucks, more than 11 percent of transactions per week are now happening with a mobile device in-store.” – Starbucks

“I say that my job here is 10 times harder and 100 times more interesting than it was 3 years ago.” – Carolyn Feinstein, SVP of Global Consumer Marketing for Electronic Arts

Who will clean up the multichannel data mess? Clients are experimenting with new roles such as the Chief Omnichannel Officer, or “COCO” for short. Apparel retailer “Finish Line” installed its first COCO this year. His (in this case) job is not to tie together customer data one API at a time, but to be a strong marketing and digital leader – to be accountable and responsible for the customer experience across the multichannel retail landscape.

Where and when is the transition from experimentation to practical implementation? That time is now. What we’re experiencing is the Big Bang of data, technology, design, and customer experience. The question is whether your organization is ready to create a strategic planet for these elements or if you’re going to end up with a lot of hot air.

The ad agency industry is a powerful ideation and ROI machine. It’s no wonder that clients and traditional consultancies want a piece of the action. Here are three trends that I see happening right now:

  1. Large clients are creating in house “agencies” as a way to get closer to the customer (and their data). These in-house agencies are also taking over social media responsibilities for the firm and its brands.
  2. Business transformation firms like Deloitte are acquiring ad agencies to complement their current services with marketing transformation data and services, e.g., social metrics, analytics, and creative.
  3. Mid-sized agencies are combining off-the-shelf measurement applications – or are doubling down on suite proficiency, e.g., Adobe Marketing Suite – to demonstrate greater ROI to their clients.

What are you seeing in Adland?

I am pleased to have my voice heard here. Many thanks to @colincampbellx for reaching out.

“Why do some people post negative reviews online, of games they have never played and have no intention of ever playing?

New research into reviewing habits online reveals the motivations of consumers who rate products they haven’t actually experienced. It helps us understand why such things happen in gaming.”

Read more by @colincampbellx at Polygon.com.

Choice is now available locally and globally on and offline for pretty much any good or service a consumer could want. This is both an opportunity and a challenge for brands looking to reach customers across the device universe (mobile, desktop, tablet, gadget, etc.).

Marketers have better access to customers, but customers are better informed as they go into purchasing mode. Comparison shopping, product forums, social media, and other information sources have given the consumer the ability to make informed decisions before, as well as at the point of purchase.

As a result, brands can no longer solely dictate pricing and product delivery timetables – their customers are playing an active and real-time role. Social media, showroom price matching, and price comparison marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon make it difficult for any brand that’s not dictating MAP (minimized advertised price) to be undersold or commoditized.

Here are a few examples:

  • In the B2C world, 66 percent of Moms say that the Internet has changed the way they get information about products, but this savvy comes with caveats. They want to initiate the conversation. Source
  • In the B2B world, 70 percent of B2B tech buyers surveyed said that the amount of budget spent electronically would increase if it were easier and more convenient to browse and purchase items directly from suppliers and their websites. Source
  • Then there are the Internet-born brands such as Warby Parker and others that are making costs and benefits more transparent, disrupting traditional retail margins. Eyewear was a market ripe for disruption. B2C lighting and plumbing supplies are markets currently being disrupted. Source

What does this mean for marketers? It means that brand narrative, data-aided personalization, rich product information, and access to company experts is more critical than ever before. It means that integrated marketing is here to stay.

The minute you accept that your brand or product is replaceable is the moment you start working on great things like positioning, merchandising, packaging, product development, measurement, and an integrated marketing approach. This is the time when you start thinking about how to surprise and delight customers and obsessing about how to remove friction from the buying process. This is when the product finds its voice, and you as the marketer find your power.

Public relations firms such as FeishmanHillard are moving toward an integrated service offering, but as a senior PR contact posited to me earlier today, will FH’s Omnicom agency partners welcome this new quasi-competitor?

Call it “integrated communications” or “integrated marketing,” the transition will not be easy. As Dave Senay, president and chief executive at FleishmanHillard in St. Louis, pointed out: “About a third are turned on by” the new vision, “about a third will go along with it and about a third will not get it.”

Why are single-focus PR, social, mobile, and traditional agencies affected so deeply by the digital r/evolution? The modes and mediums by which we market have changed dramatically in less than five years, e.g., mobile, social, apps, and data influence. Data can now inform (and complicate) a multitude of related independent and interdependent channels. Long gone is the traditional purchase funnel … and long live the analytics and measurement industry.

Welcome the new marketing mavens. Call them Math Men and Women, strategists, data scientists, … these are the principles and collectives (agencies or otherwise) that understand how to harness the integrated marketing ecosystem. They ground their recommendations in strategy and planning (an understanding of the customer), manifest them in effective creative, build them with tech, and measure them in analytics.

And while traditional PR agencies and large holding companies reconfigure (along with mobile- and social-only shops) to serve this brave new marketing world, agencies that were born digital – that were built for media integration – had better maintain their sprint. Everyone is gunning for the leader, and right now the leaders aren’t the biggest or most specialized agencies; the leaders are scaling to meet the increasing demand for integrated services.

Read the article that inspired this post at nytimes.com.