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:

Screen Shot 2015-06-22 at 4.47.10 PM

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.

CHmIKheWgAAYxnV

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.

Most Fortune 500 company websites do a great job telling you what the firm is selling. But guess what? Customers don’t care. They’re looking for outcomes, to fill a need or get smart, and to then either request more information or get on with their day.

Instead of simply listing what you sell, extrapolate through to “the why.” In example, you sell software. For whom? Medical practices. Why? To better manage patient information. Why? To reduce administrative costs. Why? Because administrative costs represent the largest share of OPEX investment, which can’t be written off as easily at tax time. Aha! Now you’re not simply selling medical practice software, you’re selling the kind of efficiency that equates to savings. And that single message can be delivered in a sentence as opposed to a laundry list of features.

Instead of being “Medusoft medical practice software”, you’re now “Medusoft, making medical practices more profitable” (through software). And we’ll all buy that type of return.

An investor I recently spoke with stated, “I look at a company’s website and ask, would anyone care if this company went away? If the answer is no, I go on to the next thing.”

As a strategist I ask, “Has your company uniquely positioned itself in the market, and does that positioning align to your company’s mission, vision, and values?”

If the answer is “yes” to both questions above, then find ways – beyond sales – to validate that your customers feel the same way. If your customers aren’t reflecting your messaging (based on your insights about them), you’d better quickly change the conversation.

conversation