The Blake Project, the brand consultancy behind Branding Strategy Insider, delivers interactive brand education workshops and keynote speeches designed to align marketers on essential concepts in brand management and empower them to release the full potential of the brands they manage.
Evgeny Morozov is a scold. Little if anything about the direction in which digital technologies are moving these days meets with his approval.
Morozov is not alone. A small coterie of other like-minded critics – Nicholas Carr, Sherry Turkle and Jaron Lanier, chief among them – have added their voices to a Greek chorus of Cassandras chiding consumers that 21st century digital technologies are a Trojan horse imperiling civil society and personal well-being.
It goes without saying that digital technologies are upending all aspects of life. Every sweeping change like this, whatever its motive force – technology, demographics, the economy, politics – comes with challenges that menace the opportunities. But before we throw the digital baby out with the bath water, let’s put the apprehensions in perspective and ponder our digital futures in more constructive ways. Unlike public intellectuals who earn their keep by stoking our anxieties, brand marketers must fashion real-world solutions that negotiate trade-offs to deliver value propositions that measure up to our manifold hopes and dreams about the good life.
Fears that technological advances have unleashed a fast-approaching social apocalypse are at least as old as Mary Shelley’s 1818 classic, Frankenstein, originally sub-titled, The Modern Prometheus, which was published barely a generation after the first stirrings of the Industrial Revolution.Read More
Less is the future.
Some of what’s less is structural. We are facing natural limits of critical resources including key metals and minerals, water, land proximate to economic hubs, and cheap energy supplies. Threats to climate and biodiversity add to the urgency of lessening demand for these resources.
Additionally, we may be facing economic limits. Northwestern University economist Robert Gordon argued in a 2012 paper that we are at the end of an exceptional period of innovation and productivity growth. Decades of slowing productivity returns to innovation in combination with several economic headwinds mean that the U.S. (and other developed countries) face decades of slow growth. Breakthrough innovation will continue but not with the economic impact enjoyed during decades past, which came from one-time gains and for that reason, cannot be repeated.
Gordon’s thesis set off a spirited debate about whether or not there is something more to look forward to. But what’s not at issue is that there will be less of what was important in years past, even if something more comes along in the future.
Over the near-term, at least, prospects for middle-class households portend less. Long-term unemployment is a plague on many formerly middle-class houses. Labor force participation is down dramatically. Decades of stagnant wages are likely to continue for decades more. Middle-income jobs are disappearing under relentless pressure from technology. And no matter how you look at it – income, wealth, employment – the next generation is struggling to get started.
Some in the Millennials cohort have taken an aspirational view of this daunting situation by embracing the idea that that living with less is acceptable, if not preferable. While this is by no means the majority opinion, it is an earnest view, not the sort of rebellious dropping out dabbled in by hippies and slackers in prior generations.
Less is becoming aspirational in other ways as well, particularly owning less. The sharing economy of peer-to-peer, crowdfunding, renting, barter, loaning, gifting, swapping, collaboration and open source is taking hold as music sharing services like Pandora, Spotify, Rhapsody, Last.fm and Radio Paradise proliferate, established companies like Avis and Enterprise jump into car sharing, and startups like Airbnb or NeighborGoods or Rentiod gain traction.Read More
One of the big questions on the table for brand marketers is what to do with Big Data. The presumption is that more data means better marketing, but finding the path from more to better is the challenge at hand.
A big part of this challenge is that the flood of data is misunderstood. The term itself, Big Data, focuses brand marketers on the amount of data, an orientation reinforced by infographic hyperbole about the supernova of bits and bytes sweeping through the brand marketing galaxy. But more data matters only if it’s better.
Getting something better from Big Data goes beyond the data itself. In fact, it depends mostly on the ways in which data are analyzed. What the Big Data revolution has stirred up is less about amount and more about analytics, but this is not something that comes naturally to most brand marketers.
A recent survey of marketing professionals by the IBM Center for Applied Insights found that 40 percent are well behind the curve of the analytics required for Big Data. Another 37 percent are further along, but still “limited” and “struggling.” In other words, a little over three-quarters of brand marketers are not keeping pace with the analytics needed to ensure that Big Data produces better outcomes. As Ari Sheinkin, IBM’s VP for Client Insights, put it in an AdAge op-ed, brand marketers are “stuck in a time warp, channeling their inner Don Draper.”
Most worrisome is the finding from this survey that fewer than one in five of this three-quarter slice of brand marketers brings a “scientific approach” to research and analysis. Relying instead on gut and grit may explain why only 23 percent of all marketing professionals say they are “highly effective” at building value through new insights, only 25 percent at capturing new markets and only 32 percent at engaging individual customers. Big Data alone won’t improve any of this. Indeed, more data will make all of it worse if brand marketers put it to use unscientifically.
The first question brand marketers should ask about Big Data is not what to do with it, but what not to do with it. Knowing what not to do is also the best way to see what can be done.Read More
These days, we tell ourselves that we are living in an era of new media. True enough, although maybe not quite so true as we like to think. It all depends on what we mean by new.
What makes new media new? Lots of things, it is said. Speed – new media release and update content on a faster cycle. Co-creation – new media blur the lines between producers and audiences. Sharing – new media are social platforms of exchange and connection. Technology – new media are the spawn of the Web and, increasingly, of mobile, too.
Certainly, these are big differences. Yet upon closer examination, none of these differences stake out a definitive boundary between old and new. New media are further out on each dimension, but traditional media are catching up fast because these dimensions are also core to traditional media.
Competition to be first with the story is fundamental to the culture and business models of the old standbys of newspapers, radio and TV. Speed is nothing new.
Audience tastes have never been far from content creation. A well-established industry of rigorous testing has long put audiences in the driver’s seat of content, from picking movie endings to choosing magazine covers to thumbs-up-or-down decisions about TV shows, and more. The loop has tightened, but the loop has always been there.
Offering content that becomes water cooler talk has long been the holy grail of advertisers. The pioneering theories about word-of-mouth and social effects, such as two-step flow, date back to the 1940s.
And the history of media is a history of new technologies. We may call TV old today, but in the 1950s it was the new media darling du jour.Read More
There is a view in brand marketing research these days that random sampling is on its last legs. With tons of data in hand and real-time testing on the rise, many claim there is no need for random sampling anymore.
This view was even given an imprimatur of historical legitimacy recently in the bestselling book, Big Data: A Revolution That Will Transform How We Live, Work, and Think by Oxford professor Viktor Mayer-Schonberger and Economist reporter Kenneth Cukier. Early on in their book, the authors assert that “[s]ampling was a solution to the problem of information overload in an earlier age,” presumably, a problem that will no longer plague us in the post-revolutionary age of Big Data. The authors then go on to detail all the problems of, well, truth be told, bad samples, not proper random samples.
This conflation of bad sampling with random samples by Mayer-Schonberger and Cukier is yet another instance of the sort of confusion that has long characterized untutored discussions of sampling. Muddles like this are sure to get worse as Big Data, mobile devices, digital footprints and cloud computing come together over the very near future.
The misperception is that the need for random sampling is obviated by computers able to analyze yottabytes of data at speeds reaching dozens of petaflops. This misunderstanding can have unfortunate consequences for brand marketing, so a little clarification is in order.
As a start, let’s be clear on terminology. There are many types of random samples, but the type we generally think of is a simple random sample in which every element of the population being sampled has an equal probability of inclusion in the sample. It would be better to speak of probability samples than of random samples, but the points to be made here are the same, and the idea of a simple random sample is the easiest to bear in mind.
The presumption of those now eulogizing random samples is that having data on the full population ensures a clear view of what’s going on. This is just not so, for at least three reasons.Read More