Category Archives: Business

Three Characteristics of A Great Leader

Cloud & Tech Summit

Talking about C-Suite innovation. Panelists from left: Nicolas Vanhove (Tutoroo, Founder, Sebastian Wedeniwski (Standard Chartered Bank,Chief Technology Strategist) behind Nicolas, Natalia Kozyura (FWD Insurance, Head of Innovation Center) and yours truly

Week ago I was speaking in interesting panel in “Data & Tech Summit” about “C-Suite Collaboration”. One of the interesting conversation topics was about characteristics of good leader and I came out with three key ones (in addition to rambling about the merits of auftragstaktik):

Consistency

You what to expect from good leaders. They might be strict but they are strict always. They might be ruthless, but they are ruthless always. Employees need to know what to expect from their boss. Clients need to know what kind of person they are dealing with. Good leaders are driven by strong vision and belief on where to take the company and they follow that vision and belief system consistently. Too reactive and unpredictable bosses will result to employees who are not clear on what they are expected to do and not clear on what is company culture. Naturally changes and quick decisions are needed in fast-moving industry, but they cannot be too reactive. Also good leader needs to clearly articulate the reasons when changing the course.

Clarity

Good leader is not jargon machine. “We want to be seamless customer-centric multi-channel service company” would not be something you want to hear from your leader. Good leaders are able to articulate the driving vision very clearly to everyone: employees, customers and other stakeholders. Because the vision and the goals are clear, they also become catchphrases in the company and mantras to share also outside the company.

Curiosity

Great visionary leaders are not (primarily) cost-cutters or maintainers of status quo. They need to be curious about the industry and where the business is moving. Through curiosity companies find their new sources of growth. Creating and cultivating the culture of curiosity is important. If employees asking questions and challenging ways of working, eventually the company will perform better. Good leader challenges but is also expecting to be challenged herself.

It is relatively easy to be a good manager, but it is really hard to be a good leader.

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The Most Effective and Meaningful Ad of the Year is A Tweet

“Will there be people who stop buying Nike because of this?

Yes.

But there will also be others who use this as an excuse to buy another jersey or pair of sneakers. Regardless of how loud the keyboard warriors and voices opposed to Kaepernick get, Nike will remain standing at the end of it all. And as they say, no press is bad press.”

-Brian Cristiano, CEO Bold Agency

kaepernick

This single tweet is already the best AD of the year and already created $43 million in buzz for Nike.

Some argue that brands should not take a stand on controversial topics.

I beg to differ.

Brands should take public stand, when brand has actually something to contribute to the topic. If a brand actually has a stand, it is almost  Now more than ever. Majority of brands cannot actual be bold and shy away of all kinds of (even minor) controversy. Not Nike, this latest ad is just a continuum of deliberate and consistent marketing strategy that they have been following for years. Great brands know that they are not for everyone. Great brands are consistent. Great brands take risks.

Nike´s DNA is all about the athletes. Its main spokespersons (Lebron James among the few) have been vocal about the issues that prompted Kaepernick to knee down during the national anthem. Nike is known for standing by their athletes during their hard times (Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, etc.). Reflected to that, it actually would have been disappointing if Nike would not have been sponsoring Colin Kaepernick. He is a great and brave athlete, who uses the stage he has as a canvas to shed a light to social injustice and is then prevented to practice his profession. Not unlike Tommie Smith and John Carlos in 1968 in Olympics. Nike is taking a stand, but in a way that is true to their brand and will eventually sell much more apparel.

People (read: idiots) burning Nike shoes will not cost Nike anything (maybe they will buy new shoes afterwards) and actually gives Nike more publicity. All publicity is good publicity, because it is increasing your mental availability. Sure, this campaign will alienate some Nike buyers. Buyers, who are so stupid that they set their shoes on fire or rip their Nike socks.

Good riddance.

Follow Our Rules or Get The Hell Out

For companies, it is as crucial to define target audience, but almost more important is to define who is NOT your target audience.

When we adopted our strict no talking policy back in 1997 we knew we were going to alienate some of our patrons. That was the plan.

If you can’t change your behavior and be quiet (or unilluminated) during a movie, then we don’t want you at our venue. Follow our rules, or get the hell out and don’t come back until you can. 

– Tim League founder/CEO Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

Week ago I was watching a film in movie theatre and someone´s alarm clock started ringing during the show. Everyone noticed that expect the guy whose alarm bell was ringing. My movie experiences have many times been ruined by talking or mobile phone4s. And I am not talking about loud action movies or mild noises; once watching European art film where there is practically no dialogue or loud sounds, one couple was having loud conversation about what to have for dinner. So my stance is clear: if you cannot be without your phone for a length of a movie, stick to Netflix.

Alamo Drafthouse is perfect example of movie theatre that truly walks their talk. Because the problem is not that patrons are encouraged to use their mobile phones. Practically every cinema has no- mobile phone policy. But pretty much no one is truly enforcing it. You as a patron are forced to be the “bad guy“, which not only ruins your night, but also probably the one who is texting (like I would care). Alamo Drafthouse is giving warnings of texting and after the first warning you are kicked out if you continue your bad ways. And they are not afraid to kick texters out of the movie theatre (troublemakers are “snitched” anonymously in the food order sheets).

Rules are meaningless if you don´t follow them.

Other movie theatres let short-sighted greed (or ambivalence) to let few bad apples to ruin the experience for majority. What Alama Drafthouse has realized that bully or a trouble maker as a client is never a good client. You should get rid of them, because having a bad client ends up costing you money in the long run. If you have rules and defined target audience, you should be true to it.

 

Interestingly Alamo has also separate program “Alamo for All”, where noise and technology rules do not apply and you are allowed to move freely in movie theatre. This is to create inclusive accessible movie theatre experience for children, guests with special needs and those who cannot behave in normal movie theatre. Again rules are stated clearly and they are followed. In these screenings you are not allowed to whine about texting.

Few lessons from Alamo Drafthouse:

  1. Be true to your target audience. You do not need to serve everyone. 
  2. If you have rules you must enforce them. Rules without enforcement is not called rule. It is called a joke. 
  3. Have some integrity in what you do. 

Because at the end of the day, the only thing defining you are your principles (which you define yourself so they can be super easy as well). If you cannot abide them, everyone will eventually lose respect for you.

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Aperol Spritz Effect: 5 Ways to Make Your Brand Stand Out

Negroni

I am more Negroni than Aperol Spritz guy, so here I am enjoying the poison of my choice in the birthplace of the drink: Florence.

Besides the unprecedented heatwave across the world, there is method to current Aperol Spritz* madness. Recent New York Times article highlights on how Campari (owner of Aperol –brand) has been smartly devising a marketing plan and actions that have made Aperol Spritz the go-to drink of the Summer. Below are five tips on how you can make your brand stand out the same way as Aperol Spritz:

  1. Ride the trends (both big & small)

Bigger trend in US is that people are gravitating towards low-alcoholic (or even non-alcoholic) drinks. Aperol Spritz has alcohol content slightly under 10% (of course depending on your mix) that makes it less that your glass of wine but still gives you nice summer buzz.

That trend towards low-alcohol drinks is already mainstream.

For other important trend, you need to dig deeper to current cocktail culture. Americans are starting to appreciate more bitter tastes in their alcohol. That change is driven by Cocktail bars. Progressive bartenders have been using more Amaros (herbal liqueurs mostly from Italy, but recently more and more also from States) in their cocktails and shots of Fernet-Branca have almost become the secret handshake for bartenders. Elevated taste towards bitters has also increased interest to Negroni (my go-to-cocktail of equal parts gin, Campari and sweet vermouth) that Campari has been capitalizing as well on smaller scale with strategic partnerships with bars.

  1. Have distinctive look and feel

The strongest asset of Aperol is the distinctive color (only rivaled by Campari from the same parent company). When person is drinking Aperol Spritz, you immediately recognize the drink. It is characteristically Aperol and it serves as cue that simplifies your selection. It also helps that you have the brand name in the drink: beer or wine can be anything but there is only one Aperol Spritz.

You cannot deny Aperol old Italian tradition. Aperol was invented already in 1919, although it became popular only after World War II. That history brings credibility to the product.

  1. Own the occasion

Campari has made deliberate push to make Aperol Spritz the drink of summer. They have partnered with popular summer hangouts and events concentrating their media push and visibility to those occasions as well. It is easier to own one season than all the seasons; one day instead of every day or create your own small moment instead of trying to carve a part of bigger moment. Campari has been successfully doing it this also with Negroni Week,  event in June, where various bars are doing their Negroni variations and part of the sales go to charity.

  1. Get the product to the people

In the previously mentioned events and hangouts Aperol spritz has also been handed for free. The biggest hurdle with any product is to get it to the hands of the consumers and sometimes it might be worthwhile investment to give the first pop for free. When your product is distinctive and instantly recognizable, the social validation of people using the product starts to spread like wildfire. You can recognize that someone is drinking Aperol Spritz compared to standard glass of wine.

  1. Make it Instagram-worthy

Not only you need to have drink that tastes nice, it also needs to look nice in your Instagram-stores. Campari has been creating different Aperol-branded swag (wine glasses, straws, umbrellas, sunglasses, orange fans) that serve as good props for social media posts and encourage you to share. Photo with you and Aperol Spritz portrays classy but care-free attitude; perfect for Instagram.

Although there is a speculation that Aperol Spritz might be the gateway to Campari Spritz, I don´t see the current popularity of Aperol Spritz as a fad. It is build on solid product with rich history, understanding of the trends affecting category and smart focused marketing campaign.

*And for those who don´t know, Aperol Spritz is a drink with aperol, sparkling wine and dash of soda.

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The Future of SEO: Good Digital Strategy is the best SEO

Intrigue Summit 2018

Intrigue Summit 2018

On the last Wednesday I participated in interesting panel in Intrigue Summit 2018 about SEO and content marketing. Here are three main topics I was speaking about:

  1. Era of black magic quick fix SEO has been over for a long time

Google has for a while been blocking sites that do keyword stuffing or content with many (but weak) backlinks. I already wrote five years ago about how SEO is dead, when Google Hummingbird algorithm was launched. Then security search and semantic search were some of the key drivers then to change SEO landscape. Now the content quality (in the context of fake news) and mobile-friendliness are key drivers determining your search ranking.

Although SEO landscape has changed dramatically, I see surprisingly many SEO practioners in the marketplace talking like it would still be 2005. SEO tweaking is not a silver bullet.

  1. Search is not just the Google search bar

YouTube is the second most popular search engine. Amazon is the most popular search platform for product searches. Voice searches will contribute to 50% of all searches by the 2020.

How much of your search strategy is focusing on video, eCommerce and are you already optimizing for voice? You need to approach your search holistically and it might even be that for your brand Google is not the most important search engine.

  1. Relevant content and great user experience is the best SEO

Even nowadays I encounter clients who think that SEO is a quick fix for their problems. Unfortunately, quite often we found out that actual SEO is ok, but the site sucks. Brands should first focus on delivering the best possible user experience and relevant content. After that you should take care of SEO. Your SEO tricks do not really help if your site is loading too slowly or is not mobile-optimized. 53% of the people will abandon your site if it takes over 3s to load. Google will roll out mobile-first indexing this year, which means that Google will use the mobile version of the page for indexing and ranking the site on their search engine. If you cannot serve your customers in mobile, game is over.

If you create content that it is interesting to the humans it is easier to tweak it to match search engines than other way around. If you create content solely for search engines, you end up with boring content. The bad thing with boring content is that no matter how much traffic you drive to it, it does not convert.

Capturing people while they are searching is still essential part of the of your digital strategy. Search just is not separate line item in your strategy but closely connected to the whole digital experience you are providing. If you are able to provide great user experience and relevant content to your audience, making your SEO work is relatively easy.

 

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5 Lessons from Leonardo da Vinci to Every Marketing Professional

“Talent hits a target that no one else can hit. Genius hits target no one else can see”

-Arthur Schopenhauer

vitruvian man

Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci. You don´t get to this level of of anatomic excellence unless you have opened up couple of bodies.

I recently read the autobiography of Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson. The book was magnificient read and made me appreciate Leonardo even more (as a painter and as an inventor). He was able to achieve so much (majority of it not truly understood and appreciated when he was alive) in many different fields despite leaving quite a lot of things unfinished. Although it is unlikely that none of us reading (or writing) this blog will paint the most heralded painting in the world, there are still plenty of lessons we can take from Leonardo da Vinci and instil in our professional and everyday life:

  1. Have childlike sense of wonder

Why sky is blue?

How are clouds formed?

What is yawning?

These were just a few questions on Leonardo´s notebook. If you keep on questioning on things that others might take for granted you will get closer to the truth.

So as a marketing professionals, we need to always challenge the preconceived notions. We cannot be afraid to ask questions that everyone is thinking but no one dares to ask.

  1. Observe the world around you

As part of his curiosity, Leonardo spent hours and hours observing the world around him. This was connected to his maniacal list taking and notebooks filled from top to bottom and left to right with scribbling about his observations. He had his intense observation skills from his childhood to his last days. It was probably connected that he was not school educated but instead learned by observing and analysing those observations.

Working in marketing means being customer-centric. We need to obsessively observe our consumers and how they act and make decisions in this world.

  1. Experiment with open mind

“Vision without execution is hallucination. Skill without imagination is barren”

-Walter Isaacson

Leonardo da Vinci opened up over 30 bodies to learn more about anatomy. He tested rigorously his hypotheses about different subjects and was also willing to change his preconceived notions when he had different test results or received new information.

Marketing is not science that you can only theorize. It is about active doing and eventually you need to get your hands dirty and start shipping. We need to be also ready to change our approach if results shows so. We should be in state of constant experimentation and improvement.

  1. Find analogies and patterns among different disciplines

Leonard da Vinci was self-learned and despite being a true renaissance man, he was not particularly good in all fields. He struggled with algebra and languages. To learn and understand better different fields, he used analogies to make them more easily understandable for other people and to himself as well. He was brilliant at discerning patterns and abstracting from them a framework that could be applied across disciplines.

As marketing professionals we have to rise above jargon and find easily understandable ways to explain what we are doing and connect it to things that audience cares about (working hypothesis being here that majority of people are not caring about what we do). As marketing communications has become highly fragmented and specialized, we need to force ourselves to actively learn from other fields and keep our renaissance mentality. Different disciplines feed and support each other. Leonardo excelled at painting, but his detours to maths, physics, biology and weapon design made him a better painter.

  1. Procrastinate with peace of mind

“Men of lofty genius sometimes accomplish the most when they work the least”

– Leonardo da Vinci 

For majority of us, this comes quite naturally. However procrastination is not synonym for being lazy. When you’re not actively working on that difficult/daunting task, your mind is actually subconsciously collecting ideas and processing things to prepare you for it.

The most astounding revelation in Isaacson´s book is how much Leonardo left loose ends and unfinished projects behind. One part of it was that his curiosity led him to rabbit holes and as a true renaissance man, he suddenly might be interested in totally different subject. Other part of procrastination was his perfectionism. He carried Mona Lisa with him over 16 years and improved it slowly. He might look at this paintings for hours and then add one brush stroke.

If world´s most greatest artist and scientist was prone to procrastinate, we should not feel bad if we are delaying the start of our latest presentation.

Trust me, it will be better for it.

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Programmatic Advertising should be Slave to The Brand and Performance

“Programmatic is gluten of advertising”

-Jimmy Kimmel

I was speaking couple of weeks back at Marketing Interactive Performance Marketing Confence. It was a really great event and I was happy that I was able to speak from creative angle which quite often gets neglected in programmatic discussion.

Marketing-Interactive Digital Performance Marketing 2017

Marketing-Interactive Digital Performance Marketing 2017

I talked about the state of programmatic, but as in this post I want to highlight three things from the speech that every brand should take into account:

  1. Creativity has to become more ingrained to programmatic advertising.

Creative variables constitute over 50% of programmatic effectiveness, but do you focus 50% of your programmatic efforts to the quality of creative? Over half of the marketing budget is at stake and still many brands are cutting corners when doing creatives to programmatic. Horrible quality will lead to bad performance and will also contribute to ad-blocking (which has exploded in Asia) When same ad reaches person over 40 times a month, sales can actually start to decline.

Also sometimes it seems that programmatic specialists have totally forgotten the importance of strong brand. You can optimize as much as you want, but if people do not recognize and know your brand that tactical tweaking amounts to nothing. Marketing automation will not replace the value of strong brand. And strong brands are built from great user experience and emotional connection.

  1. Programmatic quality will be the utmost importance.

10.9 billion will be wasted on low-quality display ads by 2021. That is over 1/3 of programmatic spend. Above-mentioned creative quality is important element in the quality, but there has been even more fundamental problems within programmatic industry:

  • Viewability (or lack thereof)
  • Ad and click fraud
  • Bots
  • And the poor creative quality (mainly horrible quality and invasive display ads have driven people to block all advertising

Many have been benefiting from ad fraud, whether they have been publishers, buyers and media agencies. Hell, even extremists have done 318K from brands with ads placed to their extreme content. Who have not benefited at all from ad fraud?

Brands and their consumers.

Within the next decade, fake Internet traffic schemes will become the second-largest market for criminal organizations behind cocaine and opiate trafficking. Media (and other) agencies would likely not push dope (maybe consume it) or kill people but they have been happily working indirectly with same criminal organizations.

Industry has to clean its act.

Luckily the quality has become a conversation topic and brands start to realize that if your placement is too cheap it is probably too good to be true. Industry giants are improving as well. Programmatic direct deals in APAC have grown more than 65%. It is everyone´s responsibility to demand and offer quality placements.

  1. Programmatic is not just display advertising

I think it’s a dying industry. The idea that buying a 250 x 250 square display ad is effective, is false, you’re more likely to get bitten by a shark than click on one of those ad units.

– Matthew Oczkowski (Cambridge Analytica) 

Display ads will not be remembered as the best advertising innovations in the world (unlike TV ads and search advertising). 60% of banner clicks are accidental and 90% of them are bots. You don´t need to be mathematician to realize that it is really small percentage of people who are really clicking. And the percentage is not really going up. The world´s first banner ad had 44% CTR and now we have gone to fraction of that (0.16% globally)

However, some are still clicking and they are still bringing results. Display ads are necessary transition for companies to drive performance and learn to operate programmatically.

Programmatic marketing is about machines buying, serving and optimizing advertising (any kind of advertising). Eventually majority of buying will be programmatic, because machines are doing it better than we are. There is probably certain iconic placements that will never become programmatically bought or sold, but they will be small minority. For anything else machines will do it more effectively, accurately and faster. This applies also to actual creatives. If robots can already beat people at GO, conduct entire orchestra or write articles, it would not be the biggest of challenge to create above-the-average display ads. And if you are worried about machines stealing your job, read below quote from this great and acclaimed thinker:

”If machines can do the job, it´s not really a job you want to do”

– Riku Vassinen

Programmatic is still unfortunately in stage of not having unified definitions. When having discussion with different stakeholders of programmatic, it feels like the old parable of blind men touching elephant from different angle. Your view of elephant is totally different based on are you touching its nose or backside. Same thing with programmatic. Some are talking about buying, some about tools, some just about display advertising, some about multiple creative variations etc.

We need to strip away the unnecessary “magic dust” surrounding programmatic and agree on basic definitions. Unfortunately, it has been tainted by snake oil salesmen, who actually benefit of having people confused about what programmatic truly means. They have been benefitting on making it more complicated and less transparent than it should be.

Because at its core, programmatic is a great thing. It is about reaching right audience with right creative on right context and with right price. So essentially it is what advertising has always been. Now we are just able to do it with more precision.

Programmatic advertising is not means to the end. It should always serve as slave that helps to drive stronger brand and better performance.

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Supermarket Champagne and How Quick Win is Not Always Beneficial for Your Brand

For a person coming from Finland where you only can buy wines from government-run monopoly even seeing wines in supermarket is somewhat mind-boggling. However where I advocate liberal policies, being too accessible might not be that wise strategy if you want to be regarded as premium luxury brand.

In the case of G.H. Mumm the genie is out of the bottle (no pun intented) and it has definitely positioned itself as a mainstream champagne. However even for supermarket champagne this promotion is just plain ridiculous:

gh_mumm

Taking picture of receipts?

Sending messages to dubious WhatsApp numbers?

How low will your brand go?

To me if you want to be perceived luxury you should not even be having promotions or discounts. But even if having promotion you could create a better and more luxurious experience, maybe a nice landing page or if you want to use messenger apps: a chatbot.

Brands are after quick wins and forget that those actions will deteriorate the brand on the long run.

(Some smartass might ask why I bought the bottle in the first place, which is a valid question. In this case, the wacky promotion did not stop me from buying the product (but it was close). I just ignored the promotion) 

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The Age of Assistant: The More Personalized and Predictive Internet

starwars

We are entering the age of assistants, they just reside in our mobile phones.

Internet used to be about destinations. Typing in URL. Searching for something you need in Google and then following that search result to the rabbit hole of different sites. Clicking on banner ads and going to the websites from those banners.

That age is soon long gone.

Although majority of firms are still basing their digital strategies on destination approach, we have already moved to the age of assistant. Internet will become more personalized, predictive and the same time it will become more even more centralized. Our communications will start revolving around our messenger app (mainly WhatsApp), our information gathering will happen in Google app (increasingly through voice) and our buying will start to focus (again increasingly more through voice). Every brand needs to become better in predicting user behavior to provide more personal service:

  1. Prediction will trump the destination approach

When I have booked a flight, Google will automatically say to me to check-in, take a taxi and arrive on time. I am not going willingly to websites of either my airline, the airport or taxi company. The whole journey is prompted by the assistance of Google and I am happy for it. Our digital properties must be able to work in conjunction with this new assistant ecosystem. We need to balance between positive surprise (“How did they know that? So cool!”) and slightly creepy  (“How did they know that?” So scary!).

  1. People want the service in their own personal way

Chatbots have just scratched the surface of conversational commerce. We want to order pizza with emojis. Get song recommendations based on the context (“Hey Google, play that new theme from James Bond”). While the world will become more voice and message-driven, the transactions will become more personal and conversational. We must revamp our service process and lingo, so that we are able to serve our consumers in way that is intuitive for them.

The future of your digital business will be revolving around consumer data. The more you can have it, the better you can predict the behavior and more personal service you can give. We are entering the age of assistant and the best butler will rule them all.

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Turning Over a New Leaf

Last week I started a new job.

It is always exciting times. Lots of new faces and names. New processes. Different snacks in pantry. Different slang.

First couple of weeks are also devastating: you are already anxious to make your mark but you should also listen and absorb as much as possible. First weeks are great time to ask those stupid questions that everyone is anxious to ask, but after a while are too afraid to do so. So I have been mainly trying to talk to as many people as possible and to think as much as possible. I know that soon the time to think is of high value.

Many people asked what prompted me to change the job. I gave the following analogy:

The key to continuous progress when you are training with weights is to frequently vary your load or the amount of repetitions. Not too often, because then you lose the focus and just do random things. Not too seldom either because then your muscles get too comfortable to your current exercise. For a while it felt to me that I was doing the right exercises at work, but I did not develop as fast as I desired. Then you start to analyze can you easily vary your load, repetitions or should you change a gym.

After four great years in R/GA, it was time for me to change the gym and also the complete training program.

It is of course early days, but it already looks like the training program is starting to bear a fruit.

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