Category Archives: Business

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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Anatomy of An Insight: Don´t Ask The Internet

Cyberchondria is a growing concern among many healthcare practitioners as patients can now research any and all symptoms of a rare disease, illness or condition, and manifest a state of medical anxiety.
-Wikipedia

I seldom get sick, but when occasionally I start to feel under the weather I will enter to full-fledged hypochondria. After entering the rabbit hole of Google searches I will be convinced that I have gotten some weird tropical disease and I am on my way to early grave. Knowledge is power, but quite often knowing too much about potential diseases will just result in increased anxiety. To tackle this common behavior, the healthcare app Babylon has launched a new outdoor campaign “Don´t ask the internet. Ask a real doctor”:

hangover

Insight: People find visiting their doctor cumbersome, so they try to self-diagnose themselves with Google and avoid doctor visits as long as possible. This results in false diagnoses and growing unsubstantiated fear about potential problems.

sorethroat

Good campaign idea combining the humans need of convenience and rising cyberchondria. Babylon health app provides diagnoses from fully qualified GPs (with some AI) to your mobile phone, so you can get authentic info but don´t need to physically visit doctor:

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Why You Should Not Read This Post

Did I catch your attention?

I thought so.

In his great book ”Originals”*, Adam Grant shares story of how Babble (online parenting magazine and blog network) pitched to Disney. Rufus Griscom started his presentation by listing five reasons why Disney should not buy them. Surprisingly (or not) Disney bought Babble with 40M.

Why this counterintuitive sales tactic is actually really smart?

  1. You don´t do hard sell

Too many times when I listen to pitches, the people sound like used car salesman and are bombarding you with too many reasons to buy. That makes you sound insecure. There is a thin line between passionate and desperate. Confident salesman does not need to push.

Often times entrepreneurs who get the most investment are actually the ones who are the least enthusiastic.
– Adam Grant

  1. You anticipate their biggest concerns.

Investors are always thinking about potential challenges with their investment. When you address the concerns in the beginning you don´t need to sell your best parts so hard.

If he’s confident enough that the company is high quality that he’s willing to talk about its weaknesses, it must have some strength.

– Adam Grant

  1. You catch the attention immediately.

How many time you have been in sales pitch that follows the usual format? By flipping the script, you immediately catch the attention and you are talking to an audience that is awake.

It’s grabbing attention, it’s different, you don’t expect it.

– Adam Grant

This method does not necessarily always work, but it makes sense to shake up the status quo of your pitches from time to time.   

Assuming that the idea has some merit, when people have to work hard to generate their own objections, they will be more aware of its virtues.

– Adam Grant 

*One of the better business books of later years. It does not really have unified narrative or answer what makes people original, but it has useful anecdotes on almost every page that defy the traditional views. With majority of business books I just recommend reading executive summary, but this book is definitely worthwhile to read as a whole.

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New Social Order: Why Everything You Learned About Social Media is Wrong?

nwo

“Messaging is the new web browser. Everyone has a phone. Everyone has a favourite messaging app on their phone. If your new thing can message people via those apps, then anyone can engage with you.”

Matt McAlister (Guardian) 

Social media has been good to me. I used to work in MySpace in its heyday. I mostly made my name after that doing many succesful Facebook campaigns. I have exploited all the useful social media channels in promoting my books, parties and whatever else I have been doing. Majority of readers to this blog come from Twitter and LinkedIn.

That being said, social media is not what it used to be. It has become big business. It has become boring. It has become predictable. Essentially social media has reached the adulthood.

Marketers took a while to learn the ropes of social media. Now we have to unlearn everything we knew about social media if we want to succeed in the new marketplace:

  1. Social media listening is becoming meaningless

70% of the social discussions cannot be tracked because they happen in ”dark social” e.g. in messenger platforms and to lesser extend e-mail and SMS (older demographics). All the social media listening tools are focusing heavily on Twitter with some Instagram and Facebook mixed in. That is hardly a representative of almost any audience. Social media listening tools focus on Twitter because it is easy to monitor. That is like only doing biceps at the gym, because it is the most convenient movement to do. The reality is that you don´t know what your audience is talking about in digital and most likely will not be able to know in the near future.

Regard social media listening as a pulse (or weak signal) of what is happening, but not the full accurate picture of your audience and what they are talking about. Unless your audience are ”social media gurus” and celebrities.

  1. Engagement with your audience is a myth

Facebook is not social media; it is paid media. There is no organic reach for the brands anymore. You have to approach Facebook with same tools and methods as TV (expect with slightly better targeting opportunities). The most interesting bit about Facebook is the whole ecosystem with WhatsApp, FB Messenger and Instagram. Referring to previous point, we might not know what people are talking on WhatsApp but soon we can target ads based on what they are talking.

Forget always-on, approach Facebook through campaigns. Do less, but bigger things. For smaller things, automate as much as possible.

  1. Chatbots are the magic bullet to bring utility to social and make brands meaningful

The whole digital experience will start to revolve around messengers. The real value brands can bring is not in human relationships, but in human-machine relationships. Community manager –model is not sustainable as it requires actual people running it. Seeing a social post of pizza will not improve your life, but ability to order pizza from the messenger will (or make it worse depending on how many pizzas you eat a week). Conversational commerce will be the biggest opportunity for the brands in the short run to become meaningful in digital sphere.

Define how you can bring value to your audience through messenger with chatbots. Move fast because your competitors are most likely thinking about the same things as well.

  1. Influencers and partnerships are the key to borrow relevance

Ad-blocking is becoming more and more prevalent. Whether your ad is in Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, the default setting for your audience will be to block it. Only way to overcome ad-blocking is Again brands should not play in human-human relationships, but as an enhancer and enabler of star-human relationship. You have to start working with relevant influencers and start creating native content with the relevant media entitities. The answer to ad-blocking is not making better ads, because once you have blocked your ads you will not unblock them just because quality of interruptions has improved.

Go where your audience is and play with their rules.

  1. Forget social media

Like said earlier, the digital behavior will start (has already started) to revolve around messengers. That will be a melting pot of social, mobile and eCommerce and you have to understand that whole melting pot to succeed in the new marketplace. Our audience is not slicing and dicing their life. Messengers are lifeline of their whole existence and there is no boundaries between real-life and digital.

Your audience does not live in silos. You should not select your vendors to specialize in silos either. 

New social order has been here for already quite a while. Is your company ready for it?

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Who are able to Keep Their Jobs when the Robot Apocalypse Happens?

terminator

Majority of the work we are doing as marketing professionals will be done by robots in (not so far) future. So if we won´t embrace that change, we will The workforce lead by robots is not only a threat for luddites but also opportunity for broad-minded professionals. Before anything can be automated and singularity kicks in, there will be a (probably relatively long) period of augmentation when we can work alongside with smart machines.

In their book ”Only Humans Need Apply”, writers Tom Davenport and Julia Kirby list five potential ways for us humans to remain relevant when robots starts to take over:

Step Up
Overseeing the automated systems.

Who will keep their jobs in advertising industry?
A few lucky managers, who are visionary and ruthless enough to replace majority of the workforce with automated systems.

Step In
Learning more about how robots will work and how to improve them.

Who will keep their jobs?
Those who are currently good at their jobs but not opposed to progress and using robots to do majority of the heavy lifting in their work. Combination of machine learning and human tacit knowledge is quite often the killer combination compared to only-human and only-robot approaches. At least for now.

Step Aside
Paradoxically the much-ridiculed ”soft skills” are more robot-prone than the more analytical skills. It is easier to teach robot to kick your ass on math challenge, but way harder to teach robot to have empathy when your colleague is having a bad day.  Using human skills like motivation, creativity, persuasion or empathy while using the automated systems will be the killer combination in expert services (e.g. financial advisory: robots are doing the investing, humans are doing the selling).

Who will keep their jobs?
Everyone who can sell and gets along with people. Evem when majority of the hard work is done by machines you still need human touch to sell those solutions to other humans.

Step Narrowly
Specialize in field so obscure that it does not make sense to automate.

Who will keep their jobs?
Those specialists who you call to perform really weird tasks with high price tag (e.g. the best taxidermy photographer, world´s best copywriter for sanitary pads, scouting agent specializing in New York) and you always wonder how they make their living (from those weird tasks and commissioning premium, duh). In global marketplace there is enough demand for pretty much anything and there is always higher demand for the best one in the field.

Step Forward
Developing new systems and technology to automate processes.

Who will keep their jobs?
Forward-looking people who have good understanding of current processes and preferably understanding of data & algorithms (or alternatively ability to speak the same language as data geeks).

As we can see from this list, there are plenty of opportunities in our field to work alongside smart machines. What combines all of these ways (maybe excluding stepping narrowly which is probably the least applicable route to majority of us) is that we need to embrace the improvements that smart machines can bring to our ways of working.  We need to be willing to work to add value to machines and be willing to let machines add value to our work. If you are opposing change and just hope for legislative restrictions to slow down the inevitable, you are without your job sooner than you think.

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