Category Archives: Planning

The Future of WeChat

It is not secret that I am fascinated with WeChat. It showcases the promise of conversational commerce in action. Yesterday I was talking about the opportunities in WeChat in Lead Conference. The different features we all know, but I find the small portion in the end of my presentation about the future of WeChat truly intriguing. We all know that WeChat has made huge leap from communication platform to payment platform.

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WeChat: Messaging platform evolved to payment platform

It is currently the digital lifeline of the whole China, but what they are planning in the future. Below are couple of key points about WeChat future:

What about the global expansion?

WeChat tried to become a global messenger app. They hired Messi in 2013 with big money to be the face of WeChat. And apparently they got downloads but not engagement. Messaging apps lives and dies based on do you have anyone to message with. Techinasia dubbed WeChat´s global expansion “a disaster”. What makes WeChat unique in China is hard to replicate in other markets because of different digital ecosystem, legislation and other monopolies ruling the roost.

Now WeChat has pretty much abandoned these global aspirations as consumer product, but don´t be fooled they are still eyeing for global expansion but less as B2C product but more as B2B offering. There are two main ways how WeChat is creating its global footprint:

1.Being the gateway to China for western brands

WeChat wants to work with International brands to enable them to sell their products through its Chinese online retail platform. The benefit is that companies can then avoid some of the bureaucracy in China when setting up their own retail operations in the country.

“Almost 95 per cent of global [luxury] brands are on WeChat now — in the UK, there is Burberry and Mulberry, in Italy, Valentino, Zegna, Prada, all the big brands. Two years ago, the number was 50 per cent and last year 75 per cent, so the growth has picked up recently.”

-Andrea Ghizzoni (Europe Director, Tencent)

2. Conquering Europe and other markets through payment

Majority of Chinese tourists prefer to pay with Alipay or WeChat Pay, and only 10% would opt for cash or credit cards. This consumer sentiment has not left unnoticed by the western retailers. Chinese tourists are extremely lucrative target audience and if offering familiar paying option can ease the buying process I would be really surprised of not seeing WePay more present especially in western luxury retailers:

“Chinese customers tend to close the sale more quickly when they know that they can pay with mobile. Those transaction times are extremely quick, at under a minute.”

– Candice Koo, the Managing Director of CANCAN

All roads lead to AI

Like other big Internet monopolies, Tencent is making big strides with AI. This year they opened research facility in Seattle solely focusing on artificial intelligence and last year they established AI lab in Shenzen. AI is build around robust data so WeChat has clear advantage as they have vast amount of conversation and connections data. More importantly they also have payment data through its WePay platform. So essentially WeChat is sitting on the most valuable data sources: how people are spending their money? Where people are? And what they are talking about?

“Shopping and search engine data show one type of data, which is purchasing or shopping intent, which is valuable, but different. For example, if you were to build out an Natural Language Understanding engine, you would not use search engine data, because no one searches based on complete conversational phrases.”

-Tak Lo, Zeroth AI

There are already couple of prominent accounts utilizing AI within WeChat. Chumen WenWen is voice assistant that connects to third party APIs and answers questions around what you should do (e.g. restaurants, movies, services and more). Alibaba got headstart with facial recognition with its widely covered “Smile to pay” collaboration with KFC but it will be sure that WeChat will be launching tools based on facial recognition technologies. WeChat has also been improving its search function going head-to-head against Baidu by incorporating more social and connection information to its search results.

On a lighter note, what has become tradition with Microsoft AI Chatbots, their WeChat Chatbot Xiaobing and other chatbot BabyQ also went rogue and started slandering communist party.

“My China dream is to go to America.”

Xiaobing (WeChat Chatbot)

Do you think that such a corrupt and incompetent political regime can live forever?”

BabyQ (to the question about Chinese Communist Party)

If you want to know where Western conversational commerce is tomorrow, you only need to analyze what WeChat is already today.

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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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Video Killed The Digital Star: 6 Key Online Video Trends

Last Monday I was speaking about the latest Video marketing trends. Visual storytelling will be more and more important and naturally video is the most important way to tell visual stories. Video is growing rapidly and currently there does not seem to anything stopping this rapid growth:

  1. Video just keeps growing

We are living in visual age. Picture tells more than thousand words and video tells more than thousand pictures. In next three years video will account 79% of all Internet traffic. Businesses are expected to spend nearly $13 billion on video marketing in 2018. Lots of the discussions about video is focused on entertainment, but we tend to forget that YouTube is the world´s second largest search engine. 75% of consumers believe that a video describing a service is important and 25% will lose interest if your company is not explaining through video.

  1. Catching the attention is more difficult than ever

1/3 of of all YouTube videos have less than 10 views. That is quite pathetic and showcases the wide gap between hits and misses. Within top 10 most watched videos in 2016, there was only one ad (Nike The Switch). Of all the top 10 most watched ads, half were actually Superbowl ads. You are not only competing with other brands, you are competing of the time of your audience.

  1. It is not mobile-first, it is mobile-only

Mobile video is growing 25%, whereas desktop video consumption is declining for the first time ever. People are already consuming video 36 minutes on their mobile devices compared to 18.5 minutes on non-mobile devices. This mobile shift will affect your video production: Have you thought about vertical videos?

  1. Consumers are craving for instant gratification

Unfortunately average human attention span has fallen below the one of goldfish, so not surprisingly 75% of consumers prefer video under 60 seconds. YouTube is aggressively pushing their 6 second videos, which is enough time to tell even world´s greatest stories (below is Hamlet):

  1. Video platforms are eying for the prime time

YouTube are evolving from dubious quality user-generated snackable content to full-blown entertainment powerhouses. YouTube has couple of interesting offerings: YouTubeTV (cable-free LiveTV) and YouTube Red (ad-free offering focused on music and content creators). Facebook has not exactly resting on its laurels and Facebook Watch provides original video shows.

  1. Video is getting more interactive and immersive

This quarter there were over 2 million VR devices shipped (ranging from no-frill Google Cartboard to top-tier Oculus Rift), but VR has not yet hit mainstream. It currently works well with events and gaming, but we have not yet seen the killer app (or device) that would break VR to become a household name.

Augmented reality is already more mainstream (with Pokemon Go last year and popularity of face filters in Snapchat and Instagram). New Apple ARkit will just keep on making Augmented reality more popular.

Based on the calculations by Credit Suisse, VR/AR market could become as big as the current smartphone market:

Screen Shot 2017-10-16 at 4.01.47 pm

Source: Credit Suisse

So in the future, you do not only need to consider what is your content angle with your video. You have to also consider the depth of interactivity and immersion you want to obtain.

In many ways digital marketing is becoming more simple. It is all about two things: performance and content creation. The latter is all about video creation and to succeed in the market place, you have to be master of video production as well.

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The MAYA Principle: The Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable

“Making the strange familiar and making the familiar strange, again”

– David Foster Wallace (about realistic novels)

Reading the book “Hit Makers” reminded me about Raymond Loewy´s MAYA –principle. Raymond Loewy was one of the most iconic industrial designers of the last century. Among his works are Lucky Strike package (logo on both sides to maximize the visibility), Coke vending machines, Air Force One livery and Skylab space station (with window to look back to Earth) to name a few. MAYA-principle means:

“The Most Advanced, Yet Acceptable”

To sell something familiar, make it surprising. To sell something surprising, make it familiar. This is one of the most important things to understand about human beings. The battle between familiarity and discovery shapes our whole lives. We want to feel safe, but at the same time we enjoy the thrill of challenge. The conflicting forces of safety and excitement explains why we resonate and like things that are familiar enough but also have something new in them. Loewy´s theory (which worked in practice) was also later proved in academic research.

Humans don´t want the same old thing all over again, but they also don´t want totally new thing. They want the same thing with slight twist. That is why Spotify´s weekly playlist works so well, it exposes you to new music but at the same time plays songs you are already familiar with. “Let It Be”, “Don´t Stop Believin”, “Can You Feel The Love Tonight” and “No Woman, No Cry” are built on the same chord progression. However, it would be ludicrous to say that these songs sound the same. There is lot of innovation in these songs, but it is innovation with boundaries. Innovation is not about thinking outside the box, it is about rethinking the box.

The secret to create things that resonate with popular audience is to embrace the conflict in the humans. It is not choice between neophilia (curiosity about new things) and neophobia (fear of anything too new), it is about finding the balance. This dualism is crucial in our industry as we quite often fall into the trap of going after whatever is new and shiny. Or we are too lazy and just do something that has been done before without adding any of the magic. Both are equally bad approaches to talk to the masses (which is the main goal for advertising). You have to find the balance between typicality and novelty.

The secret to popularity is to add slight hint of danger but still maintain the feeling of safety in your audience.

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Three Secrets of Apple´s Social Media Strategy

Apple does not have particular social media strategy.

By being quiet, they are one of the most talked about brands in social media. It naturally helps that you make iconic products with almost religious following. They have social media channels though, because they have realized the importance of social media as a reach driver. Apple does a lot of social media advertising to help to sell more of their products. What they are not doing is “joining the conversation”. Social media is eyeballs, not likes or tweets.

applehasnttweeted

Therefore Apple´s Instagram account is refreshing detour for their muted social media presence. They are actually posting things!

appleinstagram.png

But again, it is not about Apple starting a conversation or begging for engagement. They are highlighting photos that iPhone users have taken. They are tapping to existing behavior (#shotoniphone-hashtag has nearly million photos in Instagram). They are not telling about themselves, instead they are showcasing people using their products. Instead of talking about popular culture, they are popular culture.

The odds are that you are not working with iconic brand, so you might need to approach your social media strategy differently. Still, these rules might serve as the golden standard to which you should aim for:

  1. Make products people want to talk about.
  2. Use Social media mainly as a channel for reach, secondly to engagement.
  3. Showcase your users, not your brand or products.
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UX is Everything

There are too many passwords to remember.

Therefore the user experience of “forgot your password”-button is essential. Not surprisingly when I had to reset my password for Skype, I was not particularly happy with this captcha:

captcha

How you should write this up? First the rows or columns? Funnily (or annoyingly) enough the audio did not make any sense.

Eventually it took 15 minutes for me to reset my password and even then I am not exactly sure of the logic of captcha. Not surprisingly I generally prefer Hangouts over Skype.

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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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Elevating Everyday Chore to an Experience

Some people say that things don´t make you happy. I say that those people just haven´t yet had good things in their life.

One of the things I have enjoyed the most this year has been my newly acquired straight razor.

bismarck

Why any modern man would need straight razor?

Not for any rational reason and therefore it is just the right item for modern gentleman. When everything is becoming more and more like commodity, the way to differentiate is to make your product less accessible. We are taking so many things granted nowadays because they have been made too easy for us. Mass industry will continue simplifying things further, so we as consumers need to complicate things for ourselves, if we want to regain our appreciation to everyday things.

Here are five pointers you should apply to your own (mundane) product:

1. Create ritual(s) around your product
When shaving with straight razor, you cannot just start shaving. You need to “strop” your knife with leather belt to ensure that your straight razor is sharp. Then you need to soften your skin with hot towel. Lather cream to your face with the badger brush using a circular motion. Use hot towel again and also some expensive after-shave products. What used to be boring forgettable everyday chore is not highlight of the day*. This is a great example of “Ikea effect” when you put disproportionate value to things you have spent time on. I didn´t have any discussions about shaving before, but now my oldschool shaving regime is a conversation topic.

2. Build your own tribe
Before I started this straight razor routine I did not know how much there are information and shaving aficionados in the world. On global scale there are enough specialists to create sustainable business out of everything.

3. Be proudly old-school
My razor is actually a replica of Bismarck razors. The company was founded in 1852. For me vinyl records are the best format for music, not necessarily the most convenient and the effective for music listening. You cannot compare straight razor experience to modern methods on rational terms, because whole idea of using straight razor in 2016 is completely irrational.

4. Make your product hard to acquire
You cannot exactly buy your good straight razors in your local 7-Eleven. I had latently been trying to find a good razor for over a year and then scored one in Gentleman´s store in Amsterdam. Scarce availability makes you appreciate your product even more. The current manufacturer for Bismarck blades, Dovo, is not either that accessible. Their website is only in German and although I technically should understand it, the experience is not as smooth as your everyday Gillette. That is accompanied with only having product information as PDF. Old-school brand should consider do they need new-school website.
 
5. Have sense of danger in your product
Although we don´t need to wrestle lions anymore, it feels quite manly to take care of your beard with weapon that could theoretically kill you. That makes you humble and grateful after every shave.

Sometimes the secret to making your product desirable is to actually make it more complicated and less accessible than the competitors.

*Using straight razor is naturally easier for guys like me who need to only shave once a week. Current beard trend helps also in that you do not be that clean-shaven daily.

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The Referee and The Player: Digital Media´s Dilemma

“We have also been calling for a long time for media owners like Facebook and Google not to mark their own homework and release data to ComScore to enable independent evaluation. The referee and player cannot be the same person.”

– Sir Martin Sorrell (WPP CEO)

The most successful companies of digital age are data companies. The data is their core business, so it is quite understandable they are not particularly keen to share their most valuable asset to third party companies. There is a worry that competitors could get to learn their secrets. The dilemma is that some of the secrets are crucial for business success, but other secrets are quite dirty.

“I don’t lie. I just massage the truth.”

– Jack Donaghy (30 Rock)

Facebook inflated numbers for their videos for over two years. I was not particularly shocked. 56% of display ads are never seen. Majority of the ads that are seen, are not really seen by humans but bots. 100 of millions of people are blocking mobile ads every single day, so you are most likely serving your ads to less digital savvy audience.

Digital advertising has always been prone to fidgeting with numbers. Anyone who has worked in digital media, knows that there are tricks to inflate certain KPIs when your monthly report is due. Companies are not exactly telling lies about their numbers, but they are not telling the whole truth either. Everyone reports their main metrics a little bit differently, so that the numbers match with their sales pitch (not the other way around).

It is not necessarily with everyone interest to have 3rd party assessment for the biggest platforms, but it would definitely help. Other important thing would be to have more unified metrics across the main platforms:

  1. For big reach channels with minimal ad interruption (e.g. Facebook) it should be the average audience in any given minute.
  2. For more interruption and visible formats (e.g. YouTube pre-roll) it should be the time seen and actions taken.
  3. At the end of the day it should always be about the eCommerce sales. Actual transactions are harder to fake with bots and different reporting standards.

It might also be that recent “videogate” does not change anything. The literacy for marketers regarding numbers and data is unfortunately still quite low.

“The issue is being hugely overblown. Marketers do not care about it, and it has zero impact on spend.”

Jason Stein (Laundry Service CEO)

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Ruining The User Experience at The Last Mile

Even some of the best web services fail with the last mile. It took minutes for me to fulfill all the password requirements for this web service:

password

The whole process with the passwords is unsatisfying at best and downright painful at worst (like in the example stated below). The passwords in general are not safe and the whole idea of doing a random list of characters, numbers mixed with upper and lower case is quite outdated. It is more annoyance than something that truly improves your security.

If even Edward Snowden is advocating passphrases, I would recommend majority of web services to change their password policies to favor passphrases (e.g. icanuse4wordsbaby instead of tRes4$Ce). It would improve both security and user experience. And as a user you would also remember your passwords better.

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