Want to know what a "persona" should be? Just brush up on your Italian.

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We debate a lot about personas in marketing - agonising over how we can segment our customers and prospects into neat, convenient groupings to make our lives easier. Yes, getting a more granular understanding of customers is a good thing. After all, we all want to be marketed to in a more relevant way based on our socio-economic or demographic situation. I'm a middle aged father of two young boys so would expect a brand to build a relationship with me differently to, say, a 20 year old student. That makes sense.

But that's yesterday's thinking I'm afraid.

Consumers today are more demanding and our loyalty is fleeting. Take my 12 year old son for example. He has only got into messaging his friends in the last year. Yet in that time he has moved from Skype to Instagram to whatsapp to snapchat to uvuu(?). I wouldn't want to be in the messaging app game. He and his friends don't care that they've gone to the effort of setting up a profile in one of these apps - they'll go where the next thing is.

And the so called MEllennial generation is not a youth thing - it's crossing all demographics. Yes, I may be a middle class, middle aged marketing director, working in marketing tech, living in West London and married with two kids. But under no circumstances lump me together with all the other middle class, middle aged marketing directors, working in marketing tech, living in West London and married with two kids. I am an individual, not a segment.

Which brings me on to Italian. For "persona" in Italian means "person", not segment, not grouping. And I think that definition is appropriate for the modern marketer.

We're now at the stage where we can personalise our marketing more than ever before. Segmentation was borne of an era where the process was manual. Today we can automate our marketing around digital behaviours and customer insight. Yes, I might have bought a pair of shoes online last week but that doesn't mean I'm going to buy another pair this week. But repeated visits to the socks pages and one abandoned cart session containing two pairs of socks is a strong indication I'm in the market for socks. Plus I have a Club Card and am a loyal customer. So a promo or special offer may be appropriate.

As a consumer I'd love that.

So the future of personas is individualisation. Yes, some ground work needs to be done around general target audiences (some of the basics of marketing never change!). But letting behaviours drive your marketing will help you target the person not the persona.

Ciao!

Move over B2C - B2B is the cool kid on the block

 As cool as you get IMHO  

As cool as you get IMHO  

I've been lucky enough to have worked in several companies containing both consumer-facing and B2B businesses. And having always been on the B2B side I had always hoped that some of that "consumer marketing magic" would rub off on its poor relation. Interestingly it never did. In fact, twice, at two different companies, I was looked on with something close to derision when I suggested that I could move over to the consumer marketing team. It was clear that the borders were closed.

Today, I'm quite convinced i would receive a different response. The hard line between B2B and B2C marketing is rapidly dissolving. Easy access to technology, the digitisation of most audiences and a realisation that purchase decisions are universally emotional means it's hard to make the division. 

Both disciplines need to mix art with science. And the war for attention, and ultimately loyalty, is fought just as keenly, and intelligently, on either side. Even the most B2B of B2B industries has a digitally-engaged, social media active customer base. I should know. I once marketed tech into the commercial maritime industry. And even those guys were interacting online.

Good B2B marketing is about creating compelling value propositions, providing ROI and building lasting relationships. But great B2B marketing is about understanding the customer, standing out amongst the crowd, delivering an outstanding customer experience across the entire customer lifecycle and creating a lasting, emotional connection. Doesn't sound much different to B2C to me. 

 

Marketing tech comes of age. Welcome to #CannesLions!

Another year, another Cannes Lions and the advertising industry celebrates all of its glorious achievements. An event like no other, its part-party, part-social network, part-conference, part-Awards ceremony and part-serious business. Everyone mixes these in different proportions. Some never see all the wonderful conference sessions, some never see the parties and some never make it out of back-to-back meetings in sponsored pavilions or terraces. But most have a great time.

What was particularly noticeable this year was the continued transition of Cannes Lions from advertising to marketing. This "Festival of Creativity" now majors more on the science than the art of communications than ever before. As we've migrated to digital interaction, the topics has likewise migrated to big data, programmatic advertising and cross-channel communication. Which naturally has meant the likes of Facebook, Google, twitter, LinkedIn, AOL and MSN have all earned the right to have higher and higher profiles at the Festival over the past few years.

This year, however, has seen the interest in tech bring in more of the "marketing tech" players (many really only focussed on B2B) and straight-down-the-middle tech companies. I was fascinated to see Marketo, Salesforce, Oracle, Workfront, Thunderhead and others all have presences on La Croisette. Now, I don't want to tell these guys how to do their marketing, but I'm not quite sure the Advertising & Marketing fraternity will understand nor register their presence there. After all lead nurturing, pipeline management, project management and workflow is hardly top of mind for agency types. And some of the vendors are not even dedicated to marketing - marketing is just one use case of their technology. 

It's a tough gig - as we at Adobe know. Marketers don't want tech - they want to deal with fellow marketers who get their challenges. And it'll take a long time for them to change their perceptions of certain technology providers. We're lucky that our own connection with the marketing community goes deeper than most. Our marketing tech platform is founded on a strong creativity heritage built up over 25+ years and we're the only tech marketing company that bridges creativity (aka advertising) and digital marketing. So Cannes makes perfect sense for us.

Regardless, it's great for the industry that marketing tech providers are getting more profile. And it is indicative of the phenomenal growth we're all seeing in the marketing tech arena. Marketing tech is definitely coming of age but it remains to be seen whether all that sun, Rosé and marketing dollars in Cannes is worth all that effort.

Attention all marketers! Stay curious! At least for your career's sake...

Early on in my career I noted that a lot of my peers were rooted in the past, and were at risk of being left behind professionally. They just couldn't "move with the times" and were becoming marketing dinosaurs.

I realised I needed to learn from best practice and actually started a marketing networking group. With a group of friends, I got together 12-15 Marketing Directors for dinner every few months to discuss the latest trends and issues in marketing. It really helped me as it contributed to my learning and growing. And to give you an idea of how early on this was in my career, it was pre-social media and at a time when many businesses asked "do i really need a website?"

So, I'm always amazed at how many marketers aren't interested in the profession and in learning about developing technologies or initiatives. For example, how few have a smartwatch, fitness band, twitter account or have used sharing sites such as instagram. Or how few haven't tried out Uber or Hailo or subscribed to Netflix. Let alone backed something on KickStarter or rented a room through AirBnB.

These may sound like trivial things and when I say this I see many people roll their eyes. But regardless of what industry you're in, or even if these things are not that relevant for your business today, understanding their implications is important. And putting your head in the sand isn't going to help either. Do you think social media, wearable devices, cloud technology etc is just going to go away? And anyway, why wouldn't you want to try out new things and learn?

And it's the small things that can make all the difference. Here's three simple examples from my recent past:

  1. I have a Pebble Watch and now an Apple Watch. Not necessarily because they're going to figure in my marketing strategies, but because I wanted to understand the future implications of marketing into such a personal space. The rules of email marketing for example will change forever if consumers are receiving emails in a 2x2cm screen.
  2. I've owned fitbit, jawbone, jawbone UP fitness bands. Why? To start to realise the enormous potential of collecting different and more personal types of data. (Oh, and as a bonus, I also discovered that tracking steps alone does not make you healthy. I subsequently ditched the bands and lost 15kg by just watching what I eat and doing no exercise...)
  3. I wrote a daily music blog for a year. Why? Because it helped me understand the discipline, issues and challenges of producing fresh content on a regular basis. Content marketing is one of the hottest topics right now and I wanted to see what it was like to be a content marketer.

Now, I'm not advocating jumping on every digital bandwagon in your marketing. Far from it - chasing the next shiny new thing is a dangerous path for any marketer. However, investing the time in these digital developments outside of work keeps you current, up to date and ahead of the curve. It also gets you some perspective as you have the chance to experiment too. 

And on a career front, they also open up new opportunities for you professionally as you'll add innovation and creativity to the list of your many skills. And it'll also stop you being that digital dinosaur that I know I continually try not to be on a daily basis.

Spinal Tap, Wales and Digital Marketing Technology

I'm delighted to be speaking at the Online Influencer 2015 event in Cardiff in May. And not because it's always flattering to be invited to speak, but because Cardiff is my home town.

Growing up there a lifetime ago, I would never have imagined that a business conference (let alone a technology or digital marketing conference) would be hosted there. In fact it says a lot for the progress "provincial" UK towns have made over the last 30 years in moving out of the shadow of London. From being a frankly poor relation to London in terms of cultural, artistic, retail and lifestyle, I'd say cities like Cardiff can give London a run for its money any day in offering both a high quality and variety of life for its citizens.

So whilst holding a digital marketing technology event in Cardiff may raise a few eyebrows, OI15 is not only welcomed, but long overdue. And building on this trend I've also in the past week been approached about similar events in Manchester and Belfast. 

Anyway, I was interviewed in advance of the event, and here's a transcript. You'll find out about my thoughts on trends in digital marketing technology as well as discover my favourite film. Looking forward to OI15 and hoping to turn it up to 11!

Oi: So John 2014 has been and gone what were the highlights for you?

JW: I’ve been really excited by the explosion in both the uptake and variety of digital marketing technology over the course of the last 12 months. Its a strong indication of the focus on marketing right now, and for the profession I think that’s great. Technology is  a great enabler for today’s marketer. You can do amazing things at scale, quickly and at relatively low cost. I also think 2014 saw the rise of the generalist in marketing. After years of specialism (SEO, SEM social, ad buying etc) we saw the best marketers having digital DNA in their blood, but operating across many traditional silos. They have taken a step back and realised that what is truly essential is the ability to utilise core marketing principles in the digital age. The future is in core skills and blended, integrated technology.

Oi: What Social tech and digital trends do you anticipate coming to the fore this year?

JW: I see three big trends:
1. Cross channel’ will become ‘one channel’: our physical and digital worlds have collided and customers no longer differentiate between the two - they want a great experience regardless of when, where and how they interact with a brand. In 2015 brands will be focused on making sure all channels work seamlessly together, bringing together the best of online and offline to create the ultimate customer experience.

2. Data will be used to drive decisions, not defend decisions. Until now, marketers have been primarily using data to report on campaign success retrospectively, with the main objective being to prove their worth in the business and on the bottom line. We will see this change in 2015 with advanced maths and algorithms more frequently used to inform decisions about how, when and where to best spend future marketing budget. 

3. Brands will live or die by their mobile chops. After years declaring this year will be the year of the mobile, the tipping point has been reached. Time spent on mobile devices has never been so high and over the next twelve months, marketers will look to mobile as the foundation of the customer journey and prioritise creating relevant touch-points. Major brands will face tremendous competition in the battle to reach mobile consumers and the winners will be those who can deliver highly personalised content across screens. 

Oi: What can we expect from Adobe in 2015?

JW: I’m just seeing phenomenal interest an uptake for our Marketing Cloud. And 2014 was a great year for Adobe with our Marketing Cloud being rated the best by analysts Forrester and Gartner. 2015 will see us continue with this momentum. We’re all about making our platform not only the easiest to use but also the best at letting marketers share data and put it into action where and when it matters. Our customers want to give the best, personalised, relevant experience to their customers, so we need to make sure the platform rises to that challenge.

Oi: What is the best part of your job?

JW: I love marketing marketing technology to marketers. I get the issues, challenges and can relate to what our customers are going through. I can also talk from the heart when I’m sharing what we and our customers are doing with Adobe Marketing Cloud. There’s never been a better time to be a marketer. I love that.

Oi: Social technology has made Marketers jobs harder – discuss…

JW: I wouldn’t say harder. Just….different. When I started my career marketing was almost an abstract thing, with marketers far removed from customers. And campaigns were planned when we had bandwidth or a gap in the marketing calendar. Measurement involved sending out a direct mail or running an ad and then getting an agency to tell us the results three months later. When it was too late. Nowadays, with social, marketers are drawn more into a conversation with customers (quite literally) which is a good thing I think as marketing is only about understanding what your customers want. And social, as well as digital marketing more generally, can give you that live feedback. Of course this is challenging and requires many marketers to reinvent themselves. Some marketers will adapt to the change and some won’t. And that’s hard for many.

Oi: Favourite film?

JW: In terms of what I’ve watched the most, it has to be Spinal Tap. I first saw that movie when it came out, and was relatively obscure. You weren’t sure if it as a documentary or not. Of course now its a cult classic and the joke is well known. But it still stands up to the test of time, especially for someone like me who was a budding musician for many years. It also transpired to be my wife’s favourite film too, so it has a nice role in my life.

Oi: Are you looking forward to coming back to Cardiff for Oi15?

JW: Of course! I was born in Cardiff, and my family are still there. And its awesome to have a digital marketing conference in the City. I don’t get back as much as I’d like, so its great to have another reason to make a visit too.

Oi: Thanks John - we're glad you're coming home too :)

(Interview re-posted from the OI15 site).

Talking from the heart : The key to good marketing communications

I do a fair amount of public speaking in my job at Adobe and I'm extremely lucky to have one key advantage.

I'm not necessarily the best speaker. Nor am I extremely charismatic nor high energy. 

No, what I have is quite simple. I get to talk to an audience of people just like me, i.e. fellow marketers. And that's incredibly powerful. Why? As my role is marketing marketing technology to marketers, I get their issues, challenges and can relate to what they are going through.

And that means I can talk from the heart. I'm not faking it. I'm not guessing what it's like to do their job. I'm not even interpreting the results of an intermediate's research project. I'm living their lives. I'm in their shoes. I'm feeling their pain. (I also love marketing, which also helps).

And that does three things in my audience's mind. It shows I have:

  • Authenticity (He's genuine and believable)
  • Confidence (He's relaxed with his subject and that says a lot)
  • Trust (He's one of us!)

And that magic triangle far outweighs pizzaz, charisma and showmanship. Its something we shouldn't forget in our more general marketing. In an age where our physical and digital worlds have collided and customers are overwhelmed by digital noise, the brands that win will be those that show they care about their customers. And they can only do that if they can demonstrate that they understand their issues, needs and wants (and of course provide products & services to meet those elements).

So the challenge in the next few years isn't about grabbing your customer's attention. That's a fickle, fleeting thing to get. It's about delivering great experiences that not only makes them loyal to you, but show that you're loyal to them. And talking from the heart, authenticity, confidence and trust are the tools of the trade to help you succeed.

What I've learnt about Content Marketing by running a daily music blog

Earlier this year I started writing a daily music blog. The idea was to let iTunes randomly select one track every day (i have over 13,000 by the way), and I would then write a short post about that track. Included in the review would be two scores - based on "serendipity" (i.e. how surprising the track was to be selected) and "love" (self explanatory). Multiplying these scores together created a "Serendipity Index" with the highest score representing the track which both surprised and delighted.

I then posted the review to a Facebook Grouptwitter and a Pinterest board. I also added the new track to a Spotify playlist. (You can follow all four if you like!)

Now whilst I'm a big music fan, the #1 reason I started the project was to get into the habit of writing and distributing content. Regularly. This was an exercise in marketing discipline and to be truthful I wasn't interested in building a following or even that my blog was read. I needed to experience being a content marketer.

Why?

Well, I'm a big believer that all brands will effectively be publishers in the next five years and that marketers need to respond to this challenge. We all have to get used to creating opinion-based content that talks to our company's market and not to our products. And to cut through the noise of digital marketing, we have to be interesting, controversial and/or engaging. We have to write like humans not like robots. And we have to write frequently.

So what did I learn? Well firstly, I have to admit, the process has been challenging. You'd be surprised how hard it is to find the time every day to write a few paragraphs on a song. In fact if you check the post dates on the blog, you'll see I've played catch-up a few times on a backlog of tracks! Anyway its been an interesting exercise. Here are my four key findings:

1. Great writers are to be cherished. Don't ever believe that writing is easy and that anyone can do it. Good copywriting is a rare skill. I've come to find out that words don't come easy to me and that it takes several edits just to produce a few paragraphs. So invest the time to find and retain good writers - either from outside or inside your company. And a Content/Editorial Director is a great hire should you have room on your team.

2. Having a point of view is tiring. Boy can I tell you having something interesting to say every day is hard work. Especially when iTunes throws you up an obscure track that you can't remember how it got into your music library. Good writers develop a tone of voice - this is something again not to be underrated. Marketers should have a house style or framework to refer to. Does your brand want to be perceived as serious? Knowledgeable? Impressive? Humorous? Likable? Edgy? Safe? Trusted? Innovative? Reliable? Brand guidelines help set the tone.

3. Content marketing need discipline.  It requires determination and discipline to produce good content regularly. Don't let the mood take you. Like taking vitamins, you have a get into a routine and stick with it. I know better than most as I lapsed fairly regularly! I was on a daily production schedule, but even a weekly or monthly cycle can be challenging. So setting an editorial calendar, based on themes, company events or industry news can help ease the frequency.

4. Algorithms kill creativity. If there's ever an illustration of how computers lack imagination, its iTunes shuffle. I have  13,000+ tracks by 100s of artists and yet the same (few) artists got chosen "randomly" every day. And it wasn't even the artists with a large number of tracks in my library. Even worse, iTunes served up the same tracks repeatedly. So the reality was within a few months I had to start skipping the initial suggestion. And then I made my own subjective opinions in making a selection. If I'd let iTunes do the work, I would've ended up with a repetitive blog featuring the same artists.  So my point here is, whatever the scenario, don't like algorithms drive the ultimate decision. Gut, instinct and creativity still remain a human quality. So, yes, use science but blend this with the creative and ultimately this will make your marketing cut through the crowd.

My 6 gadget heroes (and one villain) of 2014

I'm a big lover of technology generally and gadgets per se. I'm an early adopter, an over investor and a willing beta tester.

I'm no longer quite sure what constitutes a "gadget" nowadays. Some equate the term with gimmicks. Others with electronic tech. I guess for me its a combination of both.

Anyway here are my winners and losers for 2014:

 

 

Six Heroes (in no particular order)

ColdBruer Cold Brew Coffee System Arrived at the start of year, a cold brew system makes coffee by dripping iced water slowly through coffee grinds over a 10-12 hour period. The result is a smoother, less acidic brew which you can heat up, add to hot water or drink cold over ice. I'm pleased to see independent coffee shops now selling cold brew, and ColdBruer is a great way to make it at home. Unfortunately the system arrived a week after I scaled back my coffee consumption (!) but great, nevertheless.

Sonos PLAY:1. I've had a Sonos multi-room system for 8 years now. A relatively early adopter those initial years were somewhat troubled with connectivity and filseharing issues. Plus the original controller was very clunky, even though the concept was cool. Now the technical issues have disappeared and the iOS App is much cooler (and far easier to use). I already had a three room system, but I got the Play:1 to add a fourth. The form factor is so elegant, solid and well designed. It just works and looks damn good to boot. In fact, Sonos based around the Play:1 is likely up there as one of my favourite gadgets of the last decade.

Cocoon Grid-It! Organiser. Continually losing charging cables, VGA adaptors and USB sticks? Grid-It! keeps them all safe on a flat portable surface consisting of elasticised bands in umpteen configurations. Yes, you could shove everything in a zip up bag, but what i like about this is it lays flat. So I can fit it easier alongside my laptop in my laptop case or on the top of my stuff in my suitcase.

TeckNet PowerZen 15,000 mAh USB External Battery. If like me you carry and use multiple devices and get frustrated when part way through the day you're running out of juice, then this behemoth of an external battery is for you. This beauty can re-charge your iPhone or iPad up to 10 times before its drained. Plus if you don't use it for a week or so, the battery doesn't go flat. So much better than those "lipstick" USB chargers than can barely do one charge.

Apple iPhone 6Plus. I'm a big investor in Apple tech and I love my 6Plus. Its faster, has a better quality screen and a much better battery life than its predecessors. Plus I'm finding it a really useful form factor in between my iPhone 5s and my iPad Air. I'm using it more to couch-surf and when I'm travelling and downloading video content on-the-go.

Belkin Wemo Automation Switch. I dipped my toe in the water of home automation last year with the installation of the British Gas Connected Homes App which lets me control my home's heating remotely. The Wemo lets you switch anything connected to it remotely on or off and/or lets you set up on/off schedules. I've hooked it up one of our floor lamps. Useful for when you're away and want to scare away the burglars. I'm going to get their lightbulbs next - allowing you to the same, but with screw-in lights.

One Villain

UP24. I've tried to get on board the wearable fitness train. From Nike shoes that housed an Apple pedometer, to Nike+ and now to UP. From winner to sinner in a year - UP was one of my gadgets of 2013. But sadly things went downhill. I've now had three UP devices (two original and one "24" model) in 18 months. And all three stopped working. I'm not talking about they didn't quite do what  expected. Or I found the functionality limited. They just stopped working. And this for a device that only switches between active and sleep mode or is charging. Surely a Minimal Viable Product should start with just being able to be switched on. But no, 3 UP bands all stopped working (oh, and you've probably guessed i'm a city-dweller with a desk job so I've hardly put them through the mill). I would switch to FitBit but their band brings me up in a rash *despondent sigh*. So sorry Jawbone, three strikes and you're out. I tried, I really did.

Its not the "What" but the "Why" that counts in marketing.

Recently I revisited a rather excellent TEDTalk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek. In it he explores why are some people and organizations more innovative, more influential, and more profitable than others? Why do some command greater loyalty?

In studying the leaders who've had the greatest influence in the world, Sinek discovered that they all think, act, and communicate in the exact same way-and it's the complete opposite of what everyone else does. People like Martin Luther King Jr., Steve Jobs, and the Wright Brothers might have little in common, but they all started with WHY not WHAT.

The principle is simple. Give a vision and a reason for being and you get greater buy in and emotional connection. Tell the WHAT, and you get a 'meh'.

For example, if Apple were like everybody else a marketing message from them might sound like this: "We make great computers. They're beautifully designed and simple to use. Wanna buy one?" Answer : maybe. i.e. like most marketers, they would say WHAT they do, HOW they do it and expect some behaviour.

Instead, they worked the other way round: "Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently (WHY). We challenge the status quo by making products that are beautifully designed and simple to use (HOW). We just happen to make great computers (WHAT). Wanna buy one?" Answer : Hell yeah!

So lets not forget the WHY of what we do and bring that to the fore of our marketing. You might  be sceptical that your business or service has one, but rest assured you do! Your company does stand for something, have a strong point of view on an issue/subject or have a vision for the future. It could be:

  • a better way of doing business,
  • a desire to rid the world of costs, inefficiencies, inequalities or inadequacies,
  • an opportunity to increase access to certain types of services or
  • a passion to make people's lives better.

Of course it has to be authentic, but whatever it is, bring it alive in your marketing and start with the WHY not the WHAT.

 

Why i love B2B Marketing

There’s a great initiative that’s been kicked off by the Business Marketing Collective to challenge marketers in the B2B space to say why they love B2B Marketing.  You can follow the story on Twitter at #iloveb2b.  Here’s my contribution…

I've been doing B2B marketing for a long time. And when i started no-one, but no-one, chose B2B marketing as a career. No-one ever in career classes at school said "You know what,  I have a passion for promoting considered-purchase products & services." No-one went to University with the ambition of being a B2B marketer. No-one even got qualified to be a B2B marketer. 

And lets be honest, most B2B marketers historically fell into B2B marketing. Either by deciding sales wasn't for them or by moving out of general admin roles. But that's all set to change.

I truly believe we are in a golden age for B2B marketing. The old divide between B2C and B2B marketing has gone. The reality is the exciting stuff is in B2B. You get to do all the cool stuff that you envied B2C marketers for: digital marketing, data-driven marketing, content marketing, multi-channel communication, cut-thru creative and more. But you also get to cover multiple decision makers, varying personas and conflicting needs. In short, you have a far more interesting and challenging opportunity.  Forget trying to tug the emotional strings of a mother to buy fabric conditioner. You try instilling confidence in a CFO, a CEO and a CMO that you have a dependable, reliable business service that will drive growth and deliver a customer experience that more than delights their customers.

Now, that's exciting.

Its about logic, emotion, proof, business value, entertainment, ROI, being engaging, forging long-lasting relationships, delivering on promises, exciting customers.

And the best thing? No one has done this before. There's no Madison Avenue playbook, no corporate "way". You're a pioneer. An entrepreneur. An innovator. And you're at the forefront of a new industry. 

And that's why #iloveb2b.