In search of causality

We are constantly looking to answer the pervasive question:  "Did it work?" And our guidepost is always, "What does success look like?"  

In the consumer behavior/marketing world, answering these questions is no easy task.  The key is to do your planning and homework -- upfront -- so that you clearly define measurable ways to answer these questions with confidence.

So how do you do this?  You first need to adopt a culture of "true experimentation."  While it sounds logical, it's not as easy as it sounds.  The primary tenet here is to have a "probabilistically equivalent" sample:  where "there are no systematic differences between the groups in their characteristics or in how they would respond to [the] ads." This, friends, is the key.   If you don't have probabilistic equivalency in your data analysis, you will introduce additional variables which can impact the causality that you're attempting to explain.  

This is a favorite case study from Northwestern University/Kellogg School of Management that speaks to the issue of causality of consumer behavior as the result of Facebook advertising:  A Comparison of Approaches to Advertising Measurement: Evidence from Big Field Experiments at Facebook∗  

Dr. Florian Zettelmeyer, renowned data scientist, category expert, and Professor of Marketing at Northwestern University, is one of the researchers on this project and with whom we had the privilege of attending a Kellogg executive seminar that he moderated.  It's an eye opening analysis with concepts to always keep front-and-center when you're evaluating data, attempting to explain the often-elusive "why."  While most of us will never become data scientists in our spare time, we can use this framework to ask the right questions and to look "under the hood" at the source of data that comes our way.

The takeaway?  If you don't have true experimentation with probabilistic equivalency, you don't have much.  


It's that time of year - again!

Those who know us know that we live for data-driven insights. Every June, we await the arrival of the KPCB Internet Trends report by Mary Meeker.  Lots of great insights, where mobile remains the star of the show;  no huge surprise there.  We particularly gravitate towards page 13:  opportunity in mobile marketing is outpacing the time-spent at a $16 billion dollar clip in the U.S.  

What does this mean for marketers?  It means your site needs to be mobile-friendly and that you need to give customers an easy way to contact and to do business with you - via mobile device.  That means a cut-to-the-chase message, which is way harder to execute than it sounds.  Recall the sage advice of Blaise Pascal: "I'd have made it shorter, but I didn't have time."      

It also (still) means that marketing ROI calculation remains elusive: marketers clamor for marketing data, while consumers become more and more concerned about privacy.  

And, one of our favorite insights from this year's report:  

"A lot of the future of search is going to be about pictures instead of keywords."
Ben Silbermann, Pinterest Founder / CEO, 4/17

Let's face it: we all spend a LOT of time uploading images, which is user-generated content for marketers, and which can inform marketing decisions and messages.  You've got to give to get.

There's always so much great stuff in this annual state of the industry report, and we hope you enjoy it as much as we do.  

TV's still the screen we watch the most

There is a lot of talk about the demise of television;  true, the landscape is much more fragmented, but television's still the scale platform.  If you want to reach a lot of people in the shortest period of time, television is best equipped to deliver - hands down.  It's always prudent to consider an integrated approach:  digital targets better than television (or any other scale medium) can.  The campaign and communication needs to work together:  television can drive traffic to a response, whether it's a web click, telephone call, app download, or whatever you're considering "success."  And, be sure you think about - in detail - what "success" really is.  While it usually comes down to revenue generation, there may be interim steps to be taken in order to build that relationship and earn that revenue.  

Platform usage differs a bit based on age, but directionally, it's consistent.  Here's the latest report from Nielsen on the topic.

Source:  Nielsen,  Comparable Metrics Report, Q1 2016

Source:  Nielsen, Comparable Metrics Report, Q1 2016

Required Reading

As marketers, we're constantly challenged to keep up with the evolving media landscape.  A resource that we look forward to every year is this annual report from KPCB and Mary Meeker.  It's an outstanding overview of internet trends that is easy to understand and fascinating.  Pay particular attention to the upside opportunity still available in mobile.  You can thank us later. 

What's effective?

As integrated marketers, we're constantly being asked, "what's the most effective medium?"  While we'd argue that it's not simply the platform anymore, we're particularly intrigued at how well television commercials show on this list.  This provides fact-based evidence that television has the ability to drive efficient scale to digital's ability to deliver granular targeting.  It's not necessarily a siloed "either-or" proposition.  We're also really intrigued by the strong showing of relative newcomers - Periscope, Snapchat and Instagram.

On the power of integration...

We marketing communications types love to throw around the acronyms and buzzwords.  Our favorite is IMC, which stands for integrated marketing communications.  Northwestern University awards masters degrees in the subject.  But what does it mean and why is it significant and important?

Our clients constantly ask us how they can successfully reach their target audiences.  "Why isn't my advertising working?"  In an IMC  approach, the customer is the central focus and the quest is to build a long-term relationship with that customer.  This simple tenet is the root game-changer.  Marketers are most comfortable with a monologue approach:  build it (or say it), and they'll come.  Now, consumers are in charge. They control what, when, and how to consume your content. It's a dialogue -- ultimately, a relationship -- that we're now after.  It's new, different and outside of most marketers' comfort zones. And, it takes time, work and multiple platforms to be successful and relevant.  

But, there's a catch -- and there generally always is.

While a one-on-one customer relationship is the holy grail, in business, we require scale to sustain the business relationship.  This data from eMarketer astutely describes the consumer behavior that results from integrated marketing communications efforts.  Use your scale platforms -- typically "traditional" media -- to drive traffic to your relationship-sustaining platforms (usually digital or social platforms).  And, be ruthless with your measurement.  


This data, and the operative word here is data, is very compelling:  62% will research digitally as the result of a TV or radio spot.  And, it's highly probable that this prospect wouldn't be as likely to search for you if they weren't impacted by a piece of scale communication.  It's all got to work together, cut through the noise and clutter, and deliver value to the consumer.  Plain and simple.  That's IMC at work.

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The death of traditional media has been greatly exaggerated (even among young people)

It seems like we're hearing that "no one watches TV anymore."  And, despite all the recent discussion about cord-cutting, this recent data, profiling device use habits of kids and teens, shows otherwise.  Granted, teens' use of the laptop/computer as the "main screen" increases after about age 15, but TV is still the big kahuna.  Moral of the story?  Use the mass media to drive scale to your more granular digital targeting activity.  

Welcome to the "new and improved" website!

We're psyched to launch this new website, and we hope that you'll check back in with us frequently.  With the massive amounts of content that routinely comes our way, our goal is to become a resource for keeping up with the latest trends and issues affecting the ever-changing media landscape.  We invest heavily in resources to keep us up-to-the-minute, and will plan to share here, along with our posts on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.  

Video in all its incarnations is a hot commodity right now and eMarketer does an outstanding job in synthesizing and summarizing its growth.  Here's a projection of how agency types think the landscape will shake out relative to ad spend, and it's no surprise that video is at the top of the list.