As we near the end of 2019, and look forward to what 2020 holds, here are some websites / newsletters that I found particularly helpful and insightful over the past 12 months and that I will continue to reflect on in the next year as well:
The Minimalists – I am sure that, by now, minimalism is a fairly well-understood concept / philosophy thanks, in no small means, due to the popularity of Marie Kondo. I came across this website by Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus while reading more about minimalism and have subscribed to their newsletter. While I admit that it’s not easy to adopt completely, I try to keep the mantras of ‘less is more’ and ‘throw away what you do not need’ front and centre while going about my daily life.
Farnam Street – The aim of this blog by Shane Parrish is very simple – ‘Understand how the world works’. And his weekly newsletter is possibly one of the most useful ones I receive.
Nutrition Science – I have written a few articles on healthy eating. I attended a workshop conducted by Dr. Achyuthan Easwar in 2018 and have been consciously trying to apply the principles to my diet. I believe it has helped me tremendously.
Occam’s Razor by Avinash Kaushik – I have been following Avinash’s blog for a while now and it continues to be one of the most insightful Digital Analytics blog out there. A must read for any Digital Marketer.
Ask Western pop music fans this question, and the chances are that the majority would reply with ‘The Beatles’. There is no doubt that the four mop-topped boys from Liverpool revolutionised the world of pop music and continue to be one of the, if not the most, popular bands ever.
But there is increasingly a view that, as popular as The Beatles are, there is another band that is arguably the most influential band ever. Listen to their music today, and you cannot but be amazed at how prescient their music was, when it was first released more than 40 years ago.
The band is Kraftwerk, founded by Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider in Dusseldorf, Germany in 1970. Their early albums were only modestly successful, but in the period from 1974 to 1982, they released a series of albums that marked them out as the pioneers of what we now call electronic or synth-pop and which influenced a legion of musicians since.
I cannot put it any better than Jude Rogers writing in The Guardian – “The sounds they invented have been sampled by hundreds of artists, from Madonna to R.E.M, from Missy Elliott to Fergie. Coldplay and Jay-Z have had hits with their elegant melodies and their image has influenced David Bowie, Daft Punk and Kanye West. We also now live in the kind of world their future-obsessed lyrics predicted: we find Computer Love online, models smile from time to time and Europe Endless exists.”
Writing in The Conversation, Uwe Schütte says, “Kraftwerk … established an entirely new way to think about how popular music should sound to make it a dominant art form for the 21st century.”
I must admit, that while I had heard of Kraftwerk before, I only first heard them seriously in the summer of 2015. I was on a long-haul flight to India, and the in-seat entertainment unit of the airplane had Kraftwerk’s album, ‘The Man-Machine‘ in their library. As soon as the first notes from ‘The Robot’ hit my eardrums, I was hooked. And by the end of the total playing time of a little over 36 minutes, I was left to pick up my jaw from the floor. The music had lifted me up, churned me around and left me so dazed, it was as if I was listening to my first ever music album.
A few months after that, I viewed a documentary about their series of performances at The Tate Modern in London and that gave me a greater appreciation of the role they have played in creating a genre and the influence they still exert on popular music and culture.
An influence that, according to many, is unsurpassed in the history of popular music.
There is a tendency nowadays to equate Digital Marketingwith Social Media. Sure, a lot of users spend a fair bit of time on Social Media. And there could be products and services where it makes a lot of sense to spend a majority of your marketing efforts on Social. But this might not be the case for many brands who might end up missing the forest for the trees by focusing too much attention and effort on Social Media.
The field of Digital Marketing is over two decades old and I have been fortunate to have been associated with this field for over 19 years now. During my professional career, I have been closely involved with multiple facets of digital marketing including website marketing, digital analytics, email marketing, banner advertising, search advertising, community engagement (the precursor to social media), search engine optimisation (SEO), app marketing and of course, social media.
A typical business would need many (if not all) of the above channels to be in play to drive a successful digital marketing programme. A good framework that can be used to understand these channels is the Paid, Owned, Earned Media (POE) framework.
When I advise clients on Digital Marketing, the first step is typically to understand and define explicitly the Customer Value Proposition. This exercise, with the help of analytics and insights, usually forms the bedrock of the marketing strategy. It helps create a good understanding of the brand’s target market, the problem statements of their potential customers and the messaging strategy that can most effectively communicate how the brand can satisfy their needs.
Once this is in place, I usually advise my clients to be start on their Owned Mediachannels. These are assets that the brand owns and directly controls and is, in my opinion, the most important part of the media strategy. There is very little point in launching a Paid Media campaign unless your owned assets are not completely primed to communicate and deliver the value proposition and user experience that the customer expects.
A brand’s social media channels are also part of the Owned Media bucket. So, once the website is in a good shape, the focus can shift to the Content and social media channel strategy. At this stage, it is important to understand the specific role of social media (and other channels) within the target customer’s research and decision making process. This should dictate the choice of channel and content strategy.
The attention can then shift to the Earned mediabucket. Assuming that a brand now has a good Owned media strategy, they should expect to have some engagement with their customers. This could be in the form of reviews, social media mentions and, of course, email / sms marketing. The brand should be in a position to engage with their customers on these channels in a timely and effective manner.
Finally, Paid Media. It is very tempting, especially if a brand has money to spend, to immediately launch Paid Media campaigns. In my experience, this can be highly sub-optimal unless the other two buckets are functioning effectively. Brands can fall into the trap of jumping to the conclusion that it is Paid Media that is not working efficiently when results do not go their way, without acknowledging or accepting that the fault might well be that they lack a strong Owned (and Earned) Media strategy, or indeed that they might be lacking a strong customer value proposition.
In conclusion, if you are looking for ways to ramp up your digital marketing, take the time to think through exactly what you are trying to achieve, have an integrated strategyacross all channels and be prepared to continuously learn and make adjustments on the basis of actual performance data.
Display advertising is a very difficult channel (strategy) to get right. There are a set of challenges that it faces (ad blockers, ad blindness, viewability, etc.). Even if your audience do get a chance to see the ad, it is very difficult to attribute the impact of seeing the ad on your business goals. Yes, we have View Through Impression tracking, but that frankly tells nothing.
Having said that, there are benefits as well. It allows a brand to reach users at the right place and context and can have a role to play in specific product categories (high lead times, multiple visits, high value).
Once you have decided that you want to run a display advertising campaign, there are a few elements you need to think carefully about – your audience targeting strategy, pricing / bidding strategy, measurement strategy and, very importantly, your creative strategy.
Simply putting up an attractive banner is not going to cut it anymore. The message has to be relevant to the user and communicating something of value. And this is where I felt that the below creative failed.
Yes, it was contextual, as I was served this banner on a travel related site. But I was left confused by what the banner was trying to communicate. To begin with, notice the price of the first flight. Rs. 45,000 for Delhi to Dharamshala? No, thanks! It looks like the banner has been dynamically created. If yes, then the advertiser should have put a rule in placeto not display flights over a certain price.
Then notice the destinations mentioned – Chennai, Madurai, Bangalore, Jammu, Dehradun, Delhi, Dharamshala. In this day and age of data, the least an advertiser can do is to personalise their message as much as possible. In this instance, the advertiser could have leveraged IPto show me flights to and from my destination.
Finally, there is no mention of any reason as to why I should click on the banner. I do not wish to ‘Learn more’ about flights from random point A to random point B. There was another banner from the same advertiser elsewhere on the page with the message ‘Your flight is a click away’. Dear advertiser, I am seeing your banner on a website in late 2019, yes, I do know that I can book flights through clicking! This space could have been better utilised by talking about what makes you unique or different, or some other statement to drive moreimmediate action.
I would love to know how this campaign performed, but my sense is that they will struggle to see any meaningful impact.
Please contact meif you would like any help with your Digital Marketing.
As I have mentioned a couple of times already, it’s that time of the year when literally anyone and everyone is busy preparing and sharing their lists of insights and trends.
I came across Google’s view recently. And I found it distinctly underwhelming.
It’s very surprising to hear Google say that this is the year (2019) when ‘consumer journeys became increasingly complex‘. As someone who has been in the field of Digital Marketing for over 15 years now, this is something that was obvious to me for at least the last five years. The seeds for this were sown, I would say, in 2007, when Apple launched the iPhone and the smartphone revolution took off. Consumers no longer had fixed times (and places) when they accessed the Internet and could do it whenever and wherever they fancied.
The second insight is that ‘New Media Channels are Emerging‘. Really, this is big news in December 2019? I looked at the various research conducted by Google and discovered that most of these date from 2018. The only pieces of research that are later than January 2019 relate to YouTube – a channel that has been around for more than 14 years now – and Voice Search. Now I agree that Voice is going to be the next big thing. It might have been more accurate if Google had said that ‘Voice is Emerging as the Next Big Media Channel‘.
Having said that, I do find it interesting that users are being more location conscious in their online searching and browsing behaviour. This is definitely something that brands should look at leveraging, wherever possible.
The next insight is that ‘Traditional industries are transforming with digital‘. Again, most of the research that supports this insight date to 2018. And given that ‘Digital Transformation‘ has been a buzzword for at least a couple of years now, is this truly insightful?
The final insight is ‘Standards are being raised in privacy and digital wellbeing‘. And this is the one that I think Google got right. Users are increasingly becoming aware of their digital footprint and digital addiction. As their October 2019 survey revealed, ‘1 in 3 Americans have taken steps to improve their digital wellbeing in the past year, and more than 80% of them said this had a positive impact on their overall sense of wellbeing.‘
It does look like Google has put together a largely rehashed set of insights to capitalise on this ‘End of Year’ season for insights. I would give them a rating of 2/5 for this effort, very disappointing for a leading digital business with the depth of resources that they have.
Digital marketer, travel / culture / heritage enthusiast