Monday, August 21, 2017

Google Tests Subscription Tools for Publishers

The article explains that Google's subscription tool allows readers to access articles from subscription publications through search. The company is is also exploring publishers’ tools around online payments and targeting potential subscribers. It’s all part of Google’s broader effort to keep consumers and content-makers returning to the web, the lifeblood of its ads business.

Initial testing publishers include NY Times and Financial Times.

This is really interesting as it shows how Google is approaching more "Strategic Partnerships" with large publishers of content. Content is continuing to become a very important part of advertising and firms that generate ad revenues.


Spotify's Ad Ambitions

The article outlines Spotify's prior strategy of generating streaming awareness and creating a "network" effect of users. Now that Spotify is public, it is attempting to convince investors that there is a long runway of ad growth ahead of it due to the captivated user base.

While I think it is smart of Spotify to drive ad revenue, it will also be difficult to prove to investors that users are open to paying for services while also being subjected to advertisements. The vast majority of revenue still comes from subscriptions with core users.

Further the CMO points out that marketers are chiefly concerned about "brand safety" in this competitive environment.


Delloitte Digital Acquires Acne Consulting

Delloitte Digital has acquired creative agency Acne. The move expands it's European operations. According to the article,  Acne was founded in 1996, Acne has offered creative, digital, strategic, film and digital services for clients including Ikea, Spotify, H&M, Max and Telenor.

This article highlights the growing importance of highly-value added consultative digital marketing services. Spotify, a highly sought after digital music streaming company, has utilized Acne for years.

Interestingly, PwC, Accenture Interactive, International Business Machines Corp.’s iX and Deloitte Digital make up four of the top 10 biggest providers of advertising services. This diversity in business models demonstrates how vital marketing services has become in order for consulting services to offer a "full suite" of advisory services.


Facebook and In-Stream Video

An interesting development in Facebook's quest for driving ad growth is their decision to place "in stream" video ads for marketers. The ads are similar to commercial breaks as they work to weave in more "original content". This is a relatively large break in strategy for the company as it used to be focused on ads separate from "user generated content" and on separate streams. This is yet another sign that it is (i) the ad market is getting more competitive (which should benefit advertisers) and (ii) the rising importance of original content.


Total Eclipse of the Marketing Budget

It is even more imperative in today's digital environment to capture trends. What is curious, is that most brands are trying to capitalize on this event given that it is so ubiquitous.


Friday, August 18, 2017

PINTEREST...Will it Interest you???

Pinterest is a user generated image content platform. It facilitates in ways to search through images (i.e. converting clicking on an image to a search query, targeting advertising based on image searches). They are different from Instagram and Snapchat where one shares the images. Pinterest has been unabashedly vocal that it is not a social network. Its plan is to make it as easy as possible for a user to convert their purchase decision to a buy. It is influencing people to buy an item that they have been planning to buy but have not been able to hit the purchase button yet.

Their ultimate goal is to maximize the capabilities available through Lens, a resource on Pinterest through which users can take a picture on their phone and Pinterest will display pins related to the objects in the photo (for example, if you submitted a photo of a pair of shoes you would see pins of outfits including those shoes, or even links to purchase the shoes).
Due to the relationship between Pinterest and the brands that utilize Pinterest to promote and advertise their products, Pinterest believes it has an "edge" over other companies that have tried to build visual search platforms.

Pinterest’s initial user base was driven by women but now it has expanded to other age groups such as millennials and middle aged groups. Pinterest’s users have driven its growth because more people generate more ideas. People save their favorite ideas from around the web on a single platform. This user base growth and rich content in a single platform allows brands to reach their audience on Pinterest. As they continue to grow faster than ever, they are adding new business programs too. Recent initiatives include bringing ads to new markets, launching promoted app pins and introducing Pinterest propel, new program for small businesses and agencies.

As more people discover the magic of Pinterest, community keeps growing. Pinterest now has 175 million monthly active users around the world. This number is almost equal to the user base of Snapchat. Much of the recent growth comes from international markets, where word is spreading fast about Pinterest’s unique blend of utility and inspiration. They have seen 3x year over year growth in Germany and Brazil and 2x year over year growth in France and Japan.

Pinterest describes itself as not a social media site, it's a visual discovery engine focused on helping people discover ideas, and not about socializing with friends. Hence it is different from Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat but the concept is similar, to grow data base of user generated content. The additional number of users added is less compared to social platforms like Instagram where it boasts four times the number of monthly users compared to Pinterest.

Pinterest expects to make more than $500M revenue this year compared to $300M last year. It started generating revenue from advertising in The company said its growth potential depends on improving its product to match people with images that reflect their interests and inspire them. They have e-commerce and content aspects like its counterparts Instagram and Facebook. Pinterest is aiming to become a shopping platform like Amazon. Pinterest recently invested to improve its recommendation engine, which delivers targeted products to a user’s feed based on search and pin history and this could be a game changer.

The company is raising funds to improve its computer vision and visual search technologies like its Lens camera search, which lets users take pictures on their phone and search for similar items or images on Pinterest. The company will also use the new capital to improve its offering for international users.

As per study, brands achieve return on investment with Pinterest that blows away Facebook and Instagram, but that only happens when marketers share useful content and inspiring ideas. It will take time to shift habits, but the company is headed in right direction and has lot of potential unless competition catches up to it.


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

How to survive as an Electronics Retailer in the Age of Amazon

With so much growth happening for digital and technology companies, I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at how the traditional retail space is doing.  We’ve seen some companies, like RadioShack and Circuit City sink as they failed to keep up with the rapidly changing tech environment. Others, like Best Buy, have been able to keep their heads above water.

As a traditional retailer, how do you continue to be successful? Is this truly a dying industry or do companies just need to change their strategies?

Continuing to use Best Buy as an example, they have able to continue being profitable by pivoting their value proposition.  What was once a product company is now positioning itself as a service company. They are currently planning to rull out a service that brings employees to their homes to ensure consumers are utilizing all of the benefits and upgrades of the products they purchase. While this has allowed them to maintain market share in the electronics and technology space, time will tell if this will work long-term.  Amazon and other companies are taking notes and are releasing their own service-style programs to keep up with the competition. 


VR Marketing Pioneers

With our final Digital Marketing class ending with some new and exciting virtual reality demos, I thought it’d be interesting to take a look at how some companies are already using VR in their marketing campaigns.  These companies are really pioneers; being among the first to reach audiences with a new type of digital experience in order to leverage their brand.

TOM’s: Utilized VR to allow the audience to watch their story as it happened.  This increased the emotional connection the audience had with story. 

MERCEDES: Used a 360 VR tool to show off their new SL model.  This gave consumers a more realistic and exciting experience than a a regular car commercial by putting the viewer IN the car rather than outside of it.

OREO: Created an entire animated virtual world full of milk and cookies to excite people about their new cupcake flavored cookies.  The video has over 3.2m views on Youtube!

NASCAR: Allowed viewers to feel the rush of being a Nascar driver by placing the audience inside the car, on top of the car, in the pit, etc.

View the full article to see other examples:


Monday, August 14, 2017

What's Next?

This article focuses on a topic that we’ve discussed heavily in close- how the future of search will impact business.  It features human language search, digital personal assistants, “everything in-platform” and hyperpersonalization.
                Consistent with what we’ve discussed in class, the article expects to see continued growth in the voice search. It suggests that this format suits search engines well because we tend to be clearer with our search intent when we express it in the form of voice rather than other methods. An interesting idea brought about is a keyboardless computer experience. This article suggests that machine learning and personalization still have to evolve significantly to achieve that.
                The article also references digital personal assistants like Google Home, Alexa, etc. This search helps the consumer to bypass all of the additional data one sees on a search engine screen. It also brings you straight to the answer, vs providing links to different answers that the searcher then chooses.
                Another interesting trend is hyper-personalization. We discussed in class how search and display advertisements can be customized based on demographic, consumer behavior, etc. As machine learner and platform integration continue to develop, our ability to search will continue to be refined to cater exactly to ourselves.
                It will be interesting to see which companies thrive in the digital marketing and search space by leveraging these new technologies, and what other technologies will emerge in coming years.  What an exciting time to be in digital!


Saturday, August 12, 2017

Microsoft vs. Snapchat

Recently, Microsoft has completely revamped the look of its video calling software "Skype" and loaded it with several cool features which makes it very similar to other picture/video sharing social media networks like SanpChat. Skype now allows a user to publish videos/photos which will be available for one week (vs. SnapChat's 24 hours) and is only visibile to people who follow you rather than all your contacts. Also, an individual's followers/contacts can comment on your posted photos/videos similar to Facebook. This can be viewed as a significant step by Microsoft to compete with similar messaging platforms like snapshat, whatsapp, Facebook etc. 

Microsoft's push seems to be a testimony for increase in the demand for sharing videos/photos instantly with your family and friends. These technologies help to user to visualize and are much more intimate than text messages. The adoption of this new Skype will heavily depend on the ease of operation and user experience which it will provide its customers. 

Will Microsoft's Skype be successful in breaking through as a popular social network? Only time will tell...



Adaptive or Responsive Mobile Site...

There are primarily two ways in which the mobile websites are designed  to serve the customers -Adaptive or Responsive. An adaptive site is one which identifies if the user is accessing the web page via a mobile device and displays the appropriate mobile size. Adaptive sites generate a different page baaed on the user's device, irrespective of the browser size. Whereas in the case of responsive site, the sites respond to the change in the size of the browser irrespective of the device being used.  Responsive sites allow optimal browsing no matter the screen size and usually expensive to design.

Sometimes, a website can make use of both these elements and is called RESS (Responsive with Server Side Elements). For example, is a perfect example of this kind of website.

The applications of the two methods vary and the choice can be made based on the type of site required. Responsive sites are usually slower as compared to adaptive sites and hence, could be a key factor in mind when speed is the prime focus (e.g. website used to check train, flight schedules). While selecting the procedure it is extremely important to keep the user preferences in mind. Adaptive sites are better for companies with budgetary constraints as these are relatively cheaper. The techniques vary and all the important factors should be kept in mind before designing any solution. 




Take Back Your Reputation with Twitter

When Patrick Ambron founded BrandYourself, he saw a need in the market for managing information about yourself on the internet. This has turned into a profitable company with a toolkit of resources for evaluating your online reputation and minimizing and burying potentially harmful search information.

This article zooms in on one avenue any person can optimize on their own, and it stems from Google somewhat recently including Twitter information in search results. If you search for most people's names, as you'll see below, a Twitter handle comes up as one of the top results. This is an opportunity to control what people find when they search for you, and there are a few things you can do to make sure your Twitter account is a top search result.

Coca-Cola's Twitter account in Google search results

While your personal brand may not be as important for digital marketers, managing your company's brand follows the same logic.

The first piece of insight is just simply to utilize all the fields that Twitter offers to input information. Make sure you enter information into the Full Name field, the Bio, and the URL fields. Through out your design, always be thinking of how someone searching for your company/product would enter information into the search bar. It's important to include these search words in your bio and to make your handle relevant to this search.

As with normal SEO, you want your handle to seem important, so establishing links to your handle from your webpage and from other social media pages helps boost the search score. Tweeting often and incorporating emojis also make your tweets more relevant and thus rank higher on the search results. Things like posting pictures on your Twitter account and setting up Twitter Cards also help.

There are a number of other tricks listed out in the article, but the general principle is that you need to be active on Twitter through posting and re-tweeting, build your user base, and post quality content.

I think this article is interesting and relevant for another reason, a future potential challenge for Google. For all the bad press Twitter gets as a failing company, it's relevance is undeniable, and other social media sites are also growing in relevance. The choice to include Twitter feed/Tweets in Google search results, takes up real estate on search results, which pushes other results down the page. Maybe it's indicative of what is actually relevant to search these days, but as other companies grow in legitimacy, will Google include those posts in search results also? How do certain elements of social media breach the threshold relevancy? And how much real estate can Google afford to dedicate to social media results? It's interesting to see how Google's algorithms  act as sort of a stamp of approval on what makes things 'legitimate' enough to include as search results.

Twitter SEO Ninja Tricks


Can Facebook's 'Watch' Take On YouTube?

Facebook has announced the launch of Watch, a tab for TV-like content where users can watch and organize videos. Facebook intends for Watch to overtake YouTube as the go-to video consumption hub. This article analyzes whether Facebook can really rival YouTube and capture digital ad spend from TV advertising.

YouTube has already mastered the separation between creator-driven content and professional content with their Red strategy, but Facebook has yet to announce how they’ll distinguish between the two. There’s a huge opportunity with Facebook’s newsfeed and 2 billion daily active users that actively engage with video content regularly. The general consensus here is that it’s too early to tell what kind of impact Facebook Watch will have on media agencies and advertisers since the platform caters to user engagement rather than advertisers at this time.

I agree with the article that it’s too soon to speculate. However, YouTube started in 2005 as a video platform for users to upload their own content, and it didn’t really cater to advertisers until after the Google acquisition. Facebook Watch is starting with a robust built-in audience. Although it has less brand recognition than YouTube as the go-to for video content, over time I don’t see why it can’t surpass YouTube altogether. 


I hate to say I told you so but…

I don’t even think but that a post is due for this final week, but there are two things that I have an inexorable need to do: (i) get some extra credit (wink, wink – talking to you Jeremy), and (ii) rant about Snapchat.  If you have taken the time to read any of my previous blog posts, you might have noticed that I have neither any affinity for nor understanding of the phenomenon known as Snapchat.

My understanding of the Snapchat investor value proposition is that the platform will be able to scale and penetrate an older user demographic – me. Yeah right. It looks like that value proposition might prove to be untrue as the number of daily active users in Q2 is down from the prior quarter. Ominous much? I think so. The hype around Snapchat will never be higher and in order to realize the potential underlying its value proposition, I would have thought that the growth in new users would have continued to increase.

If the new trend is augmented reality, this seems like old hat to a degree – didn’t Niantic (on of Google/Alphabet’s “Other Bets”) capitalize on this over a year ago with Pokémon? This doesn’t seem like any sustainable competitive advantage unique to Snapchat. From my perspective, the only real barrier to entry is the switching cost that Snapchat’s asinine interface imposes on its users. I’m not going to lie, I can’t figure out how to use the app and don’t have the need (none of my friends, colleagues, or family members on using the app) to attention to take the time to figure it out.

I’m still baffled that they keep pushing ad tech to appeal to a younger generation because they have soooo much disposable income that isn’t devoted to Taco Bell (I do love that taco head). I would have thought that this demographic would be at risk to jump off the platform if they are bombarded by ads.  To be fair, Snapchat does do some cool things – who doesn’t like a dancing hot dog! They also had something Game of Thrones related for the premier, but alas they couldn’t capitalize on this avid fan of all things Westerosi as I’m on their platform. I even went so far as to open the app on my phone but then got bored and didn’t set it up…I just don’t need another platform. To put this in appropriate context, I lobbied incredibly hard to keep my $400 replica of Long Claw hanging in my now three month old’s nursery – and I mean incredibly hard. Now, if the allure of looking like a White Walker isn’t enough for me, an ardent supporter of the King in the North, to sign up for Snapchat I’m not sure how they are going to penetrate into their older target demographic.

Oh and have we talked about how great a leader Spiegel is? If you had any doubt, this little excerpt from the article really sums it up:

At one point in the quarterly conference call, Spiegel sounded impatient with one of the questions from an analyst who asked about "growth hacking," which apps use to attract more visitors by sending notifications. The analyst asked which types of techniques Spiegel didn't like. There were plenty of examples to look for online. Spiegel told him to Google it.

Really, you are the CEO of a publicly traded company and you have the gall to tell someone on your earnings call to ‘Google’ an answer…way to go BRO.


Friday, August 11, 2017

Google loves advertising revenue, but hates annoying ads as much as you do

Google is standing up for those of us who are annoyed by pop-up ads and other obnoxious forms of advertising as a part of the Better Ads Standard group that is reaching out to publishers who show "annoying, misleading, or harmful" ads. Google has pledged to block these types of ads starting next year on the Google Chrome browser - they are currently going through the process of testing which websites would be impacted and publishers including Betty Crocker, The New York Daily News, TV Guide, and Forbes have been found to be violators. Google clearly isn't opposed to advertising but they are committed to helping advertisers get their message out in a less annoying (and ideally Google-sponsored) manner. It will be interesting to see if the web browsing experience does improve next year when Google's block begins.


Voice & AI: The Next Frontier of Brand Marketing

Here’s What You Need to Know About Voice AI, the Next Frontier of Brand Marketing

When Tim Reis spoke to us a few weeks ago, he left us with a quote from Google co-founder (and billionaire) Larry Page: "Imagine a world with no keyboards". Tim was saying what happens when all of us have voice activated devices in our homes- what happens then to advertisers? This article is a great preview of just that and discusses how marketers could be ok.

A few key points of this article that I found really interesting:

*Combining the specifics of voice search (ie: telling the device exactly what you are looking for) and what the device already knows about you (from linked browsing and social media data) will allow for more personalized and targeted ad opportunities

*we have learned that brands look to be in the top 5 of search results; how does that change for voice devices? Will we really listen to 5 advertisements? This will drastically change how advertisers thing about result ranking AND likely lead to increased bidding amounts for the top 1-2 places in results.


Influencer Marketing: Fraud?!?

This article is about an influencer marketing company and how they highlighted the issue of ad fraud afflicting advertisers and brands. The company created two Instagram accounts to show how easy it is to create a fake influencer and gain paid brand deals.

The rise of Influencer Marketing is well known at this point. This article says that $1B has been spent on Instagram influencers this year alone. The amount of fraud, however, is not so well know. I have long been weary of the "promoted" posts I see on my social media feeds. I believe that there should be a regulatory body set up to monitor this issue. Social advertising will continue to command dollars and with that, fraudulent accounts will continue to exist.


Emerging Market SVOD Platform gets New Round of Funding

The subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) platform, iflix, targets emerging markets like Southeast Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. They have recently received a new round of funding, 133 million dollars, and plan to use it to develop local content. They face stiff competition in their markets of choice, going up against Netflix and even YouTube in their markets of choice.

iflix believes that generating local content and targeting a lower income customer base will be the key to grabbing market share. However, they are not alone in these beliefs, or at least not the only one willing to invest in hopes of success. Netflix has already begun releasing original content targeting the India market. Even if iflix sees some future success, will it be enough to build a strong enough foot hold in the market? As competition grows, will consumers now be open to paying for more than one SVOD service? Looking forward to seeing where this goes, especially if it lowers my monthly bills.


Thursday, August 10, 2017

His name was Steve. Remember him. #WeAreSteve

On July 16th, 2017 something tragic happened: A K5 security robot built by a company called Knightscope attempted to commit robo-suicide by rolling itself into a fountain. The response to this incident was nothing short of remarkable. On the one hand, there were those who celebrated a very minor victory of human ability over a machine. Others were celebrating the failure of a machine that was supposed to take away human jobs. But on the totally opposite end of the spectrum, you had those who were saddened by the loss of a treasured friend. Regardless of where you stand, this was potentially a PR disaster for Knightscope and its "intelligent" robots.

But then something magical happened: Instead of trying to cover up the incident, Knightscope embraced its quirkiness. They quickly created a persona for Steve the robot and started tweeting along with the hashtag #WeAreSteve. The seized upon the incident as an opportunity to raise awareness for their products with a little humor. Their response is a model of how to take what could be a really bad story and flip it to a positive one.


Facebook Is Finally Launching Its Long-Awaited Original Video Tab

Facebook recently announced it will be releasing a new tab for original video content, which will be available across mobile, desktops, laptops and TVs. With the launch of the new tab, called Watch, Facebook hopes to “…siphon video advertising budgets and users away from TV networks, Snapchat, Twitter and YouTube.” The new feature will be personalized and allow users to share and discover content based on their networks and friends. This sharing and discovery of video content within user networks highlights the power of Facebook’s ‘social graph.’ Daniel Danker, Facebook director of product, wrote “watching video on Facebook has the incredible power to connect people, spark conversation and foster community…On Facebook, videos are discovered through friends and bring communities together. As more and more people enjoy this experience, we’ve learned that people like the serendipity of discovering videos in News Feed, but they also want a dedicated place they can go to watch videos.”

The new functionality appears to be an attempt by Facebook to emulate the SNAP content feature. As Instagram has unabashedly copied many of the SNAP features, this development aligns with Facebook’s strategy to capture SNAP’s current user base. As Facebook bolsters it’s ad channels, SNAP will need to ensure its metrics improvement effort retains advertisers while maintaining or growing its current user base.


Saturday, August 05, 2017

Google Is About to Offer Publishers a Feature Similar to Snapchat’s Discover Stories

Looks like a another digital company is making use of Snapchat's features.

According to WSJ, Google is developing a content system by the name of Stamp that will resemble Snapchat's Discover feature. Working in conjunction with Accelerated Mobile Pages, the stories will also be swipeable and display the same text, videos and imagery. This will allow Google to further engage users with media outlets via interactive content on the AMP system, keeping mobile users interested in Google services. Google has been reaching out to publishers such as CNN, Time Inc., and the Washington Post, which will also benefit from having their bite-sized magazine content on multiple channels.

It is not yet clear where exactly Stamp will live, but by creating mobile centric, fast loading and engaging content on the leading search engine, Google can control the ads they display within the content, appeal to the Snapchat user base in the way they consume content, and also stave off competition with Facebook's Instant Articles feature that keeps users on the platform as they can search for news and entertainment within the social network.


Instagram Stories has emerged as a clear favorite for marketers over Snapchat

It’s been a year since Instagram launched Instagram Stories to rival Snapchat, and the consensus among marketers is now that Instagram Stories have a wider reach and better marketing opportunities. Snapchat is widely regarded as a niche platform for younger, digital saavy users, which will certainly gain importance over the next several years as Gen Z enters the workforce and better influence consumption. For now, over half of businesses on Instagram used stories last month to advertise. Instagram also boasts almost 100 million more daily users than Snapchat. Meanwhile, Snapchat’s monthly active user growth rate plummeted from 17.2% to 5% per quarter. Instagram also has the benefit of Facebook’s infrastructure to gain a competitive edge.

The main takeaway is that Instagram currently has the ability to scale quicker than Snapchat. However, both platforms are constantly innovating and it’s tough to predict how Snapchat will benefit marketers as they form new partnerships (i.e. Oracle Data Cloud partnership for ad relevance) or how their audience ad targeting will evolve over that of Instagram. Snapchat also offers cheaper real estate and more detailed targeting opportunities.


Design considerations for Mobile

We've discussed in class about how 2015 may have been the year that mobile became more impactful than desktop web experiences. Google will soon be confirming this by weighting the quality of the mobile version of a webpage more heavily than any other metric. Mobile versions of your webpage will soon become the default version used in Google search rankings. With that in mind, web development focus will shift to a mobile-first strategy if it hasn't already.

This article gave a few good pointers for helping make your website more compatible with the mobile experience. A quick summary of the themes:
- Include a table of contents
- HTML Headings
- Expandable content
- Tabs
- Filters
- Summary, Highlights, TL;DR (Too Long; Didn't Read)
- Bullet points
- Bold / Italic Text
- Highlight important points

The basic premise across the board is to eliminate the fluff. The mobile experience has to be concise, easily sortable, impactful content because the mobile user doesn't have the time or capability to consume/sort through large amounts of information.

This approach towards developing your mobile content will actually benefit your desktop web development as well. If you develop the streamline version of your app first, you really have to prioritize what's important which becomes a good framework to build out your desktop page.

Developing Your Mobile Content


Steph Curry starts out with a Slyce

No, I'm not talking about Steph Curry's debut as a professional golfer this week. Nor is this a reference to his sliced shot off the first tee. I'm talking about Steph Curry's start up, Slyce. Curry is an investor in the start up that has recently pivoted. Previously focused on assisting celebrities with sorting through social media noise, they are now geared toward marketing around brand ambassador partnerships.

Curry was recently able to do a little marketing of his own, and shout out the company via the HBO show "Ballers." If Slyce is truly able to add value to both the brand and their ambassadors, their up side is endless. This space continues to grow and evolve and Slyce has an opportunity to do so with it. Having Steph Curry as your own ambassador can't hurt either. I am very interested to see where this one goes.


Social media is the new TV

New York Times wrote an insightful piece about why brands are suddenly more vulnerable to consumer sentiment than they once were. The article was saying it boils down to one thing — social media is the new TV.

We have seen how online sentiment can bring about a momentum against brands, from #deleteUber to the outrage over United Airlines' treatment of its passengers, from Pepsi's politically/racially insensitive ad to Fox News anchor being stripped of his position due to his inappropriate behavior towards women. Consumers are rallying together to make demands of, and shape organizations' corporate practices.

Another fascinating insight in this piece is about how women account for 85% of all consumer purchases. As we see the rise of consumers making themselves heard, we will also see the rise of women wanting to be heard even more (we are already seeing much of that in the past 2-3 years.) But one can see how these trends converge, especially when you consider the fact that women dominate social media, and these platforms have the ability to empower them. It will be useful to stay ahead of this trend and see how it evolves in the near future.


Well Call Me a Monkey's Uncle...Who Saw This Coming!?!?

Whelp, that happened, and I guess that it was only a matter of time before it did, digital advertisers have officially thrown down the gauntlet in acknowledging that they will stop at nothing to get your eyeballs on their ads. So starting in early July, Facebook started to roll out display formats within the previously ad-free app, giving brands a way to be front and center for Messenger’s 1.2 billion users, while also giving Facebook a new place to continue scaling its massive advertising business.

Lucky us!

Now when you are just trying to send a message to your buddy about plans for tonight, you will be bombarded by ads. I for one, can’t wait!!

Oh, and it gets better! When asked if Facebook plans to begin reading messages between users for better targeting—much like Google has done for years with Gmail—the company said it doesn’t plan on it. Thank goodness for this! Facebook has proven to be such a trustworthy and respectful when it comes to their user’s privacy. They are probably able to say, with a straight face, that they aren’t planning on beginning to read messages because they already have been since the beginning!


Free Advertising!!!! Click here now!

Imagine you're a flight test engineer and your job is to test a new engine on a passenger jet. You have to stay airborne for 18+ hours and it doesn't matter where you go. Speaking from personal experience being involved with tests like these, they can understandably be quite tedious. Anything you can do to break the monotony without sacrificing test results is most welcome. So it's not all that surprising that the test conductor who came up with the flight plan for a recent Boeing 787 test flight had a little fun when it came to filing the flight plan.

What's more interesting is the massive public response. This action was most likely done at a very low level. Someone was bored and it cost nothing to be a little creative. But the result was very public. The aircraft's flight path was beamed real-time to a number of flight tracking websites and the story quickly went viral. What started as just a way to pass the time turned into a huge PR win for Boeing. For free.

While you might not have an 18 hour flight coming up for your company, think about what you could do to spice things up around the workplace. You might find that adding a little creativity can go a long way to sparking a ton of free publicity in a day and age where information travels far and wide for free, people just have to be interested or enjoy what you're sharing.


Gangnam Style is Dethroned on YouTube

Psy looses his crown to Wiz Kahalifa's tribute video

I have to admit, I've never once seen one of the Fast and The Furious movies.  While I am not their main target audience (males ages 18 - 45), I'm still astounded by the franchise's continued success.  The movies have achieved impressive world wide box office numbers - the 8 movies since 2001 have grossed more than $5 billion in sales- and there seems to be no end to the franchise's story lines, with the release of the a new movie every 2 years for the past 8 years including the most recent in 2017 and with another one scheduled for release in April 2019.  There have also been other brand extensions with video games, movie shorts, and theme park rides.  So the latest success of the brand should not come as a surprise but it still is.  Recently YouTube, the video sharing website behemoth, announced that it had a new #1 most viewed video on its website - the song See You Again by  Wiz Kaleefa and Charlie Puth from The Furious 7 soundtrack.  This dethroned the previous #1 video, another world wide hit - Gangnam Style by Psy.  To give you some context, the song Gangnam Style was released in 2012 and quickly became one of the most annoyingly catchy and successful pop songs globally putting it in the same category as The Macarena and Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On.  That See You Again (released in May 2015) could achieve in two years the same number of views globally that Gangnam Style did over 5 years is impressive and also shows the reach of YouTube into the mainstream.  YouTube is no longer a website for people to upload funny pet videos (although it still has millions of those) and has instead grown to embrace the paid content providers (music and movie companies) on its site by becoming the prime place to view video content.  People no longer watch music videos on MTV or VH1 (I'm dating myself here) and instead go straight to view artist's videos on YouTube.  Studios have embraced this trend and release music content straight to YouTube as one part of a comprehensive marketing campaign for musicians and in this case for a song tied into a movie.  With the addition of viewers also being able to access YouTube easily on mobile, I expect the rate of views of videos to reach the status of top 10 views on YouTube to be able to be achieved at a much higher rate then previously was possible.  I'd like to think that the reason for See You Again's impressive YouTube viewership was that it was a great song and also a touching tribute to the late Paul Walker who died while Furious 7 was in production, but that would be naive to discount the successful marketing campaign for the Fast and Furious global brand.


Ebay and Pinterest Seem to Think Visual Search is the Next Frontier in Mobile Search

Ready, Set, spar! As it turns out, the sparring partners here are Ebay and Pinterest, who have recently taken-on the in-app, image-based, mobile search platform by storm. Both Ebay and Pinterest have been working on adapting machine learning to identify items that can be tagged so that their respective search features can canvas the web for such or similar items.

Pinterest introduced its image search tool called Lens, alongside a “shop the Look” feature, that allows users of the app to search, find and buy products based on the images or “pins” it searches for. This feature is however limited to the fashion, food and home décor pins / categories on the Pinterest platform.  While Pinterest started working on this idea in 2016, it officially rolled out a Beta version of the tool early in 2017 for iOS and Android users.

Fast forward five months and its Ebay’s turn to step-up to the plate by announcing the planned deployment of its version of the image-based search functionality on its Ebay app platform. Unlike the Pinterest Lens tool, however, the Ebay “Image Search” tool, that includes a “Find it on Ebay” feature, allows users to search and find products in its Ebay store using pictures and also allows users on other apps to find products on Ebay that are similar or an exact match with images lifted from outside the Ebay app ecosystem. The Ebay Image Search feature will be rolled out to both iOS and Android users but the Find it on Ebay feature will be rolled out to Android users first.
The key differentiation here is that while Pinterest’s Lens scours numerous sites across the world wide web as it “shops the look” to find a similar item for sale, Ebay’s Image Seach feature limits the image searches to the Ebay platform using the “Find it on Ebay” search. Probably the only other difference is in the naming conventions for the tools in these apps. If nothing else, at least Pinterest managed to be somewhat innovative with its naming convention…..what do we say about an image search tool called Image Search with a feature named “Find it on Ebay”. Its almost as if they weren’t even trying. Maybe that IS the point. Shrug!


Friday, August 04, 2017

What an Unexpected Way of Using PPC!

Just few days ago, I was looking for a rental car to attend CBS Summer Outing at Beneduce Vineyards. Upon googling for “rental car nyc”, I stumbled upon a car-sharing site, Turo, which basically is the AirBnB for cars. Car owners list their cars on the platform, and renters can browse and book those cars through the platform. Turo monetizes the platform through booking fee, which is around 10% of the rental rate.

As I browsed through the site and read past reviews, I was convinced to sign up and start using the platform. Conventional wisdom has taught me that businesses typically set aside budget for acquiring customers via sign up and/or referral promotion. Thus, I googled for “turo referral”, and was presented with a sponsored ad below.

I didn’t think much of it, but $50 sounded great for a sign-up credit. When I clicked the ad, I was brought to Turo’s referral page as shown below. Upon seeing the webpage, it hit me, “Oh my god, some guy used PPC strategy to guide Turo’s sign-up traffic to his personal referral page!”.

I thought to myself, “What a creative idea!”, and started analyzing the ad and the economics of this strategy.
  •  The ad actually offers $50 even though Turo only offers $25 credit. This could be explained in two ways. First, the ad may simply be outdated as Turo changed its promotion offering, and the advertiser doesn’t bother to update the ad. Second, the advertiser purposely market the credit at $50 so that the ad has higher chances to be clicked compared to other sites i.e. see the third result in the SERP which only offers $25. Speaking of competitive advantage!
  • The economics is actually quite awesome. The advertiser would receive $25 referral credit for each friend who signs up and rents a car, or $75 referral credit if the friend lists their car and it get rented. Compare the $25 upside with average cost of PPC of $1-$2 with minimum of $0.05. Put it simply, on a successful conversion, the advertiser would get at least $25 for an investment of $0.05-$2, a ~10x return!
  • Lastly, the ad is presented when consumers already have the intent to sign up for Turo, which means close to 100% conversion rate.

All in all, I found this simple yet unexpected example brings the SEO concepts we learn in class together in particular on: focusing on the target consumers (users who want to sign up and looking for promotion), designing a creative ad (ads offering $50 to separate from competition), and calculating the economics of the strategy (PPC average cost vs potential return).

NOTE: Post writing this blog, the ad is no longer shown. This is likely due to me clicking on the ads multiple times which exhausts the advertiser’s PPC budget.

Reader, do you know of any other unexpected and creative ideas people do using digital marketing strategy we learned in class?



Snapchat’s New Data Deal Will Equip Marketers With More Third-Party Measurement

As Snapchat’s (SNAP) stock continues to tumble, and investors question its ability to compete with Instagram, the company has taken steps to improve its advertising metrics. In addition to  SNAP’s recent purchase of Placed, a location-based services company, it has started a metrics program “…that specifically addresses marketing mix modeling, or MMM, with four data companies: Neustar Marketshare, Nielsen, Analytic Partners and Marketing Management Analytics.” One of the major criticisms of SNAP has surrounded its inability to attract and monetize advertisements. In the digital marketing landscape, Google, Facebook and others have proven the importance of detailed, reliable customer data and how it corresponds to better ad placement and higher revenues.

With SNAP, this program, along with its other acquisitions and partnerships has two goals: “Increase the likelihood that big brands will buy ads on Snapchat and attach those campaigns to third-party measurement that confirms the results of a campaign.” This effort will ideally result in greater ad revenues, yet from a competition perspective these techniques and data programs have existed at Facebook, Google and Twitter for years. From an advertiser’s viewpoint, these metrics programs are about “…measuring sales lift and return on ad spend (or ROAS) on Snapchat—two key metrics that advertisers use to make big, broad decisions about their advertising spend.”

At this point in time, SNAP is simply trying to catch up with its biggest competitors and hopefully convince investors it has a long-term growth strategy around advertiser. The perception that SNAP has been difficult for advertisers to work with still exists, and until they can dispel that with these programs, it’s market share is in jeopardy.


Is Google Unstoppable?

Ad Age highlighted the movement of Google's stock price after it reported earnings earlier this week. The much-publicized issues that Google had with some major brands who were upset that their ads were appearing next to questionable content (such as terrorist propaganda) didn't seem to impact Google's stock price at all, but the company was harmed by EU regulatory fines.
Ad Age also mentions that cost per click revenue did decrease this year, but paid clicks were interestingly up over 52% compared to the same time in 2016.
Google has clearly excelled at finding ways to protect and grow their advertising business but it will be interesting to see if they can continue on this trajectory in the future as technology evolves and changes.


Amazon stealthily gaining in Search

Amazon is not longer just a powerful retailer, it is creeping into the Search budgets of major advertisers at the expense of Google. There pitch is warming to advertisers and has two main components:
- Currently many people assume that Amazon plays at the bottom of the marketing funnel -- when the consumer is ready to buy. However, Amazon allegedly suggests that 55% of product searches start on Amazon, trying to prove that they have a role to play in upper funnel activity as well.
- For years marketers had little return on investment metrics to cling to, but that was changed with the onset of digital marketing. Now a retailer-based search can deliver not just micro-conversions such as click through or impressions, but the full purchase completion. Amazon may have low search volume compared to the behemoth, Google, but it has a compelling ROI story.

It is also important to note that Amazon is not alone. and search platforms are also gaining traction with advertisers. In fact, these retailers are even incentivizing distribution volume targets with investment into their platform, with the pitch that this will drive consumers to convert online first.

Amazon increasing power


ETSY Marketing Shift: Grow the Brand or Focus on Existing Users?

Etsy, the handmade and vintage e-commerce company, announced their first positive quarter of earnings since Q1 2016. This was just their 2nd quarter of positive earnings in the 2 years the company has been public. This article discusses the recent shift in their marketing strategy. Last fall, the company embarked on a brand marketing campaign titled "Difference Makes Us", designed to increase awareness about the company. However, new management has halted brand marketing for the remainder of this year and is now focused on "user-acquisition marketing". The company has made investments in payment security and push-notification capabilities in effort to increase buyers on the site.

This strategy makes sense for Etsy, especially as Amazon's 'handcrafted' unit grows. There is no debate that strong brand awareness is important for Etsy and can lead to revenue. However, they must defend against losing customers who are already a part of their eco-system. These buyers have shown they will transact on the site and the company is smart to make an effort to maintain a "proven" dollar. I believe that as Amazon continues to encroach on different industries, the original companies in the space must invest in user experience. This will be the only thing keeping them from going to Amazon. This step by Etsy is the right move


Top Fashion Instagram Accounts

This week marks the first year anniversary of Instagram's stories. Since its launch in August 2016, global audience has reached 700 million users, 250 million of which use it on a daily basis. It has now surpassed rival Snapchat which has 161 million daily active users.

Instagram released the top 15 fashion industry users which includes Emily Ratajkowski at the top. Others include Louboutin, Louis Vuitton, Chiara Ferragni, Miranda Kerr, and Gigi Hadid.  The success of Instagram Stories and the top ranked Fashion accounts is as a result of the more informal engagement between the brand and their audience.  The walls have come down and fashion brands are in the process of becoming more authentic (vs. picture perfect photos of models).

The head of fashion partnerships at Instagram Eva Chen, although not on the list, has done a fantastic job engaging with her audience.  Her Stories teach users how to use different Instagram functionality (i.e., the new filters), about different fashion and beauty brands and about her personal life (her kids and parents).  She makes it entertaining to follow her and I believe all the top Fashion accounts have been doing the same.


Google Interested in Snap?

This article was posted on Business Insider on Thursday 08/03 and is about "rumored" interest Google had in buying Snap last year. The price tag mentioned in the article is $30B. On news of this story, SNAP's slumping stock price rose 4%. Since IPO, SNAP's stock price is down about 20% and current Enterprise Value (Market Cap  less cash) is about $12b. A $30B price would be more then 2x EV for the company- as the article points out, investors must be ecstatic.

Before going further- please click the link and see how cool Evan Spiegel looks in his aviators and deep-v t shirt.

How does this relate to class? Well, if anyone has read anything about SNAP since IPO, its apparent that there are serious investor concerns about how they will monetize their user base and if they can justify their lofty valuation.  A partnership with Google could really help, as Google dominates the digital ad space, which is how SNAP hopes to make their money. In addition, as investor love for snap has soured, getting out of the public market may allow them to stop worrying about quarter to quarter performance and focus on making their product more of a cash machine.

Is it likely this will happen? Maybe. In the near term- probably not.


Thursday, August 03, 2017

Seamless (Grubhub). Now Even More So.

Are you overloaded at work and don’t have time to go downstairs for your lunch? Do you feel lazy at home but still want to treat yourself with a good meal? Consider Seamless food delivery if you say yes!

After Grubhub and Seamless were merged in 2013, the combined company (now called Grubhub) has become one of the most recognizable food delivery service providers, which accounts for 23% of the market share, only 1% lower than Domino’s.

Excitingly, Seamless just announced that it would buy Eat24 delivery service from Yelp. As a result, it will integrate its interface to Yelp and allow customers to order food directly through Yelp in the future based on the agreement. Almost at the same time, Grubhub established a partnership with Groupon, allowing customers to redeem Groupon discounts to order food on its app or website. There is no doubt that Grubhub is expanding its presence in the food delivery service, far beyond the growth of other similar companies such as DoorDash and Postmates. Considering that Grubhub’s commission-based business model already brought over a hundred million dollars revenue annually in the past, the new partnership and buy-in would definitely benefit its growth in the long run, making it secure a larger cake in today’s delivery market.



Can Snapchat save itself from Facebook???Watch out Zuckerberg...

Snapchat is famous with millennials with a strong user base of 166 million as of May 2017. Snapchat was launched in September 2011 and raised money from IPO in 2017 at $17 but today the shares trade near $12.5. Facebook is copying all the features of Snapchat and providing it in their own social media platform Instagram.

Facebook copied the idea of Snapchat stories to Instagram and WhatsApp to surpass number of users on Snapchat. Looks like the first mover advantage is not working for Snapchat.

Snap Inc has now acquired, a Swiss startup that will protect its software code from being reverse engineered. Will this move really help Snap Inc to gain the lost ground and user base from Instagram and WhatsApp?  Facebook has a competitive advantage to poach resources and easily replicate the ideas that any competitors come up with.
Time will tell whether this was a good move by Snap Inc.



Get your site up to speed, or else be penalized by Facebook

Our guest speaker from Google spoke about how when one is designing for mobile, it is of paramount importance to consider the user experience. I remembered him saying how a three-second wait on desktop may seem insignificant to a desktop user (because he/she had nowhere else to go) but on mobile, that three-second wait becomes seemingly agonizing. That was one important insight that I took away from him – on mobile, any additional obstacle that adds friction to the user experience (for example, a text box asking your city when you’ve filled in the zip code), no matter how seemingly minimal that friction is, will be magnified on mobile. As marketers, we need to take that into consideration when creating experiences on mobile.

Just yesterday, Facebook announced yet another change to its News Feed: that it will increase the distribution of links to faster loading web pages – including those that use its own Instant Article format. This is yet another step where major tech companies are prioritizing faster, smoother UX and penalizing sites where the UX is not optimized. When the updated News Feed algorithm is rolled out, Facebook warns that web pages that are “particularly slow” will likely see decreases in traffic. Digital marketers will need to stress-test their sites with their agencies to comply with these changes. I believe it will not be long before this change will be applied on Instagram too.

Read all about the changes on TechCrunch.