Mapping the Future: 3 Essential Terms You Must Redefine Today

Written by Andrew Edwards. Posted in Digital Marketing

Descriptive terms are like the markers on a knowledge map. Maps are so important that Apple recently cashiered the executive who launched its somewhat inaccurate quilt of outsourced online maps (arguably the most-ridiculed Apple blunder since the skateboard-sized Newton).

So we need terms to be accurate and granular enough that we can use them successfully to navigate our study of digital user behavior. We don’t like getting lost – not in Kansas, not in our analytics tools.

Some of the changes in the market have rendered some terms almost meaningless for the purposes of measurement, and are in need of redefinition. Just like what happens when the old road dead-ends at the new overpass, we need the latest information in order to keep from crashing into a wall.

Here are my top 3 suggestions for terms in need of redefinition:

1. Web. Yes, it means too many things now. Simply agreeing it’s dub-dub-dub-and-done doesn’t do it anymore. What are you using it for, and which version draws your audience? Even a foundational industry organization such as the Web Analytics Association is now the Digital Analytics Association.

Consider this: the same “web” content may come in several flavors for different audiences. With HTML5, you can create highly interactive experiences. But users with even relatively new browsers and OS versions may need you to create a four-door sedan version with fewer knobs and smaller woofers. And there may even be a static page version for the later adopters. Then consider the browsing experience and commensurate behavior on an iPad. Or the microscopic (OK, zoomable) text on a smartphone. That’s web-based. But not like the PC version. And what about shared or syndicated media? We could cite more examples. But the term “web” can mean at least these things right now that are especially important to marketers:

  • Web in a browser on a PC with page-to-page navigation
  • Web in a browser on a PC with interactive navigation
  • Web on a large-screen mobile device
  • Web on a tiny-screen mobile device
  • Web coming from somewhere you may not control (syndicated, campaign-related, or from social media like Facebook or LinkedIn)

We have room here only to scratch the surface. Clearly, the browser itself is no longer enough to define what we call “the web.” The town has matured into a city and has quite a number of clearly defined districts. Get to know the neighborhood!

2. Mobile. Measuring “mobile” as a category has become something like saying “New York” without specifying whether you mean the city or the state. I know a guy who grew up in the Catskills and moved to Florida as a teenager. They wanted to know what gang he’d belonged to in New York, as if he’d been haunting the streets of Bushwick.

Recently, Black Friday e-commerce data told us that iOS users converted at drastically higher levels than Android users. Lumping mobile together without specifying platform-type would have left you misinformed. Like Bogie in Casablanca, you’d have come to the desert “for the waters.” Worldwide, many mobile users are “text only,” and sometimes they buy things that way. Many are not even using web protocols. And of course nearly every app is for a mobile audience. Apps behave very differently than websites and require special tools to measure them. Finally, it seems laptops should be considered part of “mobile,” since they are mobile and get used in many environments where other mobile devices also get used. So new definitions of mobile might include:

  • Mobile web iOS
  • Mobile web Android
  • Mobile text-only
  • Mobile app
  • Mobile PC (laptop)

3. Analytics. For the marketer, analytics has come to mean web, or more recently, digital analytics. But each of these terms has become emblematic of “siloed” information. And many organizations are calling ardently for more correlated data. They want to know about their sites, their campaigns, their social, their call center, and every touch point in between. Plus, many are hoping for a predictive capability too. They want to send the right message to the right audience at the right time. Where does the magic happen?

The magic can happen when all the data shows up in one place. Some teams are doing this by hand with spreadsheets and custom algorithms; and now the number of vendors claiming to automate this for the marketer is myriad. It really is a rapidly evolving sector, and the new requirements are obsoleting even the term “digital analytics.” Because when you put everything into one interface, you are converging data.

Therefore, analytics becomes (for the marketer):

Of the three definitions, the last is likely to become the de facto appellation for most analytics going forward, as it most accurately defines both the supply and the demand.

If this column prompts a discussion about granularity and correlation, it will have made an impact. By drawing up a more detailed terminology map, you’ll find yourself taking a much more direct route to Insight Boulevard.




Marketing’s New Rules

Written by Rand Schulman. Posted in Digital Marketing

During the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to meet lots of marketing executives during my travels. I hear the same storyover and over and a pattern is emerging that I’ve tried to address in this post.

The marketing profession is always changing and we know that the “Mad Men”-style era of advertising that favored creativity over analytics is gone. Some see this move from creativity to data-driven actionabilty as two distinct and separate disciplines. I don’t, and they’re not. It’s critical that we learn these new rules.

Rule No. 1: Merge Your Left and Right Lobes

The new marketer needs to be multi-talented, using both left and right brain functions. Those who can shift seamlessly between these two lobes will give their products the best chance for success. These days we need to be part artist and part data scientist to excel. We need to be both analytical and creative – truly a content engineer.

Rule No. 2: Creativity Without Conversion Equals Zero

It’s the same both online and offline. We need to sell products, and to do that we need to communicate and convert, both with micro and macro conversions. Today it’s critical that we create compelling content for a pre-defined business purpose. And if you don’t agree with me, you’re really only writing for yourself, so save it for your diary.

Rule No. 3: Learn the New Marketing Four Ps

Remember the old marketing Four Ps: product, promotion, place, and price? Well, there’s a new set of Four Ps today, driven by mobile: people, process, purpose, and platform.


It’s not about Math Men, Mad Men, or Sexy Data Scientists. As we know, roles and responsibilities across the business need to realign and meet the needs of our new paradigm. There’s now a direct line between, and often a single person who owns acquisition marketing, conversion marketing or “on-boarding,” and product user engagement, as volumes of data drive outcomes very quickly – sometimes in less than a day.

“Gamers” drove much of our notion of app engagement around user experience in the mobile world. Apps just had to be good and a crappy app would die a quick death. Fast fail. And since so many users at any given time were using a game, we could let the “law of large numbers” drive our decisions and we learned a lot about user behavior and retention rates in mobile applications. Zynga is, after all, an analytics company masquerading as a gaming company, and it clearly taught us a lot about app engagement over time.


As we are moving toward one person owning all three levels of responsibility for acquisition, conversion, and retention (more like a producer in the game world), we now need to evolve our processes about what messages and media we use, by segment. We have to look at retention rates over lifetime value (LTV), so the message, content, and media can be A/B tested against app performance goals, cost, and ROI.

We need to define our process about what data we collect, how we collect it, and who is responsible for the optimization. Some say, “In the right time.” New roles, like chief data officer, will replace the old notion of CMO and champion new process.


Today, the identification of purpose is missing from many mobile applications, just like during the earliest days of the website deployment. I hear the excuse, “We’re doing it because our competition is doing it.” That’s not enough.

The understanding of purpose was key to building online business. And, like in the late ’90s, mobile is now in a very early stage of accelerating adoption, yet few organizations have much discipline around definition of goals. Analytics then and today is key.


And once you have your people on board, have identified your purpose, and have addressed the process, it’s time to think about the platform. Or, what tools and applications do you need to reach your goals? I’ve seen too many companies do this in reverse, usually falling prey to vendor hype compounded by not having the first three Ps set.

Then, when you have all of your Four Ps in place, start with a small and measureable project. If you don’t, your platform will likely become shelfware.

Rule No. 4: ABC – Always Be Clear!

We need to define our terms/words, as too many people are trying to measure everything, across every channel in real time, when few seem clear on the definition of much of anything. I’ve recently coauthored a report on convergence analytics, with Incisive Media, which included our survey about the definition of common terms like “real-time” and “multi-channel.” And it’s not surprising that there’s no clear definition of what the terms mean. Some think real-time is sub-second, while others think it is hours. Sometimes multi-channel means online and offline channels, while other times it means only digital channels or cross-enterprise silos – more marketing operations-like. Be careful and make sure you’re on the same page. Few are.


We need new hybrid skills to help drive mobile and online business – people who create process and apply numbers to words that convert, and who understand new engagement and conversion models. We need agile product developers schooled in both mobile-first design and the latest ways to take advantage of the underlying technology, both in hardware and software, and who are analytical. They will know about how augmented reality creates brand engagement; how the phone’s multiple signals can be tapped for conversion data; and where artificial intelligence works, and where it doesn’t. Next time I’ll write about the new marketing roles and how “big data” is making a big difference.



Will Universities Evolve?

Written by Rand Schulman. Posted in Digital Marketing

US higher education—long a source of pride and differentiation across the globe—is undergoing a true crisis of value and identity. Pundits wonder whether universities are the next “bubble” of the US economy, and university students are questioning whether their high-priced education and gargantuan debt loads—up 47 percent after inflation from 10 years ago—will position them for a college-worthy career.

“Our customers want marketing professionals who can measure and optimize marketing effectiveness—and the demand for those roles are essentially doubling annually,” says Alex Yoder, CEO of Web Trends, and director of The Oregon Association of Independent Colleges and Universities. “The amazing thing is this: despite a slow economy, the supply in these marketing roles is just not there.”

Says Jim Sterne, chairman of the Web Analytics Association, “The need for analysts and content engineers who can determine the value of content is so great that our association’s online courses have been steadily sold out since inception in 2006. When times are good, companies invest in tools and systems. When times are tough, they invest in people who can optimize those tools and systems.”

The market needs well-trained content savants.

Put simply: US universities are not adequately training students to meet the needs of business in some of the most sought-after areas of marketing: social media, content marketing and content analytics. Clearly an imbalance exists between skills taught in classrooms and the skills sought in the marketplace—and this imbalance is only accelerating by the rapid pace of change in technology and product innovation.

Nowhere is this more evident than the schism that exists in many universities between business schools, schools of engineering and English departments.

Marketing students are taught about targeting, segmentation, the “4Ps,” classic operations, testing and business analysis. Their work product translates to the bottom line, but too few marketing students are given rigorous, cross-disciplinary training in writing, analytics and technology.

Engineering students invent products and processes that can be observed, measured and optimized. Too few schools make the link from engineering to digital media.

English, journalism and communications students are taught to express themselves in words, but are rarely trained about optimizing content for business value—a central tenet of real-world business writing.

We need to think about creating a new curriculum that addresses the new, multi-disciplinary needs of the marketplace. We need to train writers who are savvy about digital content and adept using technologies that optimize their work in real time. We need marketers who are top-rate communicators and who understand that high-quality content is a new core competency in marketing. And we need to call upon curriculum from engineering—methods in measurement and optimization—to train marketers and English majors.

What’s behind the cliques?

The silos at work in academia also have been a serious stumbling block for businesses, but in recent years many organizations have revisited their org charts to fix the misalignment between marketing, engineering and creative. Five years ago it was common to divide the roles of content creation and business measurement—the classic left-brain vs. right-brain gap. Yet any enlightened business will tell you today that creativity without conversion is a big fat zero. Many have not only created better cohesion between the two disciplines, but have appointed roles such as chief revenue officers, chief content officers and content engineers—all intended to bridge the gap between creative, technology and business analytics. There is even talk that in some organizations that the CMO serve as a proxy financial officer, sitting in front of his integrated marketing dashboard, making ROI decisions on social, mobile, web and cross-channel campaigns in real time.

To be fair, some university professors recognize the trend and have taken positive steps to become more cross-disciplinary. Reports Eric Sonstroem, English Department chair at the University of the Pacific, “I’m pioneering a course in our English department this semester that focuses on content engineering, teaching the latest tools of analysis, analytics and optimization alongside traditional business writing and marketing techniques. I’m determined that my students really understand how content works on the web, how it can be tested and measured, and how you can act on the data you get back.”

Yet within the US university system, such cross-pollination remains the exception.

“With the onslaught of ‘digital everything’ in the last decade plus,” says Terri L. Bartlett, president of the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation, “it’s no wonder our corporate and academic institutions are caught off-guard. The sooner we face this issue, the sooner we in America can do what we do best: innovate and collaborate. That’s what I’m betting on and what our organization is counting on.”

What’s being done?

Some universities and their business partners are indeed looking for ways to leverage their current curriculum towards a higher technological quotient. They see the need to produce graduates with the skills geared for today’s competitive environment. Yet teaching “internet marketing” classes—most often a minor repackaging of traditional marketing—is a quick fix when we need an earth-moving overhaul.

Recently at SXSW in Austin, I sat on a panel with an ad agency CEO to debate the question “Is too much math killing creativity?” The crowd was heavily weighted toward creatives, but when polled, these attendees overwhelmingly said, “no.” They agreed that numbers need to be assigned to all words and messages, and that conversions need to be tracked through the sales funnel, from the very first level of engagement all the way through to conversion to revenue. Most importantly, attendees agreed that marketers, bloggers and journalists need to be compensated on measurable results. The emerging paradigm in the news/media industry supports this. Organizations like AOL/Huffington Post, Google and Demand Media are equal content and analytics powerhouses.

We need to establish a new major: content engineering.

Perhaps cross-pollination is not enough. Why not create a new major that spans existing schools and subjects, yet adds a modern shine to the old school plaque? I would propose a content engineering degree that leverages the existing curriculum and talent in business, liberal arts and engineering, but also remains adaptable to train students in new competencies as the market changes. In other words, a degree in content engineering need not be revolutionary, but rather a synergy created by existing assets. It would include:

1. A capstone class defines the discipline and the core tenets of content engineering.

2.  Building-block classes in writing, statistics, analytics, market research and consumer behavior, quantitative decision-making, marketing, digital media and technology are each seen through the lens of content engineering and taught by professors who are committed to the concept.

3.  A one-semester, hands-on training in a content lab allows students to put their education to the test with real-world challenges. Corporations can go to the lab to innovate solutions, and, I propose, fund the lab itself.

4.  An intensive internship program gives students credit for working within companies and testing their knowledge in the real world.

We need to create a stronger culture of measurement in higher education, one that is market-based and rewards innovation. Anthony P. Carnevale, director of The Center on Education and the Workforce at Georgetown University, has called for a fundamental shift in thinking about the way students are educated. He writes, “The old model, where you go to college and then go out and find a job, is largely outmoded. It needs to be replaced with a new model, in which college years are spent explicitly preparing for an occupation.”

Innovation is part of the US DNA, and has been for centuries. Today, our institutions of higher education are moving at a glacial pace, not keeping up with corporate demand for high-tech skills. Maybe the high-energy heat of market demand for digital sophisticates can “melt” the slow rate of change in higher education?




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