More! More! More! Creating a Performance-Driven Marketing Culture

One of my favorite shows is Showtime’s House of Lies, which, sadly, has just wrapped its final season (all five seasons are available to stream which I highly recommend!) It is a satirical look at corporate management consultants and their win-at-all-costs, hedonistic lifestyles. While it is fiction and the situations they get themselves into are amplified for entertainment purposes, the underlying motivators for these characters are very real – it is all about results. In the show’s case, it is about getting the deal, increasing valuation and lining pockets. But watching it made me think a lot about how marketing and communications teams are motivated to succeed and how the growth of big data can contribute to a culture based on performance.

Mobile applications funnel

Creating a performance-based culture using data can lead to better decision-making, provide support for ideas with measurable outcomes and help adjust and fine-tune strategies while ultimately, increasing share or revenue. According to McKinsey, data-driven organizations are 23 times more likely to win new customers and six times more likely to retain the ones they already have. Those stats alone should be pretty big motivators for driving a cultural focus or, in some cases, a cultural change.

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Why Banner Ads Still Matter

Banner ads are the oldest form of advertising on the internet, and in the age of social media and content marketing, many people claim that they are no longer effective. With all of the options for online marketing dollars such as social media, email, paid search and sponsored content, are banner ads still relevant? That answer is overwhelmingly yes! Banner advertising, if done correctly, can still be the most cost-effective and farthest reaching way to promote your brand.

Why Banner Ads Still Matter

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Ridding the World of Ads: A Lesson from South Park

I have to come clean. I like watching South Park.

There, I said it!

Prior to this season, South Park has been purely one of my comedic reprieves for frustrations in current events, culture and politics. However, this season (Season 19) took on digital advertising and ad blocking, topics very near and dear to me.

AdBlocker - iStock_000076429955

Ultimately, the user experience is the primary reason for utilizing ad blockers to stop interruptive ads and improve site performance, according to research by Teads presented by AdWeek. Sites that have mass amounts of clutter, interstitials, click-baits, no clear distinctions between editorial and advertising, etc. ruin the experience for everyone. No longer can you peruse sites without being forced into a slideshow about the top beach resorts or the secret foods that will help you lose 10 pounds in 10 days. I get it! I totally get it! It is annoying.

However, ad blockers can act as a wall to block all tracking links, including Google Analytics tracking, social media buttons, content marketing and ecommerce functionality that would otherwise improve my experiences on the sites I frequent. And that’s the rub.

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Banner Advertising – Is This ALL There IS?

My favorite sitcom these days is “The Goldbergs,” a 30-minute weekly view of the ‘80s based on a geeky movie-loving kid and his family. The episodes coincide with what is happening in 2016 and relate to what happened in the ‘80s. The last two episodes are an excellent example of product placements via custom programs. One focused on “Eddie the Eagle” the week after the movie of the same title was released, and the most recent covered “Dirty Dancing” days after the announcement of who would play Johnny in the remake of the movie by the same name.

Although “The Goldbergs” is a television show, the same revolution is happening in the digital space. So now imagine it’s 1994 and you open your web browser to read an interesting article. The page loads and what’s the first thing you notice on the page? Banner ads at the top of the page and down the side. You find yourself with greater interest in the products than the actual article and you click the banner to learn more.

Fast-forward 20 years, you open your browser to something of interest, only this time the banner ads fade into the background. They are a part of the page, and it’s an advertiser’s nightmare. No one is paying attention to your online ad placements that you paid to place.

Banner Ads - iStock_000023202160

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Branding 101: Say What You Mean and Mean What You Say

We live in a world FULL of advertising. We constantly receive messages from brands on what to buy and why to buy it.

But these days, for consumers to choose one brand over another, the specifics about the product or service matter less. What really matters is what the brand is saying, how it says it and what it does to back that up. People aren’t only buying products or services anymore – they’re buying experiences and they want to buy from companies they trust.

At South by Southwest Interactive in March, many of the marketing sessions I attended followed a trend of encouraging brands to become better listeners and more authentic communicators.

The key to gaining the trust of consumers and getting them talking about your product/service is to take strides in becoming more human and more relatable. The first step is to become a better listener.

Be a Better Listener

Listen up! According to the “Analytics of Social Marketing” session at SXSW, a report by IBM and EConsultancy found that 81% of brands say they know what their customers want while only 37% of customers felt that brands understood them. So how can you build long-term relationships with customers or develop content for your audience if you don’t understand them? If you’re not listening to what your audience is asking or don’t know what they want from you, you’re only hurting your cause.

Here are a few ways to open your ears to your audience:

  1. Socialize: One of the best ways to listen to your audience is by finding out what’re they’re saying on social media. Are there frequently asked questions? Do you know how to answer those questions? What kind of content gets shared the most? And what kind of content creates the most engagement? Your competitors may talk about subjects that interest your audience so make sure you check their social profiles, too. Use your findings to modify your posts to produce content that generates more interest.
  2. Solicit feedback: Include a survey link on your website, receipts, emails or social media accounts to receive feedback from your customers. Use this information to make improvements in your communications and address your customers on a more personal level.
  3. Think outside the box: Interact with customers in your store, pick up the phone or hold a product/service demo. These actions allow you to interact with customers directly, adding a personal touch to your communication. For example, ask customers if they have questions about a product, what changes they would want to see, how they use it, etc.
  4. Walk a mile in their shoes: Check out your own website, test your products and read your blog, social media posts and press releases, and try to see all these from their perspective, not yours. If you find yourself turned off by what you’re saying, make changes immediately. According to, brands shouldn’t make consumers look and listen to content that disrupts them or disinterests them. In fact, the more time you save consumers from irrelevant content, the more they’ll love your brand.

Be Authentic

Be transparent and more human. A 2013 survey by Cohn and Wolfe Brands found that consumers around the world are demanding that the brands they use become more honest and more authentic in their communications.

You want to give customers a reason to feel good about doing business with you. Creating an authentic brand takes time, all the more reason to start now:

  1. Establish your brand identity: Levi’s, for example, ties its marketing activities closely to its history and values. The company’s advertising strategy is to highlight its legacy while its social media channels help raise awareness for causes it cares about. Know what your company stands for, know your company’s values and stick to them no matter what.
  2. Make decisions thoughtfully and stand by them firmly: According to the “Smart Ad Campaigns: Not about the product” session at SXSW,authenticity is best measured in actions. If your company chooses to tap into cultural and social issues like Pantene did in 2013, make sure it’s true to your brand DNA. A lot of criticism stems from wondering if a brand is being genuine or if they’re just hopping on the social issue bandwagon. Show your customers you mean what you say by reinforcing points in your campaigns and being consistent.
  3. Be more human: Companies need to speak like humans in order to build authenticity. If you engage your target in a relatable, down-to-earth way, you can get your message across without even showing your products/services. Consider using customer experiences to create authentic stories. You can ask customers to submit stories about how they’ve used your product/service and what it means to them. This will help your brand engage with and be supportive of your customers and their lifestyles without having to sell them something. Check out how Squarespace does this in their Field Stories ad campaign.
  4. Keep content fresh: Don’t repeat yourself. In order to sound more genuine, spice up your content by finding new things to talk about on social media and not solely advertising your brand offerings. At M/C/C, our social media posts follow the “Rule of Thirds.” Our philosophy is that content should be one-third promotional, one-third educational and one-third cultural. This means you should post some content about what you offer, provide links/videos to content that educates users about a topic and share content that engages and interests users.

These days, people don’t want to be marketed to – they want to be engaged with and they want companies to care about them. In order for your brand to succeed in the long term, you must start making strides now to becoming a communicator that meets the needs and wants of your audience.

Remember, you can always measure success by ROI, but sometimes it’s the things you can’t measure (i.e. emotional connections you make between consumers and your brand) that make the most impact.

What brands would you consider to be good listeners and authentic communicators? Comment below.

If You Feel You’re Being Followed, You Are

Have you ever researched prices on or shopped for a new pair of shoes on If you are like me, then the answer is “yes.” If you are still like me, you run out of time or need to switch gears to a different task like looking up weather forecasts for your upcoming trip. And what to your wandering eyes should appear, right next to the weather predictions, is an advertisement for the exact same item you were researching seconds ago. In my case, a step tracker. How is it that the item has followed you to a totally different site? You, my friend, have been retargeted.

Blurred mobile phoneWhat is retargeting?

While retargeting is not a new advertising tactic, many outside of the advertising world are still unfamiliar. Retargeting is an innovative method of online display advertising that serves targeted banners to visitors that have abandoned your website to draw them back for a desired action (purchase, RFQ, registration, etc.), a retargeting service provider, gives a straight forward description of how retargeting works:

“Technically all that is necessary is to place a JavaScript tag in the footer of your website. This code creates a list of people that visit your site by placing anonymous retargeting ‘cookies’ in their browser. This list allows AdRoll (or other retargeting vendors) to display retargeting ads to your potential customers as they visit other sites.”

Like my example, I was browsing a specific item on Amazon (a step tracker) when a cookie was dropped on my computer which then allowed Amazon ads to “follow,” or more accurately, retarget me on

Types of retargeting

From a strategic perspective, there are several types of retargeting methods that are beneficial for B2B and B2C clients. This is not a comprehensive list, but rather a basic overview.


Static retargeting is the most basic form of retargeting. Banners are served to people who abandoned after visiting your website. The banners are not contextual — served based on the exact content that was viewed — but rather brand-specific. Static retargeting can be used for multiple objectives, such as awareness or e-commerce.


Dynamic retargeting is an excellent way to personalize and specifically target customers. It features the exact content on the Web that was recently viewed (i.e. my infamous step tracker) or the item that was abandoned in the shopping cart. This form of retargeting is typically used for B2C but can certainly be used in B2B depending on objectives. Both static and dynamic retargeting can occur within social platforms like Facebook, in addition to standard websites. It just depends on the type of retargeting program you are working with.

Customer Relationship Management (CRM)

CRM retargeting specifically retargets your email database with ads across the Web. It allows you to re-engage with past or present customers, once again bringing your business top of mind. The benefit is that as the database profiles become more complete to include the customer’s activities, the ads can be more relevant and targeted to those customers.

Why choose retargeting?

M/C/C recommends implementing a balanced advertising plan that includes programs that meet specific objectives like driving e-commerce sales as well as ongoing coverage from key programs. When considering ad programs, keep in mind that retargeting alone is not the answer to improved overall ROI. For it to be successful, you need to drive traffic to your site in order for your audience/customers to be retargeted. Traffic can come from social media, PR and other digital advertising efforts. Cutting all other digital advertising efforts is not the way to go. Instead, think of it as an ingredient in your overall marketing mix. You’ll definitely want to try other methods like native advertising and programmatic advertising.

Retargeting has become a strategic part of the majority of M/C/C’s clients’ advertising plans, and we include it as a foundational program due to several key factors:

  1. Retargeting Nurtures Relationships

Retargeting is a consistent way to nurture an existing audience that has already expressed interest in your brand. By serving ads on “unexpected” sites via AdNetworks through retargeting, prospective customers are more likely to click content relative to them. Here’s how we used site retargeting for our client, Hudson and Marshall.

  1. Retargeting Works

Our ongoing research shows considerably stronger engagement from our retargeting programs than other digital advertising efforts. Not only are they more likely to click on the ad, but those who have visited your website before are more likely to engage with your content after the click.

  1. Retargeting is Cost Effective

Retargeting costs less than traditional digital advertising efforts, allowing you more bang (impressions) for your buck. No more wasting impressions on an audience that may not be interested in your brand.

Have more questions about retargeting or want to get ramped up? Whether it’s programmatic advertising or retargeting – shoot us an email and we’ll get your program started!

Don’t Let the Challenges of Data Get Your Digital Marketing Down

The top four digital priorities for 2016 among companies, according to the EConsultancy Quarterly Digital Intelligence Briefing: 2016 Digital Trends report, are targeting and personalization, content optimization, social media engagement and multi-campaign management. Among these priorities, there is one point of focus: customer experience. The element that joins them all together: data.

The value of data is increasing exponentially, as it is proven to create a competitive advantage and become a crucial element of decision-making. While data currently has value in demonstrating what happened for a given campaign and sales effort, the goal is ultimately to increase the value of data from the “what” to the “why,” “when” and “how.”

Isometric data analysis infographic

For most companies, data via raw numbers and standard and ad hoc reports are used to report what happened with a campaign or marketing effort. It’s valuable when optimizing future campaigns and creative and making long-term decisions based on trends. Once data is analyzed, there is a level of business intelligence that comes into play and knowledge about “why” something happened can influence decisions. Next, the goal is to develop predictive models that can help determine what is likely to happen. Lastly, the ultimate goal is to develop prescriptive models to provide insight on how to make it happen. These stages help a marketing organization start with data and end with action on the part of the customer.

These stages are essential in addressing the four priorities mentioned above. If we look at personalization as an example, data can help marketing evolve from the basic personalization of adding a “Hello, Bob” or “Welcome, Amy” to a Web page based on data from a form to delivering content in real-time based on a customer’s actions, previous websites visits and other interactions. When this happens, new content can be served based on the path the customer takes, providing information that is most relevant at the customer’s current decision-making stage.

But getting to that point is tough. And allowing data to drive digital marketing is not without its challenges.  The sheer volume of data generated can be overwhelming and create obstacles to using it effectively. At the same time, internal challenges also can thwart success and efficacy. Let’s review a few of the potential challenges:

  1. Time

According to Accenture and Peerview Data, “not enough time” was one of the top two issues sited when companies were asked what their challenges were with data analysis (Cost was the other.) With data coming from multiple sources, the ability to review, analyze and then make actionable decisions quickly is critical to having a competitive edge. Data integration can be a solution to help offset the time crunch. Integration quickly visualizes data from multiple sources to assists with making decisions. For companies that do not have large technology budgets, there are low-cost tools available such as Tap Analytics.

  1. Processes and cultural change

With digital marketing, collaboration is essential to a campaign’s success. But all too often, distance between the data organization and marketing communications creates siloes that make it difficult to leverage the analysis generated and use it for campaign promotion and support. Analysts and marketers need to work together to make real-time decisions and generate effective campaigns. C-suite approval and support also is critical to the success of using data as one of the main drivers for marketing. The idea that roles and thought processes have to change comes from the top down. Flexibility is another cultural change. Decisions need to be made faster, content is needed faster and more abundantly to support trends and user behavior, and people need to be willing to change direction quickly based on what customers want. For many large organizations, change can be difficult, but it’s essential for long-term success.

  1. The right people

Really looking at your organization and making sure you have the right people to drive and leverage opportunities are important. Marketing roles need to change as the people that occupy these jobs need to become proficient in data – understanding what it means and how to use it.  Jim Terry recently wrote a blog about human expertise in the world of automation that touches on the importance of the human role in using tools and the data that comes from them. These changes are leading companies to hire more data analysts, data scientists and marketing people that have a background in analytics, in addition to establishing new senior roles, such as chief marketing technologist – a role that combines data analytics, business intelligence and marketing.  Often the ability to hire for these roles is much harder than it sounds, so companies are becoming more open to outside help. According to research from the CMO Council and Ebiquity, nearly three-fourths of marketers plan to seek outside help to deal with their data needs.

So what kind of results should you expect if you embrace data as a key driver of your digital marketing efforts? According to Bain & Co. and Salesforce, companies that use analytics are two times more likely to have top-quartile performance, five times more likely to make faster decisions and eight times more likely to improve operational outcomes. These results are clearly desirable for any company, but getting infrastructure, people and processes in place to really reach them is the hard part before data can truly be the panacea that we are all looking for.

As one of our digital campaign team’s favorite topics, we would love to discuss it more with you.  Let us know what stage you are at and the value you see data providing. We can take it from there.

When It Comes to Successful Creative, It’s a Numbers Game

“So, what exactly are your career goals as a marketer?”

“I want to work in the creative department at a digital agency and eventually become Creative Director.”

financial worker analyzing business data and working with tablet

I have heard this conversation more times that I can count. It seems like everyone from freshmen in their principles of marketing course to soon-to-be graduates on the job hunt, and even folks who have been working in the industry for years, all seem to share the dream of one day landing one of those coveted creative positions. This is likely the result of the romanticized portrayal of advertising creatives in pop culture (Mad Men, anyone?). Maybe it’s just that creative is the most visible or tangible part of an agency. Or maybe it’s just that creative has long been considered the lifeblood of an agency or that a shop’s success is determined by the quality and creativity its ads.

But that’s no longer exclusively true.

Analytics. Big data. Data visualization. These are the current buzzwords thrown around conferences and advertising blogs and rightfully so. They are the signposts of the next phase in the digital age of marketing and with the next phase comes a new champion to fight for the dreams and aspirations of the next generation of advertisers. Please welcome to the ring, The Analytics Team.

As clients start prioritizing an agency’s ability to glean valuable and actionable insights from the excessive amounts of data available, as well as their ability to put a numerical value on the effectiveness of advertising campaigns and ROI, agencies are beginning to prioritize data analysts and the analytics team. In a survey of corporate marketers, 43 percent of respondents claimed to have “unmet business needs,” specifically with “measuring and reporting the business impact and ROI of marketing and advertising programs.” Another 28 percent lacked “taking advantage of Big Data opportunities.” Both of these needs can be satisfied by a good analytics team.

In Jim Terry’s blog post about the challenges CMOs are facing in the world of Big Data, he explains that determining what to measure, how to measure it, turning information into insights and the ability to act on the insights are what CMOs currently must overcome. A solid analytics team would be more than qualified to achieve this goal.

While demand for these roles at agencies and in-house marketing teams has been steadily growing over the course of the digital age, the supply side is just beginning to catch on. And with such a deficit in qualified candidates, the role is about to get much more enticing for advertisers and marketers everywhere.

Salaries for agency employees in analyst and data scientist roles are up to 30 percent higher than other agency positions at similar levels, according to AdAge. Additionally, some universities have started to offer marketing courses and even entire marketing degrees tailored specifically to digital media, analytics, data mining and data visualization. These factors open the door wider for analytics roles at ad agencies and show the next generation of advertisers what the future looks like.

As more professionals combine analytical skills with advertising backgrounds and education, more creative agencies will be able to leverage the skill sets of these employees. Now creative campaigns have an increased chance at success. Better A/B testing, stronger analysis of performance and insight into consumer behavior are a few of the many benefits the creative team and the rest of the agency can use to improve performance and better serve the client.

As part of a relatively new facet of advertising, the future of this role is still undetermined. The only certainty? There’s a new crop of aspiring advertisers, all equipped with an excitement for report season like you’ve never seen before. And even though the job responsibilities change just about as fast as you can write a job posting, isn’t the fluidity and promise of the job never being stagnant why we all got into advertising to begin with?

Man Versus Machine: Automation and Technology Don’t Trump Human Expertise

Man Versus Machine

Everywhere I’ve turned in the last few months, marketing tools seem to be there. From client conversations to sales pitches to public relations and Web content, they seem to be everywhere. And they’re multiplying at a dizzying pace. I’ve just returned from the Digital Summit Dallas conference where marketing automation tool companies dominated the exhibition space and sponsored what seemed like every session. Marketing tools are the bright shiny objects of the industry and have captured the attention of marketers everywhere.

The reason for the proliferation seems obvious to me – these tools work. When used thoughtfully, they save man hours, automate routine operations, create efficiencies and deliver powerful information and analytics. At M/C/C, we are constantly evaluating tools that we can leverage for our clients’ benefit. We use technology and tools to help us identify potential issues and new opportunities for Search Engine Optimization programs; automate, compare and improve email programs; programmatically buy targeted advertising in more efficient ways; optimize Pay-Per-Click campaigns; and a slew of other external programs. We are big believers in the value they provide.

There’s no doubt that these technologies and tools have their place in a marketer’s toolbox and we use many of them, but at the end of the day, they are tools. They have limitations – they can’t think; they can’t be creative or use emotions; and they can’t replicate the expertise and decision-making of humans. Without the right craftsman to operate the tool in the best manner, they fall flat.

The influx of automation tools and the attention that they’ve gained in the marketing space can be dangerous for companies looking for a silver bullet to deliver successful programs. There is no silver bullet. Companies will fail if they’re looking to a tool to “set it and forget it,” having it bear the responsibility of connecting with customers. Creating content, scheduling its distribution and iterations won’t magically lead to prospects connecting with your message and falling into lead buckets based on brilliant lead-scoring methods.

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