2019 Tech Titans Technology Advocate Award

Last night my wife and I attended the 2019 Tech Titans Awards Gala. I was a finalist for the Technology Advocate award. This award recognizes a technology advocate/champion for their outstanding leadership in assisting, advancing or accelerating the performance of technology companies and/or the technology community.

It was a really fun night. The Tech Titans awards are like the Oscars for the Dallas technology community. After settling into a delicious dinner and some fun commentary from the Gala committee it was time for the awards presentations to start.

When my category was up for the next presentation the head of North American Customer Marketing & Communications for Nokia, Marianne Strobel did a great job setting up the category and announcing the winner…

After the initial shock of the win, it was time for photos, a great conversation with Marianne of Nokia about their 5G work and more innovations on the way, networking with sponsors and attendees and fun times with my wife Cherlyn from chomping M&M’s pre-event to celebrating post-event Texas-style with Whataburger.

Thank you to the Tech Titans organization, sponsors, judges, thank you to Marianne Strobel for the warm welcome from Nokia, the Dallas Business Journal for their coverage and support of the event and finally to the other deserving finalists.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360 via YouTube, Instagram, Twitter

Amazon’s 14 Leadership Principles

I have worked closely with Amazon associates across various business units for well over a decade. One of the core aspects that has been consistent is how Amazon employees embody the 14 Amazon Leadership principles.

These 14 principles are also key when Amazon evaluates prospective employees. These principles are not just applicable to Amazon, they are great reminders for teams and organizations to re-center focus and thought around everything from being customer-centric, having a bias for action, innovation, growing talent and so much more.

Below are the 14 Amazon leadership principles and how I have personally applied the principles in my own career.

1) CUSTOMER OBSESSION  – Leaders start with the customer and work backward. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

TOM: Every organization talks about being customer-centric, but there is a difference between having a vision of customer centricity and instilling customer obsession through teams. When business is lost it comes down to a few key factors. Poor execution, poor communication and focus on self vs. client’s business. This goes beyond simply focusing on the relationship and hoping that carries the day, relationships only go so far.

You have to deliver and in today’s environment that includes living and breathing your customers business. This includes tracking quarterly earnings, proactively analyzing trends in the marketplace, conducting primary research, leveraging tools and solutions such as machine learning industry domains to track shifts and changes over time, predictive models to project zero spend impact models and a constant focus on how to future-proof their business while delivering the expected returns for today.

Customer obsession is a great way to think about it whether your customer is an internal stakeholder or the CMO of a Fortune 100 corporation.  

2. OWNERSHIPLeaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond their own team. They never say “that’s not my job”

TOM: I have worked across multiple holding companies, consulted with some of the world’s largest brands, developed products and had ownership of various organizational functions and teams. The one thing that has always been consistent is working to be a “value-add” across the organization, not just within a single team or department. Being a good citizen pays off in the long run as you are able to build support for cross-departmental initiatives.

So many organizations that I have consulted with over the years are only focused on short term goals and returns. Looking back, those organizations that did not adopt a roadmap for the future and took steps outlined to future proof their business are struggling or no longer in business today. Ownership includes not sacrificing long-term value or opportunity for short-term gains.

3. INVENT & SIMPLIFYLeaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here”. As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.

TOM: This has been the lifeblood of my career in the interactive space. The one constant has been change and having the ability to create first of its kind use cases for the application of technology is critical to keep pace with exponential change.

This is what started my passion and desire to become a futurist and solution evangelist. Predicting how technology was going to evolve, the triggers and signals gleaned from consumer behavior and having the entrepreneurial ability to actually build and deliver new solutions as well as seamlessly integrate new and emerging technologies into highly linear organizations has been a key success driver.

4 – ARE RIGHT, A LOT  –  Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs

TOM: The challenge I consistently put forward to my strategy and creative technology teams is to build a strong POV and then a month or so later completely deconstruct it. The pace of technology and experiences shifts so quickly, it’s less about disruption and more about exponential acceleration, so having the ability to make a call based on deterministic and sometimes probabilistic data, then evaluating and changing course is key. You have to be able to completely deconstruct your views and refine them based on market and situational indicators.

5 – LEARN & BE CURIOUSLeaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

TOM: As a keynote speaker I cover emerging technology and consumer behavior on a regular basis. I am constantly looking for patterns for how experiences will evolve. This requires constant learning and curiosity and this is a passion area of mine.

I am constantly reading, tracking industry discussions, looking at developer documentation, following the release of new patents, and attending developer conferences so I can get a first glimpse at potential new use cases.

This is also the #1 trait I look for in prospective employees. It’s a continual desire to discover, learn and solve problems that may not exist yet.

6 – HIRE & DEVELOP THE BEST TALENTLeaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.

TOM: Talent is everything and I look for certain characteristics in individuals that are consistent and foundational. This includes individuals who exhibit an entrepreneurial mindset, are naturally inquisitive, constantly learning, have the ability to “connect the dots”, formulate a point of view and are really good presenters.

Some of the best hires I have had over the years were individuals I met while speaking on panels or industry events. I lean towards original content creators and those that go above and beyond their day job and most importantly have the ability to articulate a point of view.

It’s not just about reporting or sharing a link about a technology or trend, curation is only part of the equation. It’s having the ability to craft a unique point of view. Being deliberate and having a consistent approach to looking for these attributes in potential hires has led to individuals from incredibly diverse backgrounds but there is a consistency in their abilities to be strategic, autonomous and incredibly high performers. This led to recruiting some of the best talent in the industry as well as serve on multiple tours of duty with high performing team members.

7 – INSIST ON THE HIGHEST STANDARDSLeaders have relentlessly high standards – many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

TOM: My approach is to set a vision for my teams, empower them, enable them but also hold them accountable to agreed-upon MBOs. It’s important to have a team vision and mission that aligns to the broader organization and then deploy a team of team’s approach to scale across the organization.

This ensures that the teams are adaptable, stay in close communication and are empowered to make key decisions and solve problems without the typical command and control model. This also builds mutual respect and trust within the team as everyone has a key role, is empowered to make decisions and works together to accomplish cross-departmental goals.

8 – THINK BIGThinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.

TOM: I am a futurist in my spare time. This requires thinking bigger on a regular basis to piece together how we will shift from mobile-first to multi-modal interfaces at scale. This includes making foundational statements such as the shift of the virtual assistant to the center of the operating system, the role simulation and data will play and helping organizations to future proof their business while meeting the business objectives of today. This is the basis for my Innovation to Reality speaking platform.

From a business perspective, part of my role over the years has focused on aligning bigger thinking with clients to go beyond the short term and discuss challenges on the horizon and how to future proof their business.

This includes the potential impact of artificial intelligence and the need to not only prepare for shifts in modernizing systems but also the impact on culture and how to build towards intelligence augmentation.

This will be one of the biggest areas of disruption over the next few years as the workplace will drastically shift based on intelligent systems and those organizations that can capitalize on integrating technology, align data assets to fuel systems and prepare their workforce for intelligence augmentation vs. disruption will be the organizations that either maintain a leadership position or challengers will leapfrog established organizations.   

9 – BIAS for ACTIONSpeed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.

TOM: Balancing action vs. analysis is critical in today’s rapidly evolving environment. It’s important to place strategic bets while still maintaining the focus and hitting short term goals. I use the 70/20/10 approach to bias for action.

70% is focused on the core aspects of driving the business or campaigns and is 100% measurable. 20% is emerging but a bit less quantifiable yet needs to be explored for possible new opportunities and 10% should be solely based on emerging solutions based on trends and affinity signals from consumers.

Finding early-stage start-ups and having an established ecosystem across solution types is critical to reducing time to analyze and moving to action. If you already have the eco-system, it’s easier to activate.

What I have seen over the past few years is a number of business leaders at major agencies and organizations are very similar to politicians. There is a lot of talk about the importance of AI, evolving experiences and the need for innovation. The reality is there is a hesitancy to actively take steps to ensure that the business is preparing in parallel for short term and long term success. There is a bias towards data curation vs. analysis and action. This is going to cause major issues for organizations that will not be prepared for the major shifts that are coming.

10 – FRUGALITYAccomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.

TOM: This is where I value individuals with entrepreneurial backgrounds who are used to wearing multiple hats and have a feeling of ownership towards the business. This allows the unit to operate lean yet go above and beyond in terms of output.

Leading innovation practices across many organizations, I have become very accustomed to accomplishing more with less. I coach youth football and my approach to team building is similar to the offensive style of the University of Oklahoma’s football team.

OU focuses on keeping the same personnel on the field. They operate out of similar formations but have incredibly adaptable skillsets based on the down and distance. Meaning any given player on the field can shift into multiple positions and flex out of their natural spot.

This is how I approach the development of a team. Team members have a primary area of subject matter expertise and secondary responsibilities and have the ability to flex across various aspects of the business. This leads to cost savings for the organization but the creation of significant impact.

11 – EARN TRUSTLeaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfurme. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

TOM: Coming from a military background trust is the key to completing whatever the mission objective may be. As a leader, you have to listen to your teams, provide them with a platform to showcase their skills, always treat each with respect and most importantly empower your teams.

I have prided myself on earning the trust of my teams by demonstrating subject matter expertise, attention to detail, and most importantly empathy for not only their work but their lives. This then translates to those that we support both internally as well as our end clients.

Trust is THE currency in today’s fast-paced world. Technologies and solutions come and go but having the trust of the team and clients to know that they can be led in a direction that benefits all are key.

US Army Parachutist Badge

12 – DIVE DEEPLeaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.

TOM: For the last 19 years, I have focused on being as detailed oriented as possible. This applies to diving into technology and development use cases, evaluating opposing constructs and frameworks, executing campaigns and testing 3rd party technology on a regular basis.

This also requires working closely with team members to truly understand and competently discuss their areas of domain expertise. It’s no longer feasible as a leader to just be at 30,000 feet. In order to operate at the speed of business today, it’s incredibly important to be as detail-oriented as possible and hold teams accountable while empowering simultaneously.

13 – HAVE BACKBONE; DISAGREE and COMMITLeaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

TOM:  Within my teams I created an environment of equal rank, meaning we can speak freely and disagree with a decision without the fear of overstepping based on rank/title.

The ability to challenge decisions is key to constantly innovate. The ability to deconstruct a point of view or have a differing opinion can be critical to overcoming a challenge.

During my various leadership tenures, I have focused on providing the forum for constructive disagreement and also respectfully challenged some decisions that may not fully align with the company vision or client’s best interest. 

14 – DELIVER RESULTSLeaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.

TOM: Over the past few years my teams and I have focused on delivering results in various forms. This could be in the form of delivering a viable v1 of a product, providing a go-to-market strategy, or creating an analytics model that provides visibility into ongoing impact. The key is a constant focus on delivery and execution while maintaining a strategic position simultaneously.

Over the past two years, I was focused on taking a theoretical concept and creating a completely new product offering. There were setbacks at every step of the way but by building key relationships across the organization, empowering team members, identifying the right talent, having tough discussions around limitations of current team skill sets and ultimately pulling in the right teams to complete the product we were able to deliver an elegant v1 of the product that will impact the organization for years to come.

Follow Tom @BlackFin360 on YouTube, Instagram or Twitter

OnCon Top 50 Marketer

I wanted to reach out to those of you I have worked closely with over the past few years and ask for an assist. I have been nominated as a top 50 marketer by OnCon and would love your support with a quick vote as it is 100% peer driven.

It just requires name, email, title and a check mark next to my name. Thank you in advance for anyone who can take the 2 min to vote.

Would love your support!
https://www.onconferences.com/votemarketing

Thank you! – Tom

UPDATE: I received confirmation that I am one of the selected 50. Will receive the award in January. Thanks to all who participated!

Tom Edwards Funko Pop Adventures

Recently, my wife had a fun idea to get a custom Funko Pop to take with me on my travels and use that to chronicle events, speaking engagements, and trade shows. These adventures will be logged here on the blog via the #Tompop page as well as Instagram be sure to follow/subscribe to see all the fun.

Special thanks to All Star Custom Figures

Evanta CMO Summit Keynote

I recently had the privilege to deliver the Evolution of Experience keynote at the 2018 Evanta CMO Summit in Dallas, Texas.

For this event, I tailored the Evolution of Experience, E^3 talk tied to  EmpowerExponential and Enhanced to focus on the camera as a platform, artificial intelligence, multi-modal, the New 4 P’s of AI marketing and new themes introduced by the Apple WWDC 2018 that happened earlier in the day.

Celebrating 500 BlackFin Posts

This post is number 500 for the BlackFin360.com/blog. Starting this blog was one of the best decisions I have made professionally. It provided me with a platform to share original thoughts, cover industry trends and serve as a repository for speaking and media coverage.

It has evolved significantly from the early beginnings in 2007. The blog was originally under the domain TheBlackFin.com. Now that domain is simply a redirect to BlackFin360.com. “BlackFin” was a nickname given to me by a co-worker at the time and the blog name came directly from my Xbox Gamertag “TheBlackFin“.

Here is a screenshot of the original look for the blog from 2007-2009. Why green for a blog named the “black” fin is something I still wonder about to this day.

Over the years the look and feel of the blog has changed but the core content focus on marketing, emerging technology, and gaming has remained to this day.

I officially moved the blog from theblackfin.com to blackfin360.com in 2009. By 2011 at least there were black/techie elements in the look and feel.

Now in 2018, the blog continues to serve as the primary entry point for speaking engagements, advisor opportunities, university lecturing, media coverage and over the past year it has shifted to more of a Vlog.

The look of the site will continue to evolve in 2018 and beyond.

Whether this is your first time here or you have been a subscriber since the beginning, I sincerely want to thank anyone who has stopped by and spent time with my content. I am incredibly grateful for this platform and I would highly recommend to anyone to find their industry voice and build their personal brand in addition to their professional.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

WMD Podcast: Balancing Personal & Professional Branding

This is the second part of my interview session with the Words of Mass Disruption podcast with Eric Hanes.

During this discussion, we dive into finding the right balance between personal and professional branding , 4 steps to a better digital you and the importance of creating and sharing content,  and adding value to your professional networks.

WHAT YOU WILL LEARN IN THIS EPISODE

1. How important it is to develop and share your own perspective and point of view.

2. Be open with your network connections.

3. Find the right balance of Personal Brand (the Digital You) and your Professional Brand (the hand that feeds you).

4. Diversify your network.

Here was part one of the podcast discussing all facets of Artificial Intelligence.

WMD Podcast via iTunes

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Follow Eric Hanes @WordsDisruption

SMU Temerlin Advertising Institute Interview

I recently had the privilege to be interviewed by the SMU Temerlin Advertising Institute team for the TAI blog. This is a repost of the interview discussing various topics tied to teaching, career advice, and how the advertising industry has shifted over the years.

Professor Tom Edwards is teaching capstone course ADV 4399 Advertising Campaigns for the Temerlin Advertising Institute this semester. Professor Edwards is the chief digital officer at Agency, Epsilon, where he oversees brand planning, research, data design, digital strategy, digital experience, social/CRM/email, innovation and media. He regularly publishes content and speaks on the future of marketing.

Professor Edwards was an adjunct faculty member of the virtual campus for Wayland Baptist University from 2003-2015. He also instructed Principles of Marketing, Advertising & Promotion, Global Marketing and Consumer Behavior. He has also guest lectured at University of Texas at Arlington, and prior to joining the TAI team he was a member of the SMU Digital Accelerator certification program faculty.

What made you want to become a professor?

I have spent the past 17 years in the marketing technology space. The rate of change associated with technology, its impact on consumer behavior and ultimately how we connect with consumers continues to outpace traditional academia’s ability to keep pace. I wanted to contribute and give back to the next generation of advertising professionals by bridging the gap theory and the practical application.

What is your background in the subject you teach?

I currently instruct the Advertising Campaigns course. Over my professional career, I have worked on campaigns for hundreds of fortune 1000 brands (Citi, Starbucks, AT&T, GameStop, Activision, Hasbro, Frito-Lay to name a few) both domestic and international. My expertise is rooted in a deep understanding of technology, consumer behavior, data and intelligent systems such as artificial intelligence and the application of machine learning.

What has been your favorite memory from teaching for TAI so far?

The passion and creativity exhibited by the students and the staff and their willingness to roll up their sleeves and get to work, even when it’s in areas they may not be in their core area of focus.

What is your favorite part about being a professor?

I have instructed thousands of students over the past 15 years across a few universities and my favorite part is the open dialogue with the students. Getting to hear their perspectives and thoughts and to see their work evolve over the course of the semester is incredibly gratifying.

What made you want to go into advertising? How did you get where you are in your career?

I started my advertising career during the dot com days of the late 90’s. I had a passion for technology and all things digital. As graphical user interfaces and connectivity began to spread, so did the need to create engaging digital experiences.

The alignment of marketing and technology have been a key foundation for the advancement of my career. I have worked in interactive agencies, start-ups, enterprise software companies and large agency holding companies. Having the ability to decipher complex problems into simple solutions has been a key to career advancement. The other critical component to career growth has been my blog. 10 years and over 400 posts later, having a visible point of view and a repository for thought, industry commentary and speaking has been a valuable asset in my career development.

How have you seen the advertising industry change since you started?

 The biggest change over my career is the shift towards the empowered consumer. Prior to 2007 advertising had remained somewhat stable with broadcast at the center of the experience. In 2007 we saw that begin to shift with the introduction of the first iPhone. This sparked the shift towards mobility in advertising that is still prevalent.

Then we saw how technology enhances consumer empowerment through the creation of user-created content, accessibility and amplification via social channels, the personification of brands and celebrity being redefined from Hollywood to influencers.

Moving forward we are now seeing the shift from content marketing to contextual and the rise of multimodal interfaces with the focus shifting from mobile and desktop to voice, vision, and touch.

Moving forward, we will see the shift from consumer-centric advertising to system based marketing as algorithms and virtual assistants will take on more responsibility for consumers and ultimately our definition of reality will evolve when we see the convergence of location data, computer vision, augmented reality and artificial intelligence where any space, physical or digital becomes a new canvas to connect with consumers.

What advice do you have for students who want to have a career in advertising?

I have 3 tips for students just starting their career:

1) Network – Begin building a professional network before you start your professional career. Attend industry events and network in-person, focus on your LinkedIn profile and engaging with content. Your professional network is one of your most valuable resources. It should require more nurturing and attention than personal social channels.

2) Sponsor & Mentor – It is key to seek a mentor, someone who works in the industry you are about to enter to help navigate key pitfalls and to “learn the ropes” from a seasoned individual. It is incredibly important to be open to feedback. It is also important to identify a sponsor within your organization. Someone who is either directly or indirectly in your chain of command. Someone who can provide positive internal earned media and groom you for advancement. You cannot always depend on an immediate supervisor to serve this role. Seek out highly respected and influential individuals within the organization, you will know who they are.

3) Original Thought – I cannot reiterate how important publishing content can be for a new grad. Having thoughts on industry commentary or showcasing your ability to connect trends that may not seem to link on the surface is an art that can lead to you being selected over someone else.

How do you incorporate aspects from your work into your teaching?

 I look to bring best in class examples and techniques, be it research, the latest on aligning psychographics and affinity to personas or the role of conversational experiences into digital strategies. The key is aligning experience and tools with the core areas of focus of the lesson or assignment.

Follow Professor Edwards on Twitter @BlackFin360 to stay up to date on the latest areas of study.

Xbox One X Project Scorpio Early Unboxing

I received a nice surprise as there was a special package waiting for me in my office. It was an early release version of the Xbox One X Project Scorpio edition.

The Xbox One X officially launches on the 7th of November. I captured the full unboxing, setup, and discuss what’s included and the features of the console including a look at the system after start-up.

A special thank you to Brent at Xbox and Chris from TripleClix for the great surprise.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

10 Years of BlackFin Blogging

April 22nd, 2007 marks the date of the first blog post under what was then TheBlackFin.com. Now 10 years and 456 posts later the blog has morphed into what it is today.

Here is a shot from the old TheBlackFin blog. 

Starting and maintaining a blog has proven to be one of the most important decisions and invaluable assets in my career development and progression over the past decade.

By the simple act of formulating perspectives on various industry topics, it served as a foundational knowledge base to capture trends and evaluate shifts tied to consumer behavior.

Over time it served as a timeline to measure and gauge key technology inflection points and the impact of disruptive and emerging technologies.

Knowing that I had to create content changed my curation behaviors tied to industry news and new technology. My focus shifted from simply consuming content to analyzing topics and looking for connections as the foundation for digital strategy.

I joined Twitter the same month I started my blog in 2007.

Now, the role of my blog has shifted to sharing thought leadership with agency clients, a reflection of industry media commentary, and speaking engagements. But regardless of how much the focus evolves over the next ten years at it’s core the blog will still be about aligning experience + perspective + prediction.

My strategic approach developed through blogging was a key component to recently being named by Advertising Age as a Marketing Technology Trailblazer. 

Beyond blogging, here is additional advice for those just starting their career.

Have a POV – Regardless of platform have a spot to capture your thoughts and focus on 2-3 territories in your industry of interest and begin commenting and creating your voice and perspective.

Build a Network – Your most valuable professional asset is your network. Be diligent in meeting movers and shakers in your industry and seek out those who are crafting a narrative in their industry and emulate their approach until you refine your own.

Mentor & Sponsor – Having an internal advocate is incredibly important when it comes to career advancement. It’s not enough to keep your head down and work hard. You need to work hard and have an internal sponsor who will champion your advancement.

You will also need a mentor, preferably someone who is not in your current organization but knows your industry to provide a bigger picture perspective and guide you through the challenges that will inevitably be a part of career advancement. I have been incredibly lucky and thankful to those who have sponsored and mentored me over the years.

Thank you to the thousands of visitors over the past 10 years. I write to openly share thoughts about the industry and to unravel the connection between emerging technology and it’s impact on human behavior.

Here’s to the next 10 years!

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

Advertising Age Marketing Technology Trailblazer

Today Advertising Age announced their 2017 list of top 25 Marketing Technology Trailblazers and I am honored to be included.


Photo by Bradley Taylor, Caprock Studio 

A big thank you to the Epsilon corporate communications team, DGC and Advertising Age judges. I am truly humbled by the inclusion with such a great list of industry innovators.

I am incredibly grateful to my data design strategy and innovation teams. From research, planning, data design, digital strategy, digital experience delivery, social and innovation a huge thank you for all that you do.

Tom Edwards AdAge

Finally, a very special thank you to my amazing wife Cherlyn for supporting all the crazy hours and travel for the past 17 years.

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series

TA Expert Interview Series featuring Tom Edwards of The Marketing Arm

Tom Edwards, the Executive Vice President of Strategy and Innovation here at The Marketing Arm, was recently invited to be a guest on the TechnologyAdvice Expert Interview Series to share his insight on the digital marketing landscape. The series, which is hosted by TechnologyAdvice’s Clark Buckner, explores a variety of business and technology verticals through conversations with industry leaders.

Edwards joined Buckner to discuss modern day digital, social, and mobile innovations, the importance of bridging technology and marketing, and the four core elements that bring a campaign to life.

Below are a few of the highlights from our conversation:

TA: Tell us about what life is like at TMA and some of the projects you work on everyday.

Tom: At The Marketing Arm, we’re really a consumer engagement agency, so that touches a wide range of project types. Everything from digital, to promotional, to talent, to production, to just a number of different types of projects that come across my desk on any given day.

I’m a part of the digital engagement division and we service about 16 core clients, everything from Exxonmobil, to GameStop, to name just a few organizations. So over the last 15 years, my role within the industry has really shifted from starting more on the technology side, and really kind of incorporated being that bridge between technology and marketing.

As digital continues to progress, we’ve seen it all: the end of the dotcom boom, massive portals, the rise of consumer social. All of these different types of trends we’ve seen definitely had a hand in touching and guiding different project types across multiple platforms and different routes of sale. It’s been a fun, interesting ride and it continues to get better.

TA:  What suggestions do you have for a team trying to compare and find the right marketing automation vendors? What should they be looking for?

Tom: Portability. So if I’m able to either leverage a tool that can aggregate content, redistribute, visualize things that can basically whether it’s a seamless flow, whether that’s your API through an SDK or whatever it may be, like that’s what I’m ultimately looking for now.

I’m looking for how can this one piece fit into the larger strategy that I’m trying to deploy and continue to add value without adding additional barriers or additional layers, that’s really the key piece. Because we’re touching so many different channels, everything from top line awareness via digital all the way down to shopper and point of sale.

So making sure that we can have programs that can work in scale. Scale is another key piece for us too and the data considerations depending upon local versus global so there are a lot of different pieces that we look at when we’re evaluating but for me, it’s how can whatever tool that you’re leveraging best provide value for everything as a whole versus just one specific piece or one specific function.

To learn more about The Marketing Arm, visit www.themarketingarm.com. Connect with Tom on Twitter @BlackFin360 and follow his blog at BlackFin360.com/blog. Be sure also follow @TheMarketingArm.

BlackFin360

Listen to the entire show above in order to hear our full conversation, or download the show to listen later. You can subscribe to the TA Expert Interview Series via Soundcloud, in order to get alerts about new episodes.

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This podcast was created and published by TechnologyAdvice. Interview conducted by Clark Buckner.

Agency Of The Year

Chief Marketer recently named my agency, The Marketing Arm, promo agency of the year for 2012. In this month’s issue of Chief Marketers Promo Magazine, they break down the top 100 promo agencies in the US as well as a two page article about TMA and why we were chosen as this years recipient. The article also includes a key reference to our upcoming Flockstar beta launch. Here is a link to the full article.

Flockstar is the first of our new crowdsourcing service offerings that I have worked intensely on over the past 6 months.  More news to come as we get closer to the public launch but if you are a creative, strategist, planner, etc… then there is still time to join the private beta at http://www.flockstar.co

Hmm.. the gentlemen to the far right looks oddly familiar…

Follow Tom Edwards @BlackFin360

BlackFin360

Goals

aunlockedI don’t know about you but I am driven by achievements. Yes I hear the laughter now and see the nodding of heads. I like to set an achievable goal and reach the objective. Maybe it is my military past or growing up in a military household but I like to have a clear objective that I can then pursue.  Be it professional or personal I really enjoy a good challenge! This is what drives me professionally as it is a constant push to achieve x amount of revenue and margin.

At the beginning of this year I set a few arbitrary personal goals… outside of being the best father and husband that I can be:

1) 100 miles with Nike+ – Since I am a dad first, meaning most of my activities are home centric, running is one of the ways I workout. Setting a goal definitely adds to my motivation.

I am happy to share that I have now officially achieved these goals! I know it is arbitrary, what value does Gamerscore have? Outside of the ~10 cents per point that I have spent in $$$ not much other than to my friends who play as well. Airline miles??? Yes now I have the ability to sit on the plane a little bit longer. The only one that has any value is the running goal at least from an overall health perspective. But from my perspective these were primary personal objectives that I wanted to complete.

For me I find motivation in having a very clear set of objectives and working hard to achieve the goal. What motivates you? Do you set specific goals and work towards them? Do you wait for things to come to you? I am really interested in understanding how you find motivation to do what you do.

Nike 100 miles

9 Years

I wanted to take a moment and thank my wife for the best 9 years of my life so far.

We were married in October of 1999 on this day and I consider myself the luckiest man in the world to have found a woman I love so deeply. Now after 9 years and 3 kiddos I still feel the same as I did 9 years ago.

Thank you Cherlyn for all that you do!

Happy Anniversary  

Cherlyn_Web

Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix

DetroitGPThanks again to our friends at the Microsoft Automotive team. I had the privilege to join them for this past weekends Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.

I have never attended an IRL, Le Mans Series or an SCCA SPEED World event so I got to experience all three at one location.

And I have to say it was a great event! Being a guest of Microsoft meant that I got to experience the same amenities as they do. This included their trackside chalet to watch the races as well as paddock access to view the cars, drivers and crews up close and personal.

It was great to see the likes of Helio Castroneves, Tony Kanaan, and Danica Patrick hit the track… or actually road since this is a road course vs. the standard oval.

The event was the brainchild of Roger Penske with all net proceeds from the event going to the funding of the preservation of Belle Isle.

It was a great event and I want to thank our friends at the Microsoft Automotive team for being excellent hosts!

Below is me with one of the race cars…. Does it come in Black????

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More pictures from the event are available in the Photo Gallery under Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.

O Canada

canadaLast week I traveled to Vancouver on business and as usual there is an interesting story from the trip.

We initially flew into Vancouver to meet with Electronic Arts and various clients but we had also scheduled a meeting in Seattle (Roughly 2 hours away) so we jumped into the rental and drove towards the border.

We arrive at the border crossing and did not realize that we were in the “Nexis” lane which is equivalent to a FastPass into the US. So the line was roughly 40 minutes long and we did not realize we were in the wrong lane. We found out soon enough.

Once we realized our mistake it was too late. We tried to move over to the middle lane and it took a good 5-10 minutes to pull over. Once we made it into the proper lane we heard obscenities directed at us that would make a sailor blush. This coming from the most unassuming people you could imagine. Think of grandmothers and grandfathers in their late 70’s early 80’s.

So we have our meeting with Sony and head back to the border that same day. It is about 10:30 PM at night and there were no lines going back into Canada.

The guard at the initial post reviews our documents… smiles and asks us to pull over into one of the stalls and exit the vehicle, enter the building and get in line “a”.

We pull in just to see the contents of the car next to us completely removed from the vehicle. So this already looks like it is going to be a lot of fun.

Once inside we are interviewed separately… What are you doing here, where are you going, what states have you lived in since you were 18.

Once they interviewed both of us we were asked to remain seated while they ran full background checks on us.

In the meantime an individual was in our same waiting area and he was called up. Once he was at the counter he was told that he can never enter Canada and he was not welcome based on information that came up during his background check.

Needless to say I was not worried as I have no record to speak of but still being in that position and the demeanor of the border patrol it made me uneasy for a moment.

After a few more minutes we were handed our passports and sent on our way.

The morale of the story is to just fly to Canada and stay in the same country for the duration of the trip.

Episodes of a Dad – Part 3 – Pikachu

pikachu-imageI knew it was a matter of time until this day would come. I just did not think it would come this soon.

I consider myself a decent gamer, 45,000+ gamerscore, but on this day my 6 year old son absolutely obliterated me on Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii.

It is not just today either. The domination started a few days ago and the competition has been building.

He has mastered the little yellow powerhouse known as Pikachu. Who would have known that a 1’4″, 13 pound furry fantasy animal would cause me such grief.

You may or may not know about Pikachu. It is a character from the insanely popular Pokemon series. Yes they are still around and we buy the cards regularly. They are for my son, really.

His record is now 12-2 against me with the little yellow fuzz ball. I am frustrated but very proud at the same time.

I will hear pika-pika-pikachu in my sleep. The baton has officially been passed.

Episodes of a Dad – Part 2 – Yellow Jackets

Today was our last day in Dallas before our vacation to Destin, Florida. You know, a day to get everything packed and ready for the fun in the sun to come. But today was one of those days that you could make a really funny movie out of or just break down in angst and defeat.

When you have kids, you know there will be great moments, your sons first soccer goal, your daughters first dance recital, etc… There are also those days that seem to never end. This was one of those days.

It all started a few days ago when my daughter was sick, then magically on Wednesday of this week I get sick, 104 degree fever, the works. So I am still not 100% today… more on that later.

The kids were playing in the backyard when my oldest son Gavin comes screaming into the house like a banshee. We asked him what happened and we immediately notice a large number of bites glowing red on his arms and legs. I look out at his play fort and see yellow jackets flying in formation as if celebrating their kill. Let’s just say they will no longer be patrolling this airway.

So we immediately go with the ice/benadryl combo and pray that he is not allergic. After about 30 minutes everything is looking good until he says… “I am having trouble breathing”. So we hop in my car and off to the ER we go. This is roughly 1:00 PM by now. We arrive at the ER and an hour and a half later we get the all clear. So he is good to go. So we head out for some celebratory ice cream and medicine pickup.

Back on the home front there is still packing to do but I am still not feeling 100%, in fact I am starting to feel worse. So around 5:30 I do a web check in thinking it will save me time. I don’t get the call that they have a room for me until 9:00 PM. So after another hour and a half I am the one that ends up with a shot today, not the one who got stung 8 times. Go figure.

So now it is closer to 10:45 PM and I finally make it home to continue packing the car. I go to get something out of the van and the auto sliding door won’t open. Then I open the front door and the lights flicker then go out. The battery is dead. Someone left the keys in the ignition when he took the van earlier. So now I not only get to pack the car, but jump the car as well.

So this is around 11:45 PM. I am in the garage setting up the jumper cables, the van no problem. Then I get to my car and I realize that I have not jumped off of my car before. It is a C-230 and needless to say I was not quite sure how I was going to pull it off after popping the hood. I had to remove the battery cover, filter, etc… to get to the area I needed to do the jump. So car is now jumped and it is past midnight.

We are wrapping the final items for the trip and I am shutting down around 1:30 AM. When my son comes downstairs covered in vomit and commences to use our facilities. Then I get the welcome surprise in his bed that he left. And oh what a surprise it was. It reminds me of Stand By Me when everyone has a blueberry pie explosion… Yeah needless to say I got the lucky task of changing out the sheets. How did Cherlyn get out of that one? Well she has been taking care of sick people for the last week.

While I was changing the sheets and trying my hardest to get rid of the smell I go to open his window and set off the house alarm and wake up our light sleeping infant son. Now 4 out of the 5 family members are awake and my princess is just sleeping right through it all. Lucky girl.

So it is 2:32 in the morning, their is still vomit in the air and the looming 5:45 wake up call to catch our flight isn’t getting further away. This is a great start to our vacation, did I mention that rain is forecasted for the next 7 days there as well stopping on the day we are to leave :).

Like I said, this is either a day that you can just laugh about or makes you just want to roll over. What time does Starbucks open again???

 

 

 

Episodes of a Dad – Part 1

If you would have asked me 10 years about how many kids I would have or what kind of dad I would be I would have looked at you like you were from another planet. Fast forward 10 years and 3 kids later and I would not want to be anything else than my kids dad.

Gavin (5), Audrey (3), Grant (6 months) and my beautiful wife Cherlyn are the reason I get up every morning. Well that and my daughter likes to wake me up at 5:30 in the morning. Outside of trying to be a good role model and teaching them the ways of the world I occasionally have to perform a “Dad” duty.

Last night was one of those times. Being a medic in my time in the Army you would think that I would not have any issues with anything to do with a health related issue. I have given IV’s, numerous injections, etc… so last night my son Gavin had a loose tooth.

Being the trooper that he was he wanted me to pull it. No problem right? Step 1 reach in mouth, Step 2 grip tooth, Step 3 forcefully extract, Step 4 bask in the toothless glory of his new smile. Except somewhere between Step 2 and Step 3 I ran into a slight issue.

The tooth was definitely ready to go from the initial look and feel. I asked how he felt, he tensed but was ready. Then the first pull…. no tooth in my hand… a bit of blood and some screaming ensued. Tried again no go. So this right of passage is becoming an episode of Friday the 13th. Now as a dad there is nothing worse than seeing one of your children in pain so what do you want to do? Remove the source of pain right?

So now it was about distracting and calming. So I used the “let’s dry your mouth” as an opportunity to pull it while he was calm. A few wipes, a quick snap and the tooth was out. Back to my army reference. The site of blood does not bother me, but something about seeing the blood of one of your own definitely took me back a step or two. That and physically removing a piece of bone from your little ones mouth.

Well here was the finished result… mission accomplished :)

gavin

New Phone System

While I was traveling to Detroit for business we had a new phone system installed at the office. This is a very slick system, soft dialing, queues, etc…What I didn’t know was another plan was unfolding around the phone system.

There was a phone box on my desk and a few of my co-workers/culprits (John Balod, Deryl Dorsett) kept asking me about my new “wireless” phone so we made it back to my office and I opened the box to find a new “phone system” alright. The system consists of two Green Giant cans of corn connected by a long string complete with hand drawn instruction manual and a “long distance” add-on…. extra long pieces of string.

This was pretty funny, but it actually works as well! I may keep my new phone system vs. the high-tech system that everyone else is deploying :)

<phone system

7 Periods

I was lucky enough to be at Game 6 of the Stars and Sharks Sunday night. The plans just happened to come together on that day and I am really glad that they did.

Rob Howard, Scott Dockendorf, Deryl Dorsett and I were excited to catch some playoff hockey. None of us expected what turned out to be the equivalent of a double header.

The Stars came out aggressively in the first and you could tell that they wanted to close out the series and turn tonight into hand shake night. The Stars were the first to score and the building erupted. Towels were waving, people were screaming and it seemed as if the roof was going to blow off of the AA center.

After the score it seems as if the team went into a mode of protecting the lead vs. being the aggressor. The Sharks started to inch ahead in the shot column (over 100 shots total in one game) and finally one went past Turco to tie the game. Luckily that would be the last shot to get by Marty on the night.

The third…fourth…fifth… and sixth periods turned into a stalemate with both sides playing tenacious D and neither side willing to relent to the other until the Stars finally ended the drought with a Brenden Morrow goal in the middle of the 7th period.

The game in and of itself was amazing. Outside of the game action we had fun between periods from an unlikely source. You could send a text message to the Stars and they would display the messages (good or bad) across the jumbotron. This was one of the best parts of the night as a lot of people had fun with the Sharks among other things…. Comments about eating, grilling, spearing, etc… I even got a message about Scott D on the jumbotron…. Scott D eats Sharks for Breakfast scrolled by with a chuckle from our group. I should have sent in Our CEO can beat up your CEO as Rob had gotten booted from a hockey game earlier in the day for let’s just say defending himself from a high sticking…. :)

Needless to say it was a great game and I think I am still tired from watching 7 periods of hockey but we all got to see what we were waiting for… Hand Shake night. On to the conference finals!!!

Stars

Bring on the Red Wings!!!! Go Stars!!!

Army Strong

One of the things that has truly shaped my life and served as a foundation for me to be a truly productive, successful adult was my time in the military. In the early 90’s I entered the US Army Reserve early entry program. I was a junior in High School and started preparations for training after I graduated.

My first taste of active duty was basic training at Fort Knox, KY and I learned what it would take to become a soldier. It was more than the physical… 90% of it was mental toughness and understanding how to play the game. Growing up in a military household allowed me to take to the rigid structure like a fish to water. I was a member of the 2nd platoon Ironmen and we were rough and tough and invincible (at least in our 17 year old minds). Those 8 weeks were physically and mentally demanding but I loved every minute of it.

Next in my career was AIT (Advanaced Individual Training). I had always had an interest in medicine so I leaned that direction when selecting my primary military discipline. I was a 91B which was a combat medic. I trained at Ft. Sam Houston in San Antonio TX and it was a complete 180 from the 8 weeks of training I had just experienced. The focus was more on the classroom as we learned how to work as a team and serve our fellow soldiers by putting their lives and needs ahead of our own. It is a great lesson in humility and empathy for your fellow soldiers.

As I progressed through my career a few moments stand out… winning the battalion soldier of the year in 1996. Receiving my sergeant stripes at the age of 20 and probably the thing I am the most proud of which are my jump wings.

I had a rare opportunity that is normally not available to a US Army Reserve soldier. As a member of the University of Oklahoma ROTC program as well as a member of the US Army Reserve I was able to secure a spot to attend jump school at Ft. Benning, GA. This was the toughest 3 weeks of training of my life. Upon arrival there were 300 members in our class. By the time we were finished only 125 soldiers completed the course.

From the hours of physical training in saw dust pits to the actual jump training on how to exit the aircraft, land and control your chute it was a physically grueling experience. Nothing compares to the few moments of calm after you exit the aircraft and clear the prop wash of the C-130 and your chute is fully deployed. There are a few seconds as you look out at the sun on the horizon that the world just seems to stand still… then reality or rather gravity comes into play and you land like a sack of potatoes.

I look back fondly on my military experiences. I made great friends and even more importantly I learned what it would take to be successful in all aspects of life.

A blast from the past… that is me in the red beret next to my best Army buddy Adam shortly after I finished Jump School.

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Nike Plus

Nike_plusHappy Holidays. I hope that everyone had a great Christmas season and a safe new years. With my recent gamerscore goal now complete I have switched my attention to something just as addicting… Running with my Nike Plus enabled iPod.

I really enjoy tracking and trending sets of numbers. Be it sales forecasts, gamerscore or miles completed. I thoroughly enjoy setting and exceeding goals so it was a natural fit to turn my attention to tracking my progress via my iPod.

The Nike Plus system works with the iPod nano. You insert a small receiver in your Nike Plus shoe or you can purchase an adapter to leverage the system with any type of shoe. Then you run. It is that simple. Leave it to Apple to make the process as easy as possible.

The system really allows me to continue to run consistently as I like to watch the graph continue to progress on a daily basis. So now instead of gaming I will be running but one thing is certain. Goals will be set and numbers will be tracked and analyzed on a daily basis.

iPhone Update

apple-iphoneWell it has been over a month since I picked up my iPhone and I have to say that I am still very happy with it. It has survived a dive into my infant son’s bathtub and after drying out works like a charm. I have been very happy with the performance and the AT&T network.

I have been impressed with the ability to view documents, select which voicemail I want to listen to as well as the safari browser. I can post to my blog via BlogMailr, read my RSS feeds, while listening to my music via the integrated iPod functionality.

As far as the naysayers stating the iPhone is not for business I disagree. I can access my corporate Exchange account, view documents, set global timezones, view maps, manage contacts and view Web content all from one device.

The only downside is around calendar management. You are required to sync via iTunes to update your calendar.

Retailers are also creating iPhone centric sites such as Amazon.com’s newly launched iPhone site. (Thanks to Scott Watermasysk for pointing this one out).

There are a number of great applications already from the iPhone developer community. From skinning apps to games and with an SDK on the way early next year even more applications will become available.

After testing for a month I have to say that I am very happy with my iPhone!!!

Introducing BabyFin III

I am very happy to announce that Grant “BabyFin III” Edwards arrived on November 26th to the tune of 8 pounds 7 ounces and after a very tiring week both mom and baby are doing well. I am in the Redbull/Starbucks phase where sleep does not exist and I am starting to develop an interesting twitch. He is definitely worth it!

Grant

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iPhone

apple-iphoneI have taken the plunge and traded in my Samsung Blackjack for an iPhone. For the most part I live on my phone so I had concerns around how the iPhone would support my e-mail addiction. I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to connect to our exchange server. Simply input the incoming and outgoing server as well as credentials and you are set up.

Activation was simple as it actually occurs through iTunes so your time in the retail store is minimal. So far I have been very impressed by the sleek design,but even more impressed by the multiple options in terms of functionality (iPod,Safari YouTube, maps, etc…).

For those of you waiting for the nextversion to “work the bugs out” I would recommend going ahead and taking the plunge. I am very glad that I did.

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