16 Digital Trends for 2016

The first movie I saw in theaters was the original Star Wars (Episode IV) in the late seventies. That ignited my passion for advanced technology, space travel, science fiction, robotics and the future.

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I continue to draw inspiration from that sense of wonder today. Understanding how to connect systems and data with compelling creative is key to connecting with consumers in an incredibly fragmented landscape.

Just like a disturbance in the force, there are macro digital shifts that will impact strategy. What worked a few months ago may not be applicable and adaptability and experimentation are key to staying ahead to meet the demands of today and to reinvent for tomorrow.

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Below are my predictions/previews for 2016. The 16 Digital Trends for 2016 slide show explores macro digital shifts that will impact digital marketing in the next year.

The focus is to identify trends that can enhance campaigns in 2016 as well as provide a look into the near future through emerging technology that brand marketers will begin experimenting with in 2016.

From the impact of Ad-Blocking to Holographic Computing, the deck will provide an overview and key takeaways for consideration for 2016 planning.

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Adweek Social Targeting

Recently I provided commentary about social ad targeting for both the print and online version of Adweek. The article reviews the advancement of targeting abilities within some social platform providers as well as outlining those that take the approach of a contextual opt-in.

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Here was my full commentary regarding social targeting:

There are definitely two schools of thought when it comes to the targeting abilities of social networks. Those who are constantly refining their offerings and enhancing their targeting capabilities and those who rely on their readers to choose their own path. 

Facebook has always placed value on leveraging social affinity to refine it’s advertising offerings. They have enhanced their capabilities when it comes to geo-targeting, allowed brands to experiment with sponsored dark posts and now they are adding predictive capabilities to further align social affinity with ad interactions. 

Facebook also launched programmatic commerce capabilities with dynamic product ads. By supporting dynamically optimizing, cross-device ad types, Facebook is  focusing on delivering highly contextual advertising at scale. By creating “smarter” segments based on affinity and now predictive elements Facebook can further enhance their approach to programmatic media and show the ability to create 1:1 advertising at scale. 

On the opposite end of the spectrum you have the contextual opt-in approach to advertising that is favored by Snapchat, Buzzfeed and Reddit. This approach is not dependent on highly targeted algorithms it is enabled by contextually relevant content as the core driver into the experience. 

The challenge with this approach at times is to ensure the ads themselves are as contextually relevant as the native content that is driving the original experience. There is also growing demand from brand marketers for additional insight and personalization of experiences that rule out certain platforms that favor contextual opt-in vs. highly targeted. 

There are benefits to both approaches depending on the core objectives and goals of the brand marketer and whether the goal is impressions or creating a deeper association with the brand.

Here is a link to a PDF version of the print article: Adweek_Social Targeting_Tom Edwards

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iMedia Breakthrough Summit 2015

Innovation is critical to succeed in today’s highly competitive environment. This is one of the reasons I support the iMedia Breakthrough Summit each year.

For the past few years I have served as an advisory member for the summit. As a marketing technologist, I love it when marketing and technology come together to discuss emerging technology and how it can enable new forms of value creation.

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This year, I also took the stage with Jeff Donaldson of GameStop. Jeff was the CIO for 14 years and is currently leading GameStop’s innovation practice.

The GameStop Technology Institute is responsible for enabling innovation within this Fortune 500 organization. This presents unique opportunities and challenges when it comes to integrating emerging technology into a heavily linear organization.

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We discussed a number of topics from Jeff’s philosophy and approach to innovation to team structure and how he leverages 3rd parties to the role innovation plays when partnering with the marketing organization.

Jeff outlined his approach to innovation which was captured by the iMedia team during our discussion. Below is an excerpt from the session.

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Measurement
The first step is ensuring that everyone in your organization is aligned and on the same page when it comes to measurement. Only when important factors are identified can a strategy be put into action for collecting data and analyzing it.

Equalized channels
The next step is identifying what data you need to collect to drive that measurement and implementing it through equalized channels.

Co-creation
Next, consider the ability to bring in as many people as possible to work with you to get your ideas realized, which include more than just your innovation team. When it comes to the creation of ideas, your employees and your customers can both get involved and contribute.

Build innovation platform
Then comes the step of creating the platform where your innovation can live. Building this platform for innovation also includes test markets to work through the kinks of your ideas.

Collaboration
Finally, collaboration is key to success. Don’t be afraid to incorporate all of your teams (finance, marketing, IT, and executives) into your plans and ideas for innovation.

Multiple factors come into play when outlining the ideal approach to innovation within an existing organization. The role of data, understanding which 3rd parties will align with the existing team structure, how to democratize the process of innovation and what factors will lead an emerging technology into becoming a fully integrated asset to further support marketing efforts all must be considered.

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The key is having the right partner that understands your business, has relationships with the right 3rd parties, (start-ups, technology partners and platforms) has resources with relevant domain knowledge to extend your team and understands how to bridge the gap between emerging technology and full integration into the existing organization.

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5 Ways Ad Agencies Are Behind The Times

My new article 5 Ways Ad Agencies Are Behind The Times was the cover story for iMedia Connection.

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This article dives into the topics:

  1. How “tactical digital” has not evolved
  2. Embracing the role of the marketing technologist
  3. The importance of strategic partnerships and exclusive access
  4. The true role that innovation plays within an agency
  5. How critical “smart” data is to winning

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Project Lightning Has Launched as Twitter Moments

Over the past few weeks I have heard rumblings about Twitter’s Project Lightning launch. As the announcement drew closer I connected with many members of the Twitter team and you could tell they were excited about the pending announcement but still remained very tight lipped about all of the details of the launch.

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Today is the official launch day in the US and as the news was breaking I received messages from the Twitter team with links to the official blog post.

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I then saw the update available on my iOS device and then caught the Periscope reveal of Moments by the product team. Now it’s time to jump into what Moments is and how is it applicable to brand marketers?

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ABOUT TWITTER MOMENTS

When you update the Twitter app you now see a Lightning bolt in the middle of the main navigation. Tapping it opens a list of Moments from the day or various topics that include news, sports, entertainment and fun.

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What you see are curated “moments” that users can engage and subscribe to. The user experience consists of full-bleed images + swipe to engage the next piece of content in the “moment”. Content types can including images, videos, Vines & GIFs.

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By tapping on a moment, users have the option to retweet or favorite content and there is a progress bar that shows how much content remains in a particular moment.

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Users can also follow moments to stay up to date as new content is added. Updated tweets to the moment then become a part of the users timeline without the need to navigate back and forth.

NEW INNOVATION???

From a marketing perspective this is a very similar approach to what Snapchat rolled out recently with their Live Story platform.

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This is from last nights MNF game and this moment was curated by both Snapchat & Twitter.

Snapchat leverages event geo-fencing so individuals that are participating at an event or moment can submit Snaps that are curated into 3 to 5 minute live stories.

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Snapchat has also rolled out a comprehensive mobile ad experience that integrates user-submitted Snaps with Snapchat’s full screen ad units, which normally included four units plus an event geo-filter for content.

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Example of a Snapchat Live Story Ad Type

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Example of a Snapchat Geo-Filter

The similarities are that both Twitter and Snapchat are curating content from specific events and making it discoverable. Twitter does not currently leverage geo-location as a filter to curate content, but Twitter’s goal is soon expand beyond their team curating moments and enabling individual users to create moments.

WHAT DO MOMENTS MEAN FOR BRAND MARKETERS?

Twitter’s goal with the Moments launch is to slow the flow of information down and extend the shelf-life of content while also providing new avenues of discovery to conversations and content across the Twitter ecosystem.

Moments also brings sequential storytelling capabilities to Twitter. By enabling the ability to craft brand narratives that seamlessly integrates with created, co-created, integrated and curated content opens up possibilities to create immersive experiences that can sustain themes for longer periods of time leading to more opportunities for organic discovery.

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Moments allows Twitter users to have a more focused approach to consuming event content beyond individuals they follow. A use case would be an NFL game, a user following an NFL Moment would receive content from teams, broadcasters, players, the league, etc…

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For brand marketers, once Twitter provides the tools for individuals and brands to create moments,  it opens up the possibility of curating conversations and potentially packaging and promoting content beyond a single tweet to provide more contextual relevance.

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Taking the same NFL example above, here is what I think the user experience could look like for a brand with an NFL sponsorship when this ad type is rolled out. You have NFL content, User Generated Content and the potential for relevant brand content.

It will also be very interesting to see how Twitter wraps it’s advertising products around moments. (UPDATED) The Twitter team just told me that brand testing will begin by the end of this month. At first, they will be 100% owned and curated by a brand with no immediate opportunity to sponsor an Entertainment Weekly “Moment” or an NFL “Moment” yet.

Based on past ad types, I assume there will be an option to promote a specific moment to bundle event content and focus the conversation, I also assume that brands will have an opportunity to place contextually relevant ad types into key curated moments.

The benefits for marketers is having the opportunity to reach new audience segments in a highly contextual way beyond simply promoted tweets and this may create more value for brands looking to build a connection with users in the moment.

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Location As A Context Filter

I recently participated in a panel for Mobile Media Summit in NYC as a part of advertising week. The discussion was primarily focused on all facets of geo-location as well as a deep dive into the role beacons can play to connect with consumers in real-time.

Tom Edwards Mobile Media Summit

Below are a few territories that I touched on during the session as well as a few additional thoughts. 

ROLE OF LOCATION:  Location is a great filter to align consumer behavior against. My goal is to seamlessly connect physical to digital while maintaining a highly consistent message architecture that is highly relevant to the consumer.

BEACONS: One of the issues with beacon programs to date is how to achieve scale. Media organizations are looking for opportunities to drive scale while marketing agencies are focused on the ideal message structure.

There are many use cases to consider depending on the behavior you are looking to impact. If the goal is to drive pre-shop behaviors, it may be beneficial to leverage a 3rd party solution like shop kick to motivate a pre-shop mission that can lead to a retail visit.

Shopkick Macys

If a retailer has a robust CRM and loyalty program and wants to connect online behaviors with in-store visits it may be advisable to install a comprehensive beacon network.

I recently worked with a major consumer electronics retailer to test proprietary beacons that were fully integrated across multiple touchpoints. The program aligned with the existing CRM platform, leveraged it’s loyalty program to modify in-store behavior and the test led to full integration into the the retailers app.

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This approach provided more flexibility to leverage loyalty points as a currency as well as reduce latency of the passive beacons as app activation is set upon entry. 

This program has allowed for mapping of data and interactions and has also lead to the ability to further refine the approach to regionally specific personalized content based on store visit, online behaviors and loyalty interactions.

FACEBOOK PLACE TIPS: Another interesting development is Facebook’s official roll out of place tips for small to mid size businesses. This program has definitely peaked my interest as Facebook is providing the beacon hardware. It’s a very low barrier of entry for the business owner and they have the ability to append location specific details to the Place Tip.

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A consumer would see a notification in their newsfeed if they are near a Place Tip enabled spot similar to what I received recently at the DFW Airport.

Tom Edwards Place Tips

After a user clicks on the notification they are delivered into a location specific experience that allows them to engage with the location, message the business through Facebook Messenger, rate the business and interact with contextually relevant content.

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The business owner has the ability to modify content such as menu’s and I see this as Facebook’s play at ultimately delivering location specific messaging outside of the traditional geo-targeted ad units.

Facebook Place Tips

Location is a key point to consider when aligning a contextually relevant message. The key is to remember there needs to be a value exchange for location access.

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Digiday Video Platform Commentary

I recently provided commentary to Digiday outlining which video platform is ideal for brands.

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From my perspective it really comes down to the individual use case. Instead of saying one platform is the best overall, marketers should identify their specific audiences, how they’re looking to deliver the message and then determine the video platform that best meets their needs.  For example, Snapchat is a great platform to connect with millennial audiences tied to events while Instagram offers marketers a way to extend visual storytelling.  Meanwhile, Vine can be used for very specific uses cases like a do-it-yourself video in six seconds or less.  
 
The more traditional platforms like YouTube have their positives as well.  For YouTube, it’s all about organic discovery as it’s the second largest search engine.  The recent addition of Cards is a key addition to the platform.  These Cards provide marketers with the ability to deliver sequential storytelling through interactivity – which makes videos more dynamic. 
 
Tom Edwards, Chief Digital Officer, Agency, Epsilon

 

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SXSW 2016 Voting Has Begun!

Now through September 4th, 2015 is the time to vote on panels & presentations for SXSW Interactive 2016. This time around I have submitted two presentations.

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The first panel is Unleashing Innovation. This will be a fire side chat format with Jeff Donaldson of the GameStop Technology Institute as we discuss how to integrate innovation into an existing organization.

SXSW 2016 - Innovation

The second is a solo topic discussing the Uselessness of Data which dives into how data without the right context is essentially useless. By itself data doesn’t move the customer engagement needle. People search out and connect with compelling stories, solutions or insights – that create friction along the path-to-purchase – not raw data or numbers.

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I would greatly appreciate your support with a vote.  The first step to vote is to create an account at http://panelpicker.sxsw.com

Then you can simply search for Tom Edwards or Epsilon and give thumbs up to submit your vote.

Epsilon

Thank you in advance for your support! It is much appreciated.

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Momentology – Loyalty Marketing Strategy

I was recently asked by Momentology to provide commentary about why loyalty marketing is enjoying renewed focus and how companies can benefit now.

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Retention is a key component to maximizing the lifetime value of a consumer. Loyalty programs focused on retention can reduce customer churn and strengthen the preference for the brand.

From a brand marketing perspective, there is a significant amount of time and energy spent on acquisition and awareness based initiatives. This is represented by the recent shift toward consumer-centric content marketing.

Digital businesses that understand the role that content plays at all phases of the customer journey can create value and loyalty while maximizing retention. The key is to enable the consumer to highlight memorable interactions and provide a platform for sharing or by leveraging social interactions to create social currency. These interactions then become a part of the awareness and discovery cycle decreasing the cost of customer acquisition and increasing the probability of customer retention.

There are five qualities that should be considered when creating advocacy programs to sustain loyalty:

  • Authenticity is critical in a highly transparent digital world.
  • Creating excellent customer experiences creates opportunities for advocacy.
  • Reciprocity with consumers is key and can come in the form of surprise and delight triggers to show appreciation.
  • Empowering the consumer to truly carry and own the brand identity digitally is essential to building strong brand loyalty.
  • Finally, recognition is a powerful tool that can quickly transform a loyal consumer into a vocal brand advocate.

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Brand Innovators Content Marketing Summit

This morning I had the pleasure of co-chairing/hosting the Brand Innovators Content Marketing event in Dallas, Texas. It was a great turn out and it was good to hear the personalized stories, trials and successes of the various brand marketers in attendance.

Brand Innovators

Many points were addressed including the impact consumer centric content marketing can have on a brand to the role of user generated content, employee advocacy, brands as editors and generational content strategies.

My perspective is that relevant content can be the connector to modify or impact behavior. Understanding how to leverage the content continuum (created, co-created, integrated and curated) with a highly contextual and timely message while also ensuring that your message architecture is consistent across channels is the key to executing a successful strategy.

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