Compass in the hand against rural road

“Really? Start with strategy, not technology.”

That was the epiphany from an attendee I overheard during a conference on CRM technology a few years ago. With a heavy sigh of relief, he added, “That makes so much sense.”

Not much has changed. Flashy new technologies catch our eye—as they should—but sometimes they become the proverbial cart pulling the horse. This situation applies to all types of technologies, including those that help to create, host, and distribute branded content, as well as those that help to measure its impact.

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The Unintended Consequences of Siloed Metrics

Measuring the return on marketing spend by channel is essential, but done in a vacuum it can lead to misinterpretation and unintended consequences.

During a recent conversation on the topic with Steve Bonnell, director of digital analytics at, he explained how marketing performance falls short of its potential when marketers are too focused on what he calls middle metrics: diagnostic metrics used in isolation for one part of the customer journey, such as click-through rates and landing page conversion rates. If, for example, marketers focus too much on email open rates, they may not pay the needed attention to click-through rates and landing page conversions.

Fortunately, Bonnell also explained how marketers can refocus, viewing channels and campaigns more holistically to optimize marketing efforts across the customer journey.

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Marketers in the drivers seat

“People make split-second decisions,” Nancy Harhut reminded a standing-room-only crowd during her session, “7 Human Behavior Hacks That Increase Engagement and Response,” at DMA’s &THEN 2016 conference.

Harhut, chief creative officer at Wilde Agency, noted that this reality is just one of many challenges marketers face in capturing prospective customers’ attention at a time when the average attention span has decreased to a mere eight seconds. “People rely on decision-making shortcuts,” she said, adding that 95% of purchase decision making takes place in the subconscious mind, according to research by Gerald Zaltzman. “Marketers need to take what they’ve learned about human behavior and use it.”

Harhut cited seven behavior triggers with recommendations for how to do just that:

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Why CMOs are chief mystery officers

Data will tell fascinating stories, if you get out of its way and let it talk, says Josh Reynolds, head of marketing and client consulting at Quantifind. It’s up to marketers to use their curiosity and intuition, combined with those data-based stories, to make decisions that will positively impact marketing performance. Marketers also need to use curiosity and intuition to uncover the mysteries that data can reveal, such as what’s behind changes in sales or loyalty.

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“What an amazing time to be a marketer,” GE Vice Chairman Beth Comstock said during the opening keynote at DMA’s &THEN 2016 conference. “Data is our currency. Grab it and use it.”

Marketers, she asserted, should observe consumers, customers, and the market; question everything; gain an understanding of what’s important, expected, and possible; and seek and get customer feedback. “Marketers at our core are behaviorists,” Comstock said.

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Closeup of woman eating chocolate cupcake

There’s nothing sweeter than linking marketing to revenue. Just ask Geoff Schiller, chief revenue officer of POPSUGAR. The lifestyle media company uses data to provide content that tantalizes readers and advertisers alike.

In advance of Schiller’s session on innovation and disruption in publishing at DMA’s &THEN 2016 conference, I had the opportunity to ask a few questions via email about POPSUGAR’s affinity for data and its knack for native advertising.

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When it comes to marketing, creativity and data are inextricably linked.Marketing is data AND creative

Two areas under the spotlight in marketing today are creative and data. In the past they were often dealt with in silos: The stereotype was that the creative team worked on projects such as gut-based branding and ad campaigns, while the data analysts focused on tasks such as market mix modeling and segmentation—rarely collaborating on campaigns. Today creative and data are two sides of a coin that double its value.


One marketing leader who’s a proponent of the creative/data partnership is Jamie Gutfreund, global CMO of Wunderman. During her upcoming session at DMA’s &THEN 2016 conference in Los Angeles she’ll be pulling back the curtain on trends to watch in 2017 and beyond. I caught up with Gutfreund jetting between meetings and asked her for a preview.

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