MAD Perspectives Blog

The New Buzzword for 2014 - Context

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, January 21, 2014

The goal for every business in 2014 will be to understand or provide context. What is context?  It is "the circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood and assessed". We've often heard of the news taking a celebrity or politician's statement "out of context". We know that this causes confusion,conflict and possibly alienation. When applied to business this can be deadly. The goal for 2014 is for companies to put their products into context for their customers.

How can they do this? Or, why aren't they doing this already? The focus on context has escalated thanks access to more data.  Yes, Big Data provides us with greater insight about the obvious and not so obvious needs of our customers.  How?  By tapping into the online, real-time conversations available thanks to Social Media. The challenge is figuring out what to do with all that data once we have it. The first step is establishing a goal as to how the data should be used. If we imagine that we want to sell a product into a specific vertical market. We may want to understand how our customers: 

     - would use the product or what problems the product may address

     - with what other products or solutions our product would integrate

     - market forces driving customer need for the product

     - financial factors 

     - individuals or business influencing the buyers decision making 

While the functionality of a product or the use of a service may be well defined, the perception from the customer's side may vary based on their business. For example, addressing the needs of storage solutions for media companies versus life science business requires putting the features of the storage solution into context. Both businesses require storage as they must retain high volumes of data. Both businesses collect, analyze and utilize stored data within a defined business workflow.  However the use of data that describes media assets or of data that impacts patient care is dramatically different. The context in how a storage company may position their solution for each industry must align with the needs of the customers within that industry.

We have been anticipating personalized products and services for years. With greater data sources (more on that in a future blog), improved analytical capabilities and increased focus on the customer (finally!), context is finally front and center. Marketers, product developers, entrepreneurs and customer service professionals must put their customers first.  Context is a two way street. For companies to succeed they must understand the context of customer need and then reflect that need in their communication and interaction with customers.

What's your perspective?

Digital Marketing Just Got Smarter

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The mantra for any marketer is attract-acquire-retain. With twenty years of large scale internet advertising and marketing behind us, we are still trying to figure out the best use of content and channel to convert window shoppers into actual customers. As new marketing technologies and platforms emerge to help businesses manage and optimize their shrinking marketing budgets, these same businesses are challenged to figure out which tools can help them manage websites, manage digital assets, optimize content and its use, validate context, measure reach, and analyze the ever increasing volume of data.

The good news for marketers is an expectation of increased digital marketing budgets. Gartner’s 2013 marketing spend survey indicated planned increases in 2013 to marketing spend on e-commerce experience, social marketing, content creation & management and mobile marketing. Perhaps more interesting is the rise of what Gartner calls the Chief Marketing Technologist. This is acknowledgement that marketing has become more science than fluff. The accessibility to and the analysis of data from internal and external sources is changing the face of marketing.

Web content management, marketing automation, social media monitoring, inbound marketing platforms – they’ve all emerged and become increasingly sophisticated to address a company’s need to make fast, smart decisions about what content to create, where to place it and how to respond to customer needs – now clearly and eagerly shared via social networks. The choice of technology is overwhelming, with solutions from small niche solutions to large integrated marketing platforms.

And now there is a new player, but are they really new? Yes, that’s Hewlett-Packard the IT behemoth best known for printers, PCs, servers and various enterprise solutions. They announced the HP Digital Marketing Hub last week.  It's based on the rather amazing assets that HP acquired via Autonomy, in 2011.When combined with HP’s existing technologies for real-time big data analytics, the HP Digital Marketing Hub provides marketers with a unique capability to create a personalized customer experience. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am a former HP employee. While we all agree that HP overpaid in its acquisition of Autonomy, they did actually acquire some very smart technology that delivers actionable data to marketing teams.

Marketing craves any data related to a customer’s interaction with a vendor. These volumes of structured data are found in CRM, customer support, trade show and other databases. However, unstructured data derived from online and social interactions, is equally if not more important. This unstructured data provides context to the structured data, revealing sentiment, influence, velocity and preference. When combined, marketers can make intelligent decisions about what channel (web, mobile), what content (banner ad, microsite, webinar) or what device (PC, tablet, smartphone) should be used to improve conversion rates. 

HP’s Digital Marketing Hub which integrates and exchanges data from HP Teamsite (content management), HP MediaBin (digital asset management), HP Optimost (multichannel analytics), HP Explore (multichannel discovery) with data from partners (e.g., BlueKai, Kenshoo, ExactTarget). The data analytics capabilities of HP IDOL and HP Vertica to determine how to best engage with customers. The Digital Marketing Hub uncovers the behavior, attributes and positioning of customers, using customer specific data, to make recommendations for marketers to best target and engage with them. The ability to combine structured and unstructured data, provide real-time analysis and tangible recommendations requires heavy lifting and is, of course, technology dependent. This is why HP is in this space. They "get" technology, own the required intellectual property, deliver the relevant infrastructure in the cloud and know how to apply solutions to solve customer challenges. It's interesting, HP has never been know for it's marketing prowess, yet they may actually have the integrated marketing solution that will provide game changing insight.

Marketing has always been data driven. However, the challenge has always been what to do with all that data. It’s not enough to generate reports. It’s about what, how, when where and why to use content to attract, acquire and retain customers. The HP Digital Marketing Hub addresses some of the biggest problems facing marketers - analyzing all that data, figuring out where, when & how to engage, and converting browsers into shoppers. To paraphrase HP's catch phrase, it will be interesting to see how the HP Digital Marketing Hub creates better outcomes for businesses.

What’s your perspective?

Media. An Industry Drowning in Data

Peggy Dau - Thursday, September 19, 2013

I've just returned from the International Broadcaster Convention in Amsterdam. This event serves the community of professionals creating, managing and delivering entertainment and news content around the globe. Like other industries, broadcast and media companies are talking about big data. And, like other industries they are figuring out what big data means for them. Data serves a variety of purposes in this industry. There is data everywhere - it describes content, subscribers create it, technologies generate it, store it and analyze it. But who or what recommends what to do with it?

As i spoke with vendors and consultants, the topic of big data arose many times. Everyone agreed that the term "big data" was overused due to its adoption by just about every vendor. But big data does not mean the same thing to everyone. For content creators, its about associating the right metadata to ensure efficient workflow, editing, distribution and monetization. For storage companies it is about their ability to physically store both data and content efficiently and effectively, which means they must implement and provide storage management solutions. TV service providers and OTT vendors use data to enable content discovery and to exploit the needs of their subscribers. Advertisers depend on it when making media buys. The Second Screen is providing real-time audience data that is driving ratings and extending the story arc. These are just a few examples of data use within the industry - there are many, many more. 

With these examples in mind, it is evident that big data is a big deal for media and entertainment. There are many tools and platforms to capture and analyze the data. The challenge remains in how to use the data to initiate actions that benefit the organization. A key element of data capture is understanding why the data is needed. This can help in the filtering and analysis of data from one or many sources. Once the data has been aggregated the challenge is to interpret or translate the data into defined actions. Of course, those actions should be aligned with the original intent in collecting the data.

How is your organization using all the data it is collecting? Has it helped you identify new business opportunities? Or has it revealed new product innovation? How about subscriber insight for developing new content (think Netflix!)? Data is a source of validation, discovery, insight and most importantly, competitive differentiation. Consider your goals and then think about what big data can do to help you achieve them. It requires more than tools to collect it, or store it, or analyze it, or report it. It is criitical to define purpose of the data, collect the right data and translate that data into a tactical set of actions to achieve the goal. 

Don't drown in all the data! 

What's your perspective?

TV's Perfect Storm

Peggy Dau - Monday, September 09, 2013

There is a growing conversation surrounding the value of social intelligence. Altimeter defines social intelligence as "insight derived from social data that organizations could use confidently, at scale, and in conjunction with other data sources to make strategic decision". It is the natural progression from social media marketing, social media monitoring and social media analytics. This intelligence reveals audience segments along with contextual understanding of customer likes and dislikes - providing brands with tangible actions to pursue. In short, it validates the investment in social media for companies.

When considering social intelligence related to the TV industry, it is no wonder that Social TV and Second Screen apps are attracting a lot of attention. This is an industry in a constant state of change. Today this change is relevant to cord cutting, an increasing OTT audience, network battles with distributors – as well as a back-office technology evolution away from proprietary products. Today, the incorporation of social data into business planning is marketing centric. It is centered on defining the right message for a specified audience via an agreed upon channel. In the not too distant future it will be used to influence product development, mergers & acquisition, innovation and public policy.

The back-end of the myriad of Social TV and Second Screen platforms or apps is firmly entrenched in the cloud, providing a combination of both flexibility and stability for digital strategy teams. Cloud-based solutions provide ease of access to content, social networks, content management systems and historical and real-time data while reducing infrastructure costs even as providing scalability to address peaks in audience engagement.

The early impact of Social TV has focused on content discovery and audience engagement. The interesting side benefit (or perhaps this was the goal all along) is the volume of data that allows content producers to enhance their storytelling while improving the ROI to advertisers. Studies show that second screen ads running simultaneously with TV commercials improve audience recall of the brand. Additionally, the data can reveal key insights as to audience likes and dislikes that will help in the ad targeting.

It is the volume of real-time data that is the essential value of Social TV. Understanding the reaction, intention, sentiment and action of an audience provides producers, distribution channels and brands with clarity and insight that will be used to shape future programming and business models. It is easy to understand why Twitter is being hailed as the early winner in TV-related real-time data, even if Facebook allegedly has 5X the volume of data. With Twitter’s open broadcast model (meaning all tweets are public), plus its acquisition of Trendrr, Twitter has the capability to provide immediate feedback as to trending topics. However, their model currently does not allow a program to curate, manage and fundamentally brand the social conversation. This is the benefit of second screen platforms such as GetGlue, IntoNow, Zeebox and others.

While the future of Social TV is still fuzzy the opportunity is still compelling. Thanks to the adoption of smartphones and tablets – and a natural predilection for multi-tasking, audiences are comfortable with a comfy lean-back entertainment experience that also allows them to easily seek and find complementary content related to the program they are watching. In fact, from an information finding perspective it is irrelevant if the content being watched is live or on-demand. However, from a community engagement point of view, live viewing is a requirement for enjoying real-time interaction with like-minded fans.

Social TV and Second Screen are creating the perfect storm, where social, mobile, big data and cloud are coming together to allow a new type of TV viewing experience that will change the face of content consumption forever. The question remains as to whether the second screen platforms provide a relevant service and business model for content producers, or if the pervasive social networks such as Twitter or Facebook are the best option for attaining both critical mass and the all important audience data. And, if this is the case – does this represent an incremental revenue model for Twitter and Facebook? Social Intelligence is the key and whichever platform can provide the best, most relevant insight - in additional to augmenting the storytelling process, will be the winner.

What’s your perspective?

No Cure for Data Addicts

Peggy Dau - Monday, August 19, 2013

Addiction. It has a negative connotation, yet every industry has the same addiction. We live in a data driven society where every action must be justified by numbers that support investment, change, penalty, promotion, success, failure - you get the picture. When was the last time you your day did not rationalize a business activity  without dependent numbers? It's no wonder that big data is enjoying such growth. With a mentality reinforced by friends, colleagues, management, wall street and even the federal government, we seek numbers to support every decision we make. But, do these numbers really provide the "fix" we crave?

It's Monday, so that means we are measuring box office success of the latest movies. Just in case you missed it, "The Butler" was considered a success, coming out of its opening weekend with revenue of $25M, against a cost of $30M.  On the other hand, "Jobs" is considered weak on opening weekend earnings of $6.7M against a budget of $12.7M.  At the same time Trendrr, the television engagement tracking service, shares that NBC Sports investment in Premier League Soccer is a success - at least for this week - taking the number one and two spots as related to social volume. What do these numbers say to you? Do they influence your desire to see these movies or programs?  Probably not, but, they validate investment in actual production, acquisition of rights or advertising.

Why do we collect the data and analyze the numbers? Because they are an attainable metric that shows progress against stated or unstated goals. There is a lot of attention being paid to social media measurement or the ROI of social media. The original measures of success - numbers of followers, tweets or likes, do not provide a tangible return on investment. But they do provide an indication of consumer interest. The thing to remember about numbers, is that they are only accurate in retrospect. You cannot reveal a number until an action or many actions have occurred. The bigger question is if these numbers can be a predictor of future success or failure.

The financial services industry has been using sophisticated data-based models for years in its attempt to improve investor return. Technologists are using and modifying equally sophisticated algorithms to monitor and measure social media activity - also with an eye toward predicting the best channels through which businesses can engage their customers and ultimately increase revenue. In all cases, the next wave of investment is to bring context to all of these numbers. I've written about the importance of context in social media monitoring, and filtering of "dirty" data. Natural language processing continues to advance with an understanding that prescriptive analytics is the next phase of big data investment.

For all the attention to customer data, there is also an increasing number of internal data available to businesses. Whether this is related to supply chain, sales, research & development, content management or financials, this is the data upon which the business relies for ongoing performance. Social technologies do exist behind the firewall and changing the ways corporations connect and collaborate across geographies, business units and other corporate silos. The McKinsey Global Institute has already stated that there is $1 Trillion in value that corporations can create through the use of social technologies. The question is how businesses define what that value looks like and how they create it.

Context will be increasingly important as big data, cloud, mobile and social all come together to provide data and numbers like never before. What does this mean for business? It means smarter, yet more complex content management systems, technologies to capture, integrate and analyze data from an increasing volume of sources and devices (think big data + social media monitoring + machine-to-machine) and the emergence of  consultants to help business make sense of all the data. Rather than seek rehab to overcome this addiction to numbers, we will continue to feed our addiction through creation of tools and processes to attain even more data.

What's your perspective?

Hey Big Data, Don't Forget We're Human!

Peggy Dau - Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Every where you turn, there is more data. Social networks provide data revealing consumer likes and dislikes (and it would be nice if Facebook created a thumbs down button!). Analytics firms promise to crunch this data and provide insight to drive sales, marketing and product strategies. Netflix produced "House of Cards" based on its analysis of their subscriber data. That success led to them to produce new episodes of "Arrested Development" and "Orange is the New Black" - neither of which has had the same impact as House of Cards. So, is that data really as revealing as we think?

As always the devil is in the details. While the data itself can highlight trends it also includes a lot of "noise". By this I mean that is hard to sift through the incredible volume of data to find the meaningful insights that can influence meaningful actions. Companies, large and small, are looking to data to help them improve their business. Whether it is to reduce the cost of doing business or to drive an effective product launch, companies must rationalize their decisions. Data is the key. It is tangible. It cannot be disputed. Or, can it?

The interpretation of data requires more than analytical tools. It requires an understanding of context. How many times have we read quotes or seen video snippets that infer a meaning different than what the speaker intended? It is the same with analyzing data. Structured data is easier as it is typically machine driven data, derived from content stored in databases. Unstructured data, such as that found in social networks, blogs, audio or video files presents new challenges. Often this data reflects thoughts that are a reaction to other content. Understanding the relationship between these different types of data is critical to gleaning the most relevant insight. As Colin Powell once said "Experts often possess more data than judgement."

So how do we apply judgement to analysis of structured and unstructured data to guide strategies, tactics, actions? We don't leave it solely to data collection tools or data analysis programs. We remember to use our common sense and intelligence when looking at the data. Yes, filtering that data is hugely helpful and the tools that can help with that sifting are big time savers. But individual or group knowledge cannot and should not be neglected. It is this insight born from experience that drives innovation, creativity as well as pragmatic action. As your business incorporates social data, subscriber data and other big data into its planning and decision making processes, don't forget to be human and remember there are humans on the receiving end of those decisions who can make or break your business.

What's your perspective?

Creativity is Dead - Long Live Data Driven TV?

Peggy Dau - Monday, April 01, 2013

Earlier this month Netflix released its Q4'2012 financial results. They beat the "street" forecast for subscriber growth and revenue. Yet there are relevant concerns about Netflix's ability to sustain both metrics. This makes the success of their production and release of "House of Cards" even more compelling. Netflix's goal is simple - improve customer acquisition. The strategy to achieve the goal is more complex. It's all about the content. Netflix is known for its streaming content. They are dependent on relationships with content producers such as Disney, CBS, Fox and Lionsgate to stream popular series and drive longtail revenue for the producers of these series. However, Netflix is changing the game by entering into deals for original content such as "Lilliehammer", "House of Cards", new "Arrested Development" episodes and the recently announced "Sense8"

Netflix is a perfect example of data driven content decisions. Unlike their broadcast brethren, Netflix does not depend on Nielsen to measure the success of a program. They can accurately measure how many people watch a program, in full or in part. Their content decisions are based on how many people they think will watch a program as part of their subscription. In the case of "House of Cards", they used data such as 

     - what types of subscribers watched the original BBC series

     - how did subscribers watch - on TV, online, on a mobile device/tablet?  And, did they watch it straight through or did they pause, fast foward or rewind the content?

     - when & what did subscribers watch

     - what content did subscribers watch that involved the proposed actor, Kevin Spacey?

The Netflix advantage is their direct relationship with their subscriber base.  They have access to data that can influence actor selection, plot, special effects, location and more. Netflix can also choose how to release the series. In the case of both "Lilliehammer" and "House of Cards", Netflix chose to release the entire series at the same time. The result was binge consumption of the addictive programs.

Why is this relevant to the media industry or other industries? It is an example of how data reveals customer behavior and desires. With the insight that can be gained through the capture and analysis of data, brands can create content that compels customers to take action. Those actions will, ultimately, result in increased revenue. The conundrum for creative types is to strike the balance between inspiration and customer demand.

All the data in the world is useless if we can't make any sense of it. We can capture demographics, usage behavior, interests, buying patterns, etc. Thanks t our voluntary sharing of information via social networks and search engines, their is an astounding amount of customer data available.  This allows us to add context to the formerly stark data we've been collecting for years. We can see influences and understand rationale behind choices made.

In the media industry, we've seen the rise of formulaic vampire programs thanks to the popularity of "The Twilight Saga". Sure, these programs attract viewers and the related, necessary, advertising revenue. What viewer need do they fulfill?  Are they original? Or, does that even matter? Does the rise of data driven content creation improve the quality of content?  Honestly, I doubt it (although I did enjoy "House of Cards"!). Data driven content provides content producers with the ability to more accurately forecast their financial return. Media & entertainment is a business. However, I'd just like to believe, even for a few moments, that truly original content is still appreciated.

What's your perspective?

Seek Actionable Data Within Big Data

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Before anyone pursues a marketing, sales or product strategy, they collect data. It is data about the market and its trends or needs. It's data about the prospective customer - who are they, where are they, what are their needs? It's data about competitors, their products, their go-to-market strategy, their offer. We collect all this data, and more, to validate our goals and align our strategies.  We desire sales leads, web traffic, sales. We want to understand our position relative to the market, customers and competition.

We've been collecting data for ages. We have gigabytes and petabytes of data, but often we don't know what to do with it. We know we should be utilizing it to support marketing plans and product roadmaps. We collect even more data by deploying social media monitoring solutions, but we can't prioritize actions. We are buried in data - yet Big Data is the Big Buzzword across every industry. The IT industry loves it as it provides them with new solutions for their customers. The promote storage, business intelligence and analytics. Manufacturing, financial services, media, consumer goods and hospitality businesses are interested in any opportunity to better understand their customers and sell more products or services.

So, now we have all this data. What are we going to do with it. Is it even the right data? Can we analyze the data to prioritize customer requirements and then adapt product, marketing and sales strategies to meet those requirements? If we're trying to sell widgets, do we understand how our customers are using those widgets? Have we collected the data that will tell us how our customers want to sell them widgets? This is the potential power of Big Data.

The who, what, where, why and when is the holy grail of Big Data. Understanding the context of that data is the challenge that must be overcome. Sifting through the mounds of data to eliminate that data which is irrelevant is critical. Using human skills to assess the meaning behind a Facebook post or Tweet and then correlating that to other comments can reveal the actionable data (note, not Big Data) needed to develop the right programs to influence customer behavior.

Data has hidden narratives that with the right analysis reveal the story that will compel customers to take action. We can capture and map the data, but we don't always see the underlying story. There is great value in data driven content creation. Social media provides even more customer touch points. It provides marketers with the ability to intelligently segment their customers based on contextual and cultural insight. Don't just settle for a Big Data solution. Consider what data you really need to drive tangible results. Take a step back and consider what kind of data can really impact your strategy.

What's your perspective?

Social Media + Big Data = Demand for Analytics

Peggy Dau - Monday, October 01, 2012

The technology watch word, regardless of industry application, is BIG DATA. Whether it is patient data in the health care industry, customer data in high tech or consumer data for packaged goods companies the collection of data and the storage of that data is attracting a lot of attention. Every storage company is touting the value of their products and their ability to store your valuable data. Why the focus on data? Perhaps it is because even more data is now available about our customers, be they business or consumer. Where is this data coming from? It is found in every social network, blog, video and slide sharing site.

Even as I was roaming the exhibits at the International Broadcasters Conference (IBC) in Amsterdam, last month, I noted the attention to BIG data and social media. The broadcast industry, like others, is rife with data. In its case, the data is internal - meta data - describing every media asset. And, for the first time, thanks to social media, broadcasters are able to directly gather data about their audience. Why? Because their audience is tweeting, updating, liking, gaming and interacting about their new, sports and entertainment programs. Rather than having to rely upon the insights of Nielsen, broadcasters can tap into the volumes of social media to understand the needs and demands of their audience.

Extrapolate this for every industry. Companies will collect, gather and store petabytes of data about their customers - raising the next big challenge - how to analyze and gather actionable insights from social monitoring tools and data gathered via other sources. Big data is not so precious, unless there are analytics to help companies understand the hidden value. Analytics will extrapolate the information necessary to support business strategies, marketing programs, financial decisions and R&D. Just as social networks will continue to evolve, social analytics companies such as NetBase, Evolve24 and Kontangent will emerge to disseminate meaningful insights beyond volume of likes, sentiment of comments and numbers of followers.

Storage companies, large and small, are hailing the importance of big data. they provide the hardware to store the data and the software to optimize the storage of it and manage the access to it. Social media will influence the rise of BIG data. Your social media plan must consider the volumes of data that will be uncovered and what to do with it. While social media efforts are often owned by marketing, the impact on IT resources is often neglected. Big data forces a collaboration between marketing and IT.  With that collaboration will come the assessment and use of analytics tools to create real value for companies engaging in social media strategies.

What's your perspective?