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What Ad Buyers Still Don’t Get About Sponsored Content

Contently

BuzzFeed, valued at $850 million this past August, has invested heavily in sponsored content. Yet as a recent story from The Wall Street Journal reveals, advertisers still aren’t sure what they’re getting out of the new media giant’s primary source of revenue.

While virtually every major digital media property seems to have a branded content studio these days, none has pinned as much of its success on native advertising as BuzzFeed, which does not run traditional display ads on its site.

As such, you would have to think the company’s financial stakeholders were displeased to read that, according to one major ad buyer, only 15 percent of clients who syndicated sponsored content on BuzzFeed in 2013 returned for 2014.

From the sound of things, brands have been hesitant to return to BuzzFeed because they have not yet been able to directly link sponsored stories to product sales—a line of thinking that fundamentally misunderstands the role content marketing plays in a company’s long-term success.

As DigitasLBi’s chief investment officer, Adam Shlachter, put it to The Wall Street Journal, “Social lift and buzz is great, but I have to know if that means I will sell more toothpaste.”

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Worldwide Tablet Shipments Experience First Year-Over-Year Decline in 4th Quarter

IDC PMS4colorversion 1 Worldwide Tablet Shipments Experience First Year Over Year Decline in 4th Quarter

FRAMINGHAM, Mass., February 2, 2015 – Worldwide tablet shipments recorded a year-over-year decline for the first time since the market’s inception in 2010. Overall shipments for tablets and 2-in-1 devices reached 76.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2014 (4Q14) for -3.2% growth, according to preliminary data from the International Data Corporation (IDC) Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. Although the fourth quarter witnessed a decline in the global market, shipments for the full year 2014 increased 4.4%, totaling 229.6 million units.

“The tablet market is still very top heavy in the sense that it relies mostly on Apple and Samsung to carry the market forward each year,” said Jitesh Ubrani, Senior Research Analyst, Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. “Although Apple expanded its iPad lineup by keeping around older models and offering a lower entry price point of $249, it still wasn’t enough to spur iPad sales given the excitement around the launch of the new iPhones. Meanwhile, Samsung’s struggles continued as low-cost vendors are quickly proving that mid- to high-priced Android tablets simply aren’t cut out for today’s tablet market.”

Apple’s lead over other vendors has yet to be truly challenged as it shipped 21.4 million tablets, accounting for over a quarter of the market with 28.1% volume share. Despite Samsung’s woes, it managed to hold on to the second place with 11 million units shipped. Lenovo (4.8%), ASUS (4%), and Amazon (2.3%) rounded out the top 5 although only Lenovo managed to grow annually when compared to Q4 2013. Lenovo maintained its tight grip on the Asia/Pacific market thanks to its massive scale in the PC business and the success of its low-cost tablet offerings.

“Despite an apparent slow-down of the market, we maintain our forecast about tablet growth in 2015,” said Jean Philippe Bouchard, Research Director, Tablets. “Microsoft’s new OS, a general shift towards larger screen form factor and productivity focused solutions, and technology innovations such as gesture interface that could be introduced in tablets will help the market maintain positive growth in 2015.”

 

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28 Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2015 From the Pros

Social Media Examiner

Are you wondering what 2015 might look like for social media marketing?

If the changes in 2014 are an indicator, there will be a lot more changes in 2015.

To get a grip on what the near future may look like, we tapped the knowledge of 28 social media pros.

Here’s what they had to say.

And if you’re curious, here were the 2014 predictions.

#1: Video Becomes the Content of Choice

Let’s look closer. In August 2014, Facebook surpassed YouTube in the number of video views via desktop according to comScore. It’s important to note that YouTube still has more views across all devices. As of September 2014, Facebook attracted a billion video views per day, a roughly 30-fold increase since July.In 2015, video will dominate as the social media content format of choice. Further, regular video segments, like podcasts and blog posts, will come into their own as a form of content that drives social engagement and other marketing goals.

ck heidi cohen facebook vs youtube views e1417584970525 28 Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2015 From the Pros

Based on SocialBakers’ data, video posting moved away from YouTube towards Facebook in 2014. While these results still show YouTube ahead, the trend favors Facebook.

ck heidi cohen video posts e1417585191341 28 Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2015 From the Pros

Also, Facebook videos receive significantly more shares than YouTube. This makes sense because sharing and engagement are at the heart of Facebook interactions.

ck heidi cohen share of interactions e1417585315119 28 Social Media Marketing Predictions for 2015 From the Pros

YouTube is the best-performing social media platform to drive trackable sales,according to AOL’s Convertro research.  It’s the first, last or only platform touched.

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Meet the Virtual Sales Rep

IDC PMS4colorversion 1 Meet the Virtual Sales Rep

By, Kathleen Schaub

Air%2BTraffic%2BControl Meet the Virtual Sales Rep

Robert sits in an office near Provo, Utah at what looks like the console of an air traffic controller. But instead of directing jets through the airspace, he’s using Twitter to guide a software company’s buyer through her decision-journey. Part marketer, part sales, part tech service, Robert is one of an emerging breed of “virtual” sales reps. Could this be the dream team that B2B has been waiting for?

The B2B “Genius Bar”® as a Role Model

The “virtual” sales rep role in its ideal form provides the personalized, anticipatory, service of a five-star hotel. Think of it as the B2B version of an Apple Genius Bar – using virtual tools. The Apple executive team modeled the Genius Bar after Ritz-Carlton’s customer service. Hallmarks of this exemplary concierge service include a personal touch; a warm, friendly, attitude; and attention to satisfying customer needs at every step. Sales expert Anneke Seley says the “virtual” sales rep culture is a far-cry from the historical “me and my quota” rep.

Sales teams are finally coming to grips with digital age facts. The culture shift recognizes that engagement must be sensitive to the appropriate stage of the buyer’s decision-journey. “Buyers aren’t ready to buy until they are ready to buy”. Marketers all know by now that buyers prefer self-sufficiency and they avoid talking to sales people until the decision-journey is substantially complete.  IDC research shows that for tech products averages this distance averages about 50%. Now sales is also starting to appreciate that buyers are alienated when by placed prematurely into the arena. At the same time sales leaders don’t want to waste an expensive sales resource on someone who isn’t ready to buy.

Digital May Not be Enough

Content marketing is what companies must do to fill the gap when buyers won’t talk to traditional sales people.  Content marketing is a hugely important communication strategy and companies will not be successful without mastering it.

Yet, for B2B companies, a completely digital engagement solution may not ever be the right answer. For one thing, content marketing capabilities in most companies is still ramping. Even when content marketing becomes excellent, digital may never be personal enough. Some B2B solutions are so complex, customized, or require so much trust that a human must intervene for the buyer to be truly served.  It may also be in the vendor’s best interest to involve a good sales person early. One tech CMO told me that although the company could offer eCommerce, a human touch tripled the size of the deal.

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How Brands Can Convert Facebook Users Into Customers

CITEworld

Marketing is sometimes considered a niche form of storytelling, but its stories mean nothing if they don’t make brands resonate with potential customers and ultimately lead to sales. Many modern marketers view the people who connect with their brands on social media as potential leads that could become customers.

Converting users to customers on social media platforms such as Facebook isn’t always a straightforward process. The journey is often riddled with challenges and unmet opportunities. Using social media to achieve brand lift, loyalty and engagement is typically easier to do but harder to quantify and justify as a business investment.

“No one trusts a brand or brand stories anymore,” according to Cameron Friedlander, marketing technology strategy lead at Kimberly-Clark, a consumer packaged goods conglomerate. “As a brand speaking directly to consumers all you can do is give them facts either about the category, the brand, product or company.”

The most important thing any brand can do to cultivate and eventually convert Facebook users into customers is provide useful facts, insights and ideas, he says. “Doing this requires brands to think differently about content and consumer engagement.”

Consumer Trust Doesn’t Come Easy

Consumers trust and listen to individuals with whom they have personal relationships more than brands, Friedlander says. “Consumers value each other’s opinions, not brands or companies.”

Brands need to build content ecosystems that inspire users to engage with each other and share insights and ideas on behalf of the brands, “to help nudge them towards a brand when it comes to purchase time,” Friedlander says. “Recommendations from people you know are what count when it comes to conversion.”

Ecommerce platform Shopify, which powers more than 120,000 online retailers including Amnesty International, General Electric and Tesla Motors, says Facebook is fueling the vast majority of its orders that come from social media. More specifically, Facebook drives 63 percent of all social media visits to Shopify stores and accounts, for an average of 85 percent of all orders derived from social media, according to Shopify data based on 37 million social media visits that led to 529,000 orders.

Facebook also delivers the highest conversion rate for all social media ecommerce traffic, at 1.85 percent, according to the Shopify data. Conversion rates for Google+, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn were all below 1 percent during the same period.

The average value of sales generated via Facebook for Shopify’s stores was $55, which is below the average value of Pinterest, Instagram and Polyvore sales. Facebook dominates social orders in markets including photography, sports and recreation, pet supplies, jewelry and apparel, but it faces tough competition from other networks in the collectibles, digital products, services and consumer electronics markets.

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5 Infographics to Teach You How to Easily Create Infographics in PowerPoint [+ TEMPLATES]

Hubspot

These days, visual content is all the rage. And considering the fact that people are naturally drawn to pictures, images, and other visuals, it’s no wonder it’s become such a dominant force in the marketing world. Just think about how much more prominently visuals get featured in social networks like Facebook and Google+. And what about the rise of visual-focused networks like Pinterest, Instagram, and Vine? There’s no denying it — visual content is here to stay, and marketers who can learn how to master it will have a leg up on competitors who can’t.

When most marketers hear the term “visual content,” the first type that comes to mind is usually the infographic. But how can those who don’t necessarily have a design background — or budget to commission an agency, hire a dedicated in-house designer, or purchase expensive design software — create professional-looking infographics that enable them to leverage the power of visual content? We’re so glad you asked! Here’s a little secret: You can do it right within software you likely already have loaded on your computer. That’s right!PowerPoint can be your best friend when it comes to visual content creation. And to help you get started, we’ve created five fabulous infographic templates you can download for free and use to customize your own infographics right within PowerPoint — as well as some helpful tips and tricks to help you learn how to use PowerPoint to its full potential.

In this post, we’ll highlight some PowerPoint infographic creation basics as well as four of the infographic templates from the download that explain how to easily create infographics in PowerPoint (how meta, right?). Just be sure to download the PowerPoint templates for yourself so you can easily customize the designs you see here!

 

Four great reasons why email will never, ever die

CITEworld

As we come back from vacation to an inbox filled with hundreds of emails, most of which we don’t need to read, we might let out an anguished bellow and ask: when will we fix email?

Everyone knows how awful it is: you get flooded, it’s pretend work, it’s inefficient, and so on. And everyone is looking for a way to fix email. And every once in a while, a new app comes along that promises to fix email. And every time, it fails. The reason why is that it can’t.

Sorry. It bothers me as much as it does you, but it’s just the truth. You’re not going to fix email. Here’s why.

Saturation

The simplest reason why email can’t be replaced is its 100% saturation. In enterprises today, everyone — and that means everyone — has email.

In business strategy, we often hear about network effects, whereby the value of a network is the square of the members of a network. This is thought to be a great competitive advantage, because network effects mean your business grows very fast as the network grows, and then is very hard to displace. eBay, for example, has a network effect: Because all the sellers are there, that’s where the buyers go; because that’s where the buyers are, that’s where the sellers go. That makes eBay’s business very robust.

But actually, very few networks achieve saturation, meaning that (for practical purposes) everyone is on the network. And there is a very big difference between using a communication network with almost everyone, and using one where there is everyone. Email is the latter. Alternatives to email, no matter how popular, are the former.

If displacing an ordinary network is hard, displacing a network with saturation is impossible. The barriers are too high. Everyone is already checking email, so everyone sends email. Because everyone sends email, everybody has to check email. It will never end.

Social networks don’t take care of all use cases and don’t have saturation

One big promise for “fixing email” is enterprise social networks — JiveYammer, and many others. To some extent, they have helped things. But anyone in a company that uses those social networks knows that they haven’t gotten rid of email. They can actually improve on some common use cases for email, like task management or quick-fire collaborative conversations. But they don’t take care of all, or even most, use cases. Your boss wants to send information about a major new corporate reorganization or strategy to all 150 people in his organization at once? That’s an email. A vendor wants to touch base in a semi-formal way without interrupting you via phone or email? That’s an email.

Continue reading… 

The 5 mistakes marketers make that prevent them from becoming leaders

MarketingWeek

The job of turning that aspiration into a reality is fraught with obstacles – some self-imposed and others dictated upon marketers by their organisations. Business leaders speaking at The Marketing Academy’s inaugural “Inspire” event in London this week outlined the five challenges and how they can be overcome in order for marketers to get to the top of their careers.

Mistake #1: marketers are underselling marketing

Marketers are “best placed” to become future CEOs, but they need to reframe how they and the skills they have are seen within the business, according to founding partner of creative agency 101 Phil Rumbol, who also draws on his experience as marketing director at Cadbury and alcohol giant InBev.

He said: “Part of the problem is too often people equate marketing to advertising and promotions, but I think marketing is about a whole lot more than that. It’s about doing things that make a brand or service relevant, but the whole image of marketing is skewed to the fluffy, spin, marketing men getting people to buy things they don’t really want. Marketers need to go back to basics and use [and talk about] advertising once the core and basics are as strong as they can possibly be.

That warped image of what a marketer does (or should be doing) in their role, is affecting their ability to influence the finance director.

As Rory Sutherland, executive creative director and vice chairman of OgilvyOne, acerbically framed it: “There’s a  danger marketers are suffering from kind of Stockholm Syndrome, it’s a bit like being [Josef] Fritzl’s [- found guilty of imprisoning his daughter for 24 years, alongside four of the children he had fathered with her -] children to the finance director. It’s been going on for so long [marketers] have started to take on some of the attributes of their oppressors”.

The result has seen marketers trying to speak the “deranged” language of economists – a lexicon that implies human behaviour is predictable – in justifying their actions, which means many finance directors still see marketing as a cost centre: a source of inefficiency rather than competitive advantage, Sutherland said. In order to obtain the budgets required for marketing innovation, marketers would do well to learn behavioural economic theory and apply it to marketing, using the “scientific terminology finance directors have come to expect”, giving them the opportunity to fight back with case studies of marketing effectiveness.

Mistake #2: marketers aren’t curious enough about other areas of the business

Former Procter & Gamble marketer and now CMO of holiday rental site Housetrip Zaid Al-Qassab said a good marketer is “insatiably” curious about people, but for many marketers that stops at their customers rather than looking internally too.

“An awful lot of people have a major blind spot where they’re not insatiably curious about all the other people in the business around them. I speak to a lot of marketing directors who do not know what they key performance measures are for their finance director and other departments…it’s hard to make it on to the board if you’re not curious about what they are trying to achieve,” he added.

Richard Robinson, managing partner at marketing consultancy firm Oystercatchers, shared Coke’s mantra: “the only brand you will ever manage is yourself”.

“That stuck with me, knowing who the hell you are, what your personal brand was and managing your career across all those different brands: it’s all about you and how you can enable all the other people around you to succeed. To do that you have to be hungry, hoover up as much information as you can to be interesting and have a point of view,” he added.

Mike Hughes, director general of ISBA, advised marketers to be particularly curious about the procurement department – not least because they report into the chief financial officer.

He added: “Procurement has to be embraced, cuddled or part of the team, one thing a marketing director should not do is be excluded in the conversation about the agency…because procurement can completely undermine what you get from an agency as if their margins are slashed wafer thin, you won’t get the best people.”

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Context is King: Points to Consider When Implementing a Contextual Marketing Strategy

IDG Connect 0811 300x141 Context is King: Points to Consider When Implementing a Contextual Marketing Strategy

For the past few years, marketers have focused on pushing incredible amounts of content to their consumers and prospects to fit the mold of content marketing, having been told that is the future of their industry. This isn’t entirely false. Marketers need content to communicate with their consumers. However, many don’t know the context in which the consumer is engaging with that content, making it impossible to deliver the most relevant information to the right person at the right time. Today, consumers expect an optimal experience when interacting with any brand. They are accustomed to on-demand, personalized information and want marketers to understand their preferences before they buy. Because of these heightened expectations, marketers have to recognize who they are talking to and accept that context, not content, is now king. What should marketers today consider when developing a contextual marketing strategy? Here’s a start:

Continuous profile development

In order to effectively communicate with a consumer and determine the context in which they are consuming content, marketers should be continuously building a profile of each individual that touches their brand. Points to consider are consumer value score, age, location, gender, etc. Once a profile of an individual begins to develop, the process of communication becomes easier and more natural. Consider this: you meet a friend of a friend at a cocktail party and have a 30-minute conversation. The next week, you run into that same person at the supermarket. You wouldn’t start the relationship over by re-introducing yourself. You have the history of the previous conversation, and you would pick up from where you left off. The same holds true when a consumer engages with a brand – the context from previous engagements is key to making the current conversation relevant and more likely to result in a positive outcome.

The mobile conundrum – a blessing and a curse

The definition of “location” has shifted as consumers now have the opportunity to interact with a brand from anywhere in the world without stepping into a physical store. This anywhere, anytime access makes it challenging to recognize each consumer as they move across multiple channels and locations during the path to purchase. As individuals increasingly adopt tablets, social media, mobile phones and other technology, the marketing approach must shift to provide an optimal experience based on that specific consumer’s location, meaning in-store or out, inbound or outbound.

Mobility has given marketers the chance to keep track of every consumer inside and outside store walls. This has the potential to be a great opportunity, but can make it challenging for a brand to identify where a consumer is located and serve them appropriate content. With the rise of geo-fencing and iBeacon technologies, as well as advanced consumer engagement systems, brands are learning to embrace mobility and use it to their advantage. Targeting a consumer with a relevant piece of content—be it an in-app offer, automated email or tailored website material—when  they are in the location most appropriate can result in a powerful touch point.

Bridging the online-offline communication gap

Marketers think contextual marketing is easy, largely because many people are talking about its value in the online world. In reality, most companies are struggling to turn that vision into practice because context is only fully valuable when all touch points – online and off – can be linked and a complete profile of a user’s engagement with a brand can be built continuously. Many retailers, for example, are missing the full power of context because they are often unable to connect consumers’ in-store experience to those they have online—such as understanding which products they may have purchased in store in the past, or how many times they have stepped in and out of a location. The key is for the marketer to be aware of every touch point regardless of where and how it happens, which cutting-edge technology can help to track. As more and more consumers begin to blend their online and offline engagements with a brand and technologies continue to evolve, it will be important for marketers to facilitate an omnichannel experience, understanding a consumer’s full profile and targeting them in the context that makes the most sense. For instance, if a consumer was researching a sports car on an auto maker’s website or app, they should be directed immediately to that model (or others like it) when they visit the showroom (and vice versa), acknowledging their past preferences and therefore strengthening the bond between brand and consumer.

Potential pitfalls

Marketers do have the ability to buy consumer profiles and derive context from third-party media channels. This route doesn’t have the same, immediate timeline idea and it doesn’t translate into an effective contextual marketing strategy. Furthermore, the information is not always related specifically to a consumer’s interaction with the specific brand and rarely is it detailed at the individual level. Taken out of context and with a lag in time, a brand misses a lot of the consumer’s story, and marketers can only take context into account if they know all of it—not just bits and pieces—and can act quickly to leverage it.

If a company doesn’t have inside intelligence on its own consumer, they’re coming in last in today’s data-driven, personalized world.

Brands need to recognize that context is critical to starting a conversation with their consumers and maintaining that dialogue throughout the customer journey. Brand loyalty and repeat purchases are results of a series of positive engagement—each linking to the one before. By aligning content with context, marketers can make educated decisions on how to proceed with communication by helping and guiding consumers along the buying journey. As a result, consumers get what they really want in a way that makes sense to them and ultimately drives them to purchase while simultaneously improving their experience across channels.

For more blogs and research from IDG Connect, click here