Ben Grossman | life's little interests

Like so many forms of media today, traditional television continues to experience a radical shift in format, monetization model and consumer expectations. Indeed, as many advertisers have begun to return to traditional network and cable programming exiting the Great Recession, they are finding that they are coming back to find a significantly different – more distracted – consumer. In fact, 85% of tablet and smartphone owning consumers now admit that they use their devices while watching traditional television – a behavior broadly referred to as “Second Screen.”

What does that mean to advertisers and marketers? The era of the 30-second spot as the exclusive and an inherently effective form of monetization of television is over. That’s not to say that all is lost or that traditionally television-based linear content isn’t a viable means of communicating with consumers (just look at how Dancing with the Stars engaged the Second Screen last week). It simply means that brands’ abilities to be creative in the way they capture and engage consumers’ attention will be more important than ever. That was the topic of my presentation at the Nordic Media Summitin Copenhagen, Denmark: “Planning for (and Against) the Second Screen: Strategies for a Multi-Screen World.”

At the conference, I was joined by speakers from TwitterRogers (Canadian media conglomerate) and TeliaSonera (European and Asian telecommunications provider), all of whom were focused on discussing the future of linear content, consumer behavior and monetization models.

As consumers become increasingly connected to emerging screens, top award-winning TV shows (i.e. Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, and soon, Chelsea Handler’s late-night show) no longer even appear on the traditional television channels and are enjoying a new level of creative freedom that come with new platforms. From Netflix to Hulu to HBO GO, it’s no secret that the future holds a significantly more diverse set of providers and screens that consumers will be using to watch linear entertainment. These services are broadly referred to as OTT (Over The Top), which is defined as audio, video, and other media distributed without a multiple-system operator (i.e. a service provider, like Comcast) involved in the control or distribution of that content.

In a world where consumers are watching some content with traditional commercials (with a more interesting screen in their palms), some content with pre-roll or banner monetization and some content completely void of advertiser support, the need for new strategies becomes obvious. Starting with understanding the four archetypal Second Screen behaviors (Real-Time Researching, Situational Socializing, Ongoing Grazing and Great Escaping), I then talked attendees through several strategies and associated case studies of brands planning for and against consumers’ split attention. Examples of brands leveraging these strategies, which are featured in the presentation include: Suits, RuPaul’s Drag Race, American Idol, Cotton Incorporated, Coca-Cola and Disney Films.

How is your brand thinking about consumers’ cross-screen behavior? Do you have strategies in place to suit their divided attention? How are you thinking about measurement and attribution given the increasingly diverse set of touchpoints where you meet consumers?

At this year’s FutureM, a conference dedicated to exploring the future of marketing, I convened a panel to talk about the future of storytelling. I was joined on the panel by representatives from a diverse set of perspectives including a brand, a public relations agency and an academic lecturer:
Jenna Lebel, Director of Social Marketing at Liberty Mutual
Mike Farber, Partner at LaunchSquad
Chad O’Connor, Adjunct Professor at Northeastern University
Over the course of the panel, we discussed several major topics pertaining to current stature and future of storytelling for brands.
Technology & StorytellingStories, once limited to oral tradition, have now been transformed by an influx of easily accessible multimedia vehicles. Each panelist offered a point of view on how technology has impacted the stories they see brands telling, resulting in a few major trends:
Speed to Story: With the ease of digital publishing brands enjoy today, there is an unprecedented ability for organizations to create and distribute stories at a faster pace than ever before. The panel agreed that this is an immensely valuable opportunity, when leveraged correctly by brands. But with that power also comes great responsibility – several brands have mis-stepped in damaging ways by failing to maintain a high strategic bar with their storytelling.
Authenticity: With the rise of technology has come a broader pallet that brands can use to tell their stories, including social media platforms. These platforms, originally dominated by consumers, naturally lend an increased sense of authenticity to previously stodgy corporate voices. For the first time, brands are speaking to consumers on a one-to-one, human basis.
Contextual Storytelling: While some marketers are decrying the limitations that are implicit in shrinking screen sizes associated with wearables, the panel sees opportunity on the horizon. The ability to tell more contextually relevant stories across devices and screens means that formats may be smaller, but the stories will be smarter. Further, growth in consumption of mid and long-form video content on sites like YouTube reflect a new consumer willingness to dwell for the most valuable content.
Voice of StorytellersWith new platforms to tell stories, the storyteller has changed as well. The panel explored who the voice of stories should be, what happens when brands get it right and what happens when they miss the mark.
Corporate vs. Individual: One tension that has emerged as brands have adopted the role of publisher is whether stories are most effectively told through a corporate voice or individual’s voice from within the corporation. Broadly, the panel agreed that it depended on the organization, but that keeping branding of stories to a minimum helped consumers see more value in them and allowed them to appear less as advertising gimmicks.
Consumer As Storyteller: The panel discussed the impact of user-generated stories or co-created content as part of the ongoing storytelling movement. It was agreed that consumers are most valuable when they are motivated by an outstanding brand experience – rather than incentivized to chime in. Cautionary tales like #McDStories remind brands of the risk of contrived calls for consumer voices.
Brand As Curator of Stories: Liberty Mutual was recognized for the strength of its Rise campaign for the Sochi Olympics, which celebrated athletes that were able to come back from setbacks – a value shared by the brand. When brands can strike the right balance between its values and stories, they can effectively serve as curators that consumers rely upon.
Stories of the FutureFinally, the panel reflected on trends in storytelling and what the future could hold. The panel agreed that a taming of a storytelling ‘Wild West’ is in order as brands move forward, bringing a new level of sophistication and discipline to the way brands work with stories. Additionally, practical concerns pertaining to costs, value and a continuing evolving media landscape surfaced.
Real-Time vs. Right Time: A high level of attention has been given in recent years to the idea of ‘real-time marketing’, leading brands to establish newsrooms and studios to publish on the brand’s behalf opportunistically. In the frenetic energy of catapulting posting to real-time, some brands (most recently DiGiornio, which posted a tweet in bad taste as an accidental part of a domestic violence movement) have lost a sense for when the right time is to tell stories. The panel expects brands to grow more calculated and less reactionary in their posting on an ongoing basis.
Non-Linear Stories: With consumer attention continuing to fragment and move to an on-demand model in the future, the panel expects that brands will have to be more active – taking actions that create stories worth talking about across channels. These non-linear stories will be less controlled and will rely upon a diverse set of manifestations to get the message across.
Scaling Stories: With brand investment in storytelling all over the place, ranging from Red Bull’s best-in-class content production to more conservative brands’ hesitance to do much at all, organizations will have to weigh the high cost of producing compelling story-based content on an ongoing basis with their ability to distribute that content and generate business results. While this journey will be ongoing, it will be a natural part of the maturation of the role of brands as storytellers.
How is your organization thinking about the way it will communicate its stories in the future? Is the brand you work on dynamic enough to create stories worth telling?

At this year’s FutureM, a conference dedicated to exploring the future of marketing, I convened a panel to talk about the future of storytelling. I was joined on the panel by representatives from a diverse set of perspectives including a brand, a public relations agency and an academic lecturer:

Over the course of the panel, we discussed several major topics pertaining to current stature and future of storytelling for brands.

Technology & Storytelling
Stories, once limited to oral tradition, have now been transformed by an influx of easily accessible multimedia vehicles. Each panelist offered a point of view on how technology has impacted the stories they see brands telling, resulting in a few major trends:

  • Speed to Story: With the ease of digital publishing brands enjoy today, there is an unprecedented ability for organizations to create and distribute stories at a faster pace than ever before. The panel agreed that this is an immensely valuable opportunity, when leveraged correctly by brands. But with that power also comes great responsibility – several brands have mis-stepped in damaging ways by failing to maintain a high strategic bar with their storytelling.
  • Authenticity: With the rise of technology has come a broader pallet that brands can use to tell their stories, including social media platforms. These platforms, originally dominated by consumers, naturally lend an increased sense of authenticity to previously stodgy corporate voices. For the first time, brands are speaking to consumers on a one-to-one, human basis.
  • Contextual Storytelling: While some marketers are decrying the limitations that are implicit in shrinking screen sizes associated with wearables, the panel sees opportunity on the horizon. The ability to tell more contextually relevant stories across devices and screens means that formats may be smaller, but the stories will be smarter. Further, growth in consumption of mid and long-form video content on sites like YouTube reflect a new consumer willingness to dwell for the most valuable content.

Voice of Storytellers
With new platforms to tell stories, the storyteller has changed as well. The panel explored who the voice of stories should be, what happens when brands get it right and what happens when they miss the mark.

  • Corporate vs. Individual: One tension that has emerged as brands have adopted the role of publisher is whether stories are most effectively told through a corporate voice or individual’s voice from within the corporation. Broadly, the panel agreed that it depended on the organization, but that keeping branding of stories to a minimum helped consumers see more value in them and allowed them to appear less as advertising gimmicks.
  • Consumer As Storyteller: The panel discussed the impact of user-generated stories or co-created content as part of the ongoing storytelling movement. It was agreed that consumers are most valuable when they are motivated by an outstanding brand experience – rather than incentivized to chime in. Cautionary tales like #McDStories remind brands of the risk of contrived calls for consumer voices.
  • Brand As Curator of Stories: Liberty Mutual was recognized for the strength of its Rise campaign for the Sochi Olympics, which celebrated athletes that were able to come back from setbacks – a value shared by the brand. When brands can strike the right balance between its values and stories, they can effectively serve as curators that consumers rely upon.

Stories of the Future
Finally, the panel reflected on trends in storytelling and what the future could hold. The panel agreed that a taming of a storytelling ‘Wild West’ is in order as brands move forward, bringing a new level of sophistication and discipline to the way brands work with stories. Additionally, practical concerns pertaining to costs, value and a continuing evolving media landscape surfaced.

  • Real-Time vs. Right Time: A high level of attention has been given in recent years to the idea of ‘real-time marketing’, leading brands to establish newsrooms and studios to publish on the brand’s behalf opportunistically. In the frenetic energy of catapulting posting to real-time, some brands (most recently DiGiornio, which posted a tweet in bad taste as an accidental part of a domestic violence movement) have lost a sense for when the right time is to tell stories. The panel expects brands to grow more calculated and less reactionary in their posting on an ongoing basis.
  • Non-Linear Stories: With consumer attention continuing to fragment and move to an on-demand model in the future, the panel expects that brands will have to be more active – taking actions that create stories worth talking about across channels. These non-linear stories will be less controlled and will rely upon a diverse set of manifestations to get the message across.
  • Scaling Stories: With brand investment in storytelling all over the place, ranging from Red Bull’s best-in-class content production to more conservative brands’ hesitance to do much at all, organizations will have to weigh the high cost of producing compelling story-based content on an ongoing basis with their ability to distribute that content and generate business results. While this journey will be ongoing, it will be a natural part of the maturation of the role of brands as storytellers.

How is your organization thinking about the way it will communicate its stories in the future? Is the brand you work on dynamic enough to create stories worth telling?

We are learning that the b-to-b and b-to-c lines are blurring dramatically. It’s still people, and we touch them at both levels. Sometimes it just depends on the time of day it is that determines what kind of customer you are.
Bryan Jones | VP of Marketing, Americas | Dell

Today, 90% of media consumption is screen based. In 2014, the number of mobile devices in the world will exceed the global population. By 2018, there will be 1.4 connected mobile devices per person. That means that, as people move through the world, they will increasingly move with at least one other screen in hand (and even more devices on hand).

While the Second Screen revolution may have started with distracted television viewers, today, the multi-screen world demands marketers who know how to plan for it. I had the pleasure of giving a talk on Second Screen Strategy at the 2014 Event Marketing Summit in Salt Lake City, UT. My presentation breaks down consumer behavior into actionable advice specifically for event marketers. That said, the trends in behavior and multi-screen adoption apply to all brands that seek to connect with the people who matter most to them in an increasingly screen-based world.

So as you design any type of experience – digital, live, retail or otherwise – consider how you’re planning for, against or, at the very least, with consideration for how your brand plays in a multi-screen context.

80% of leaders say their brands offer a superior customer experience. Only 8% of customers agree. Meanwhile, marketers are tortured by the fact that the number one way people learn about and buy from their brands is the hardest one to control: word-of-mouth. In today’s world of new realities it doesn’t pay for brands to stand by, continuing to trumpet their “creative messaging.” After all, 74% of people advocate for brands by describing their experiences with them.

Brands that break through are brands that take action… brands that are more than nouns. Brands must see themselves as verbs. That’s the premise of my new presentation that I just presented at the CSE Expo in Toronto, Canada. In the presentation, I outline five major principles that we have found at Jack Morton drive the high performing experience brands with which we work and a few examples (some our work, some the work of others) that showcase each principle.

So beyond the five principles and the examples, here are a few key questions to ask that can put you on the path to “Brand As Verb” nirvana:

1. Taking Action: Is your organization spending more time thinking about what to post next, or what it should do that’s actually worth posting about?

2. Turning Negatives Into Opportunities: What’s the worst element of your brand’s customer experience as it currently stands? If it’s impossible to change the core of what makes it negative (like KLM can’t eliminate middle seats), what other type of value could your organization add to overcome the negative?

3. Outside In Thinking: Is your organization’s leader one of the 80% that believe you’re delivering a superior customer experience? Get out of your echo chamber by assembling a customer advisory board or fielding some primary research to give you and your colleagues a dose of reality.

4. Helping Advocates Advocate: Many brands say they want advocates, but what could your brand reasonably expect advocates to talk about? Consider realistic advocacy scripting exercises and what experiences you need to create that truly deserve to be talked about.

5. Conversationally Led Planning: What conversations are already underway that you could be part of in an authentic, ‘on the way’ spirit? Before you let your brand’s product introductions (or lack thereof) drive your marketing or editorial calendar (again), consider letting consumers drive what you do next.

If you had to add a section of “Brand As Verb” standards to your “Brand As Noun” brand guidelines, what would they be? What do you want consumers to know, think, feel and do as a result of an experience with your brand?

I am absolutely fascinated by and in love with Amazon’s “anticipatory shipping” patent. Essentially, it will allow Amazon to start moving items to shipping centers that are closer to customers based on their digital body language before they ever click “buy.” In doing so, the retailer will cut days between order and delivery, challenging brick and mortar stores even more.

Evidently, the algorithm would be based on a combination between previous orders, browsing activity, wish lists and more. While the patent has been sensationalized by the media as “shipping you products before you buy them,” it is really just the next level of customer experience and inventory management.

So the brand experience question for brick and mortar retailers becomes: How will you create value above and beyond the immediacy with which you dispense products?

I am absolutely fascinated by and in love with Amazon’s “anticipatory shipping” patent. Essentially, it will allow Amazon to start moving items to shipping centers that are closer to customers based on their digital body language before they ever click “buy.” In doing so, the retailer will cut days between order and delivery, challenging brick and mortar stores even more.

Evidently, the algorithm would be based on a combination between previous orders, browsing activity, wish lists and more. While the patent has been sensationalized by the media as “shipping you products before you buy them,” it is really just the next level of customer experience and inventory management.

So the brand experience question for brick and mortar retailers becomes: How will you create value above and beyond the immediacy with which you dispense products?

The 2014 International CES broke records left and right: more attendees, more (evolutionary, not revolutionary) innovations, and yes, more hype – just ask the estimated 2.3 billion people worldwide who were touched by the stories of CES. Over the past several years, I’ve been predicting a major evolution in what the International CES stands for and who would attend it. This year, I saw that evolution play out.

Making order out of the good, the gadgets, and of course, the “gosh my feet heart,” I was there through it all. The result? My newest Jack Morton white paper, which documents all brands, marketers and attendees need to know about CES 2014.

Making order out of the good, the gadgets, and of course, the “gosh my feet heart,” I was there through it all. The result? My newest Jack Morton white paper, which documents all brands, marketers and attendees need to know about CES 2014.

So are you, like us, already thinking about CES 2015? Here are a few of the top trends we identified to discuss with our clients:

  1. Personal Data Revolution: A robust discussion around the collection and management of personal data was in full swing at CES 2014. Startling news stories leading up to CES – ranging from the NSA’s aggressive surveillance to data breaches at Target, Snapchat and Skype – created a lively conversation about the potential and risks of leveraging personal consumer data.
  2. Innovate Through Partnerships: With the increased pace of innovation and the growing integration of technology into all aspects of life, some brands are finding that the only way to maintain relevance is to partner up.
  3. Technology & Analog Tension: Technology has infiltrated a significant portion of consumers’ lives and with “The Internet of Things” that trend is only set to continue. But any time the pendulum is swinging in one direction, there’s a natural undercurrent pulling it back to the other. At CES 2014, a healthy tension between a technology-laden life and a return to analog living was apparent.
  4. Modernizing Brand Presences At CES: So if everything really has changed as of CES 2014, the natural question is “How should modern brands show up at CES?”

I’ll look forward to seeing what progress the industry makes in 2014 (and of course, the inevitable products that totally fail too). In the meantime, I’ll be planning for January 6-9, 2015!

Loving @Uber’s approach to penetrating a new market with #CES attendees. #effective

Loving @Uber’s approach to penetrating a new market with #CES attendees. #effective

My favorite thing is: “MDX. Three letters that stand for ‘Earth, style and you.’ ” That’s just like, nobody read that over and went, “What do you mean? Why does it stand for that? The letters don’t even match up to that. Why are we saying that?” So, it’s also part of the drunken, lazy ad culture of the ’60s.
Jerry Seinfeld on Acura Commercials
"Designed by French artist Benedetto Bufalino, this picnic table will make any adult feel like a kid again. The oversized sculpture, entitled La Table de Pique Nique, looks just like the real thing but at a much larger scale, standing six and a half feet tall. From a distance, the optical illusion creates a confusing distortion that is hard to understand until people are actually seated on it."

"Designed by French artist Benedetto Bufalino, this picnic table will make any adult feel like a kid again. The oversized sculpture, entitled La Table de Pique Nique, looks just like the real thing but at a much larger scale, standing six and a half feet tall. From a distance, the optical illusion creates a confusing distortion that is hard to understand until people are actually seated on it."