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Posts from February 2012

Pinterest and Why It’s Important

In the last few months, Facebook, Tumblr, and other social media sites of the likes have all taken a back seat in popularity to the new kid on the block: Pinterest.  In fact, not only does the site attract an average of 11 million visits per week, but in January of this year, it officially became the fastest standalone site to reach 10 million unique visitors—not too shabby considering it launched its beta version in March 2010 (by comparison, the same feat took Facebook 852 days!)

What is Pinterest, exactly?  According to the company’s website, Pinterest is a virtual pinboard that “let’s you organize and share all the beautiful things you find on the web.” With options built into the site that let you “repin” others’ items, subscribe to peoples’ or companies’ boards, and comment on specific pins, it is no wonder why the interactive site is attracting so many people.   It’s also attracting companies at an alarming rate, putting to rest the notion that this site is just another internet fad.

So should your brand invest in Pinterest?  Here are a few reasons you might consider it:

  1. Little investment is required.  Pinterest has made it extremely easy to connect and brand your account by allowing users to connect using either their Facebook or Twitter accounts.  Assuming your company has a solid following on either/both site(s) (if not, check out our Social Media Topic Center), Pinterest will simultaneously push your activity to your other account and allow you to engage with your fans and followers on another level.
  2. It’s Facebook for brands and products. Think about Pinterest like this: if Facebook organizes a consumer’s social graph, Pinterest represents their aspirational graph – products they’d like to buy, recipes they’d love to cook, colors they’d love to paint their living room. A user’s Pinterest stream represents unadulterated desire – uncomplicated by all the social dynamics of Facebook. An agile marketing organization can take trends in pins and create products designed to capture the demand.
  3. Pinterest drives traffic to your actual website. The site is an enormous driver of traffic, particularly if your products are well-designed.  The detailed pictures and unique pins act as customer testimony for products and services – a kind of social proof – and appeal to users’ emotions, which are serious drivers in purchase decisions.
  4. Pinterest users have the power. According to Mashable’s 13 ‘Pinteresting’ Facts about Pinterest Users, 28% of the site’s users have an annual income of over $100,000.  Additionally, 68.2% of users are women—and as reported by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), women make up 70% of all online purchases.

Want to know more about Pinterest?  Check out the site here and request an invitation to join!  Also, check out the 10 Most-Followed Brands on Pinterest at the moment.

Why TV is Poised for a Comeback

Posted on  27 February 12  by 

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Last week I attended the ANA’s annual “TV & Everything Video Forum” in New York City.  The conference explored the use of video across screens and devices, including mobile, internet, traditional TV, and more, between promotional spiels and a blazing performance of Girls Just Wanna Have Fun (yup, Cyndi Lauper made an appearance, and clad head-to-toe in black leather).

The general consensus?  TV is back on track. There are two things that traditional TV still does incredibly well: it brings together sight, sound, and motion to engage customers on a large screen, and it creates unmatched real-time reach (after all, we don’t TiVO the Oscars or the Super Bowl!).

The proof is in the numbers: video consumption is rising, and TV still attracts twice as many viewers as the next medium (internet).  Advertisers are well aware of this – although they’re still not completely satisfied with traditional TV placements, 21% believe that TV ads have become more effective (up from 7% just two years ago).  And more than a third of marketers are planning to spend more in TV advertising in 2012. Read More »

Jeremy Lin and Marketing Talent

Posted on  24 February 12  by 


“There is talent everywhere.  We just don’t know how to find it.”  –Jonah Lehrer

That’s the punchline from Lehrer’s recent blog post, What Jeremy Lin Teaches Us About Talent.  This is certainly true of professional sports.  We all know Moneyball by now, and Lehrer details similar talent blindness from conventional talent scouting in the NFL.  Lin’s rise – from Ivy League basketball star, to undrafted pro-level castoff, to burgeoning superstar – suggests the same may be true in the NBA.

But what about the corporate world?  Do marketing functions, for example, suffer from the same talent blindness?

I’d say so.

In the world of marketing, it’s especially tough these days.  The profile of the successful post-digital marketer really isn’t clear.  So much change in how marketing gets done, or what great marketing even looks like these days, makes it very tough to predict which marketers will ultimately be successful.

From our recent conversations with CMOs, the operating theory seems to be that the superstar marketers in the next five years will be digital natives with a strong entrepreneurial profile (see my blog post over at Forbes, The Rise of the Marketing Entrepreneur)

But I don’t think these CMOs necessarily have it right.

Talent success seems to depend on a whole host of factors not accounted for by typical  hiring practices in marketing—they have little to do with the individual, and much more with the context in which the individual is placed.

How will the marketer mesh with the team, or external partners?  How will the marketer manage with the way decisions get made in a large organization? How will a new marketer react to early success or early failure?  These factors (and many others) often fly under the radar in hiring practices.

We’re going to try to get at some of these under the radar factors with the our just-launched Marketing Agility Diagnostic.  It’s a survey that marketing brand and product teams can take to get a read on how a whole variety of factors affects (or doesn’t affect) marketing performance and business outcomes.

Think of it as an attempt to Moneyball modern marketing teams.

Here’s a glimpse at just a few of the unconventional hypotheses we’ll be testing:

  • Meta-skills over marketing skills—based on research from CEB’s talent practice, we believe there may be a set of meta-skills (for example, self-awareness, adaptability and the like) that may be the gateways to unlock the full potential of an individual’s more specific marketing skills.
  • Collective intelligence over individual intelligence—some intriguing work by Professor Tom Malone of MIT, which suggests the individual intelligence of the members in a group does not predict the team’s collective intelligence when it comes to solving problems as a team.  There are other more important factors at play, like the social sensitivity of the group members.
  • Data dialogues over big data—many marketing functions are putting the quality of the data infrastructure (both systems and data scientists) at the center of their marketing information strategy.  We hypothesize that a stronger predictor of business success from marketing information will relate to the ways that general marketers interact with data scientists and analysts.  Specifically, we think a Moneyball factor here will be in the nature and quality of the dialogues surrounding the analyses, not in the quality of the data infrastructure itself, or even in the quality of the initial question asked of the data.

We believe we’ll turn up a set of factors that turn out to be more powerful than the conventional marketing talent spotting techniques.

So, if you think you’ve got the next Jeremy Lin of maketing on your team, or maybe you think that could be you, get your organization involved in CEB’s Marketing Agility Diagnostic.  Email Anna Bird ( for more information.

Going Digital, Globally – Learnings From Microsoft

Posted on  22 February 12  by 


Your mandate is to design and implement a global digital marketing strategy. But…How do you identify priority markets for digital marketing? How do you build digital capabilities across subsidiaries? How do you create campaigns relevant to the local market? Companies find it hard to leverage digital marketing on a global scale since subsidiaries differ widely in their digital capabilities while markets differ in their level of sophistication.

Faced with this mandate, MLC member Microsoft crafted a strategy that focused on prioritizing and addressing digital capability gaps in its subsidiaries.

Microsoft kicked off a global survey in which subsidiaries and agencies rated themselves on digital media capabilities. Microsoft then examined how well subsidiaries compared to the external market they operated in and prioritized development of those subsidiaries which lagged the external market in the use of digital media. To help subsidiaries develop digital capabilities, Microsoft created unique capability development roadmaps for all markets. It then set up centers of excellence to provide customized, practical support to subsidiaries in campaign development and execution, as well as to disseminate local best practices globally.

To ensure effectiveness of digital marketing efforts, Microsoft focused on setting clear campaign objectives, KPIs and scorecards, before launching a campaign. For instance, the Windows Server launch focused on driving awareness and engagement, with clear metrics assigned across each medium used. Microsoft also focused on creating campaigns with a strong ‘pull’ factor, that would appeal to both ‘seekers’ and ‘providers’ of information. For instance, Live Search’s Ms.Dewey campaign made ‘Search’ on the internet fun and appealed to ‘seekers’, while the creative of the campaign engaged ‘providers’ resulting in over 3000 blogs on Ms. Dewey.

MLC Members: Jeannette Liendo, Global Marketing Director of Microsoft shared her perspective on Microsoft’s digital journey. We broke down Ms. Liendo’s valuable advice into short clips here, or listen to the full replay of the webinar here.

The Gamification of Health

So, we’ve heard a lot about gamification in the past year or so. It’s nearly at buzzword status, with all kinds of consultants and vendors out there promising a magic bullet and, judging from MLC’s search traffic, a not-insignificant number of marketers hoping that embracing game platforms will lead to better message resonance and improved sales. And while they may well do that, our advice for marketers regarding the hottest new trends stays the same: proceed with caution, and keep end goals in mind.

While gamification might not be for everyone, one very exciting emerging field is health-related games. Relying on a host of newly-popularized insights from psychology about human motivation and thought, as well as social and digital tools that enable users to track all kinds of outcome metrics from their own body, health games are developing nicely into powerful platforms by which thousands of people are taking control of their health.

Here are some great examples of this in practice:

  • Fitocracy is a gamified platform for exercise. When users complete certain workouts, they enter them into the game, which awards them with points. You can “level up” – similar to the progression mechanism in a lot of online games – and compete directly with friends. The platform also provides “quests” – rewards for completing certain kinds of new exercise, like hiking or Olympic lifts.
  • Nike’s Fuelband – a biometric device similar to the Fitbit – is designed to measure daily activity. Users can set goals, share them with social networks, and compete with friends.
  • Run or Else is a site that allows users to enter in a weekly running goal, and put money on the line if the goal isn’t met.

In each case, the technology leverages a key insight from psychology – small achievements, social pressure, and loss aversion, respectively – to spur users to do better things with their health and bodies.

So, what’s so important about this? Well, I think the best answer is that our healthcare system is excellent at treating big, acute conditions. If I get cancer, for instance, I want the power of modern Western medicine brought to bear on my condition. But for more common conditions, especially ones with complex and multi-disciplinary causes (obesity, back pain, general fatigue and diabetes come to mind), we don’t have as many answers and doctors can only do so much. Any advancement in general health and physical preparedness is a good one.

What’s the upside to this trend for healthcare companies? The most obvious one is customer information – each time a customer interacts with a game platform, information is exchanged and over time, brands can build up a profile of individual customers, including health risks. That information could theoretically (subject to regulation) be used to target marcomms, develop new products and spot market opportunities before competitors.

How is your company using gamification and digital/social tools to reach consumers in ways that deliver value? Let us know in the comments.

4 Ways B2B Segmentation Fails

Segmentation offers a range of benefits for Marketing and Sales organizations, but there are a lot of ways segmentation can fail. Here are a few, along with MLC’s insights on avoiding these pitfalls:

Failing to get the segments right. The most effective segmentation schemes go beyond topical similarities, like industry, company size/revenue, and geographic footprint. Instead, best-in-class segmentation processes split customers and prospects out according to deeper needs, desired outcomes, and priorities. Getting your segments wrong will lead to ineffective messaging, surface-level insights, and potential irrelevance.

Want to read more about building a world-class segmentation scheme? Check out these resources:

Focusing on the wrong segments. Once you’ve broken customers up into segments that reflect the way they buy, the challenge is to figure out which segments to prioritize over others. Key to this is understanding which customers are most valuable, then matching those opportunities to the organization’s long-term goals and capabilities.

Want to read more about segment prioritization? Check out these resources:

Not activating segments in the field. It’s one thing for Marketing to identify and prioritize segments correctly and in ways that bring value to customers and the business; if frontline staff are unable to leverage segmentation schemes to drive sales, the segmentation exercise will necessarily be of limited value. Keeping segmentation schemes simple, but pervasive in sales materials and training, is key to driving resonance with the sales force.

Want to read more about activating segments in the field? Check out these resources:

Ineffective use of segments in innovation and NPD. Segment knowledge can produce incremental boosts in message resonance and revenue, but the long-term value of a good segmentation scheme can be found in how companies leverage those insights to create new products for high-value audiences.

Want to read more about using segment insights in innovation/NPD? Check out these resources:

3 Ways Marketing’s Role is Expanding

Posted on  22 February 12  by 


Marketing is sometimes glamorized, sometimes scoffed at, and frequently misunderstood.  In fact, Marketing seems the perfect profession to feature in the popular “What People Think I Do” meme (and a quick web search reveals many people agree).  Internet sensations aside, perhaps some of the confusion about marketing stems from the fact that the role is rapidly changing and expanding.  Channels are proliferating, technology is evolving, customer behavior is changing, and marketers today have more responsibilities to juggle and objectives to meet than ever before.

Some of the most significant additions to Marketing’s “To-Do” list include:

Owning More of the Funnel: Specifically in the B2B world, Marketing is taking on more responsibility in part because of customers’ tendency to delay contact with Sales.  As we have posted about several times before, on average customers are 57% of the way through their purchase decision making process before they allow Sales to play a role.  As a result, Marketing owns more of the funnel and its role expands beyond generating awareness and helping customers gather information to addressing customers’ underlying purchase motivations and building momentum towards the sale.  Our 2011 B2B work, Influencing the Newly Empowered Customer, addresses Marketing’s new role in the mid-funnel head on.

Generating Radical Innovation: While a technology- or engineering-led approach can produce incremental improvements, truly radical innovations have to start with the customer.  In addition to their responsibilities of taking new innovations to market, Marketing teams are increasingly tasked with helping product and R&D teams understand customers and uncover their unmet/unarticulated needs.  Check out our recent work on innovation, which turns the numbers focused approach to innovation on its head and argues in favor of fewer, bigger, more protected innovations.

Surfing the Technology Tidal Wave: Marketing and technology have always been frenemies – while tech offers new ways to interact with, understand, and target customers, it can also make marketers feel like they are trapped in a hamster wheel trying to keep up with the rapidly evolving set of channels and tools they must master.  As customers latch on to new tech trends, so must marketers (and frequently without any additional budget).  One of the biggest tech-related changes in the B2B world as of late has been the adoption of marketing automation tools.   If this is a priority for you, click through to our Marketing Automation Resource Center to find ideas and advice for handling the demands this new technology brings from other marketers in the trenches.

Many of Marketing’s expanded duties seem to tie back to one central theme that we are increasingly hearing this year: customer centricity.  Companies are growing wise to the fact that orienting everything they do around the customer is the best path to profitability (to give credit where credit is due, it is not as though this is a totally new realization, more that it is a more urgent priority today thanks to a confluence of many economic, technological, and social factors).  And who knows customers best?  Who has been oriented around customer wants, needs, and expectations from the beginning?  Say it with me – MARKETING!

Marketers, what other roles have you been asked to take on?  Overall, do you see Marketing’s expanded role as a curse or a blessing (or something in between)?  Please share your ideas in the comments section below.

What Financial Consumers Really Want

Posted on  21 February 12  by 


Sometimes life made simple trumps life made fabulous – when you’d rather come home to a clean sink and kids in bed instead of to a candle light dinner. I suspect the same goes with banking. Personally, I’d prefer a bill with no surprise charges that gives a clear, categorized view of my spending to a new app allowing me to bank via iPad. Stack the frustration of spending an hour getting bounced around customer service against the joys of a new reward program and no wonder “Bank Dumping Day” exists.

What I want in a bank essentially comes down to the good old KISS -“Keep It Simple, Stupid”- and the 1000 or so banking customers we recently surveyed agree. To tease out their real preferences, we had them go through a conjoint exercise in which they are presented sets of banking products with different attributes and asked to choose their favorite one from each set. We then ran market simulation based on that information to see which offerings will sink or swim. Turns out that consumers flock to “straight up”, clean and hassle free banking solutions that make their lives easier. MLC’s Decision Simplicity research from last year would also suggest longer banking relationships and higher recommendation rates as a result.

Yet simple is easier said than done, because the highest form of simplicity is letting others do things their own way, some call it “Natural Pathing”, others call it following “Desire Lines”.  It is the idea that instead of designing paths as you see fit and tell people to stay off the grass, you build paths where the grass is worn by footfall. You’ve got to go with the flow because if you don’t, customers will circumnavigate, or worse yet, quit.

If you look at the chart above, most traditional banks are only scratching the surface when it comes to achieving “simplicity”, sometimes going no deeper than changing the tag line. Bank of America launched a 40 million ad effort in 2009 touting “simple, clear banking”, which Adweek considered to be “rather generic — educational, almost” and could just as easily have the names of other big banks like Citigroup, JP Morgan Chase slapped on it. Bottom line is, customers don’t care how much effort you expanded, they care about how much effort you’ve saved them.

Compare that to the likes of Mint or Mint positions itself as “Your financial life, all in one place” which I personally like for the fact that it gives me nice little pie charts of where I’ve spent my money. On my regular bank accounts I’d have to do that by downloading my transactions into Excel and doing the summation myself which is a drag. lets you ask questions in normal English like “How much did I spent on taxis in New York last month?” and have real people (often the same one) answer your call at first try instead of tossing you around making selections. That’s almost Zappos-ish. I’d like to see real banks make customer service the bedrock of their business, but they seem to lack the vision, the will, or both.

Does simplicity make you invincible? No, but getting there will put you a long shot ahead of competitors. The only thing that kills simplicity in our simulation is fees – even if it’s just $3 or $5 a month. Customers said no to debit card fees, I think they mean no to basically any kind of fee.

Top 11 iPad Apps for Sales

The following is a guest post from Andrew Bastnagel of the Sales Executive Council, our sister program for heads of sales. Visit the original here.

As iPads and tablets become more prevalent in the sales world, there is a lot of buzz around the many ways in which they could be useful. With more and more sales organizations adopting these technology, one thing is clear – the potential impact these devices can have on a sales rep is immense.

Whether as a state of the art presentation platform, or a tool for accessing the latest sales collateral in the field, iPads and tablets allow for easy access to information as well as increased efficiency.

Given the volume of app options though, it is important to find out which of the thousands are actually worth downloading. Whether it’s cutting long lines at the airport, or pulling together a presentation on the fly, there are a number of great apps that every sales rep should know about. Read More »

ChinaFocus – Rural Migration & Consumption Growth

Posted on  14 February 12  by 


We all know the numbers:

  • China’s urban population now exceeds rural population
  • Urban population expected to grow another 50% in 15 years
  • China’s economy marches onward and past the US in size by 2025

I certainly don’t have anything to say that would counter these prognostications.  But there are two underlying assumptions that are worth teasing about a bit:

  1. How does the rural population actually migrate to the city?
  2. How do migrants contribute to meaningful consumption? Read More »