Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Making Banking More Social

At the end of last week I attended the Argyle 2017 Financial Services Forum: Marketing & Technology Innovation conference to talk about making banking more social.

Speaking off the cuff in an interview format, I know there are things I could have discussed but didn’t do to the lack of having notes available.

So I decided I would hit on some of what I talked about, but also touch on things I didn’t talk about.

Banking and finance are typically not leaders when it comes to technology and digital. Often, they leverage that which has worked in other industries first. It makes sense; the risk is lower. And we’re talking about very risk-adverse folks.

Where many other brands are today in terms of social, the banking and finance world (on average) is about 5 years behind but, working to catch up. The thing is, in the digital world, 5 years is a lot. And playing catch up means you'll always be behind. Brands need to start looking at ways they can leapfrog to get ahead.

Social touches all stages of the funnel.

I will start by clarifying, the marketing funnel is not the same as a customer journey. But, if we’re thinking about how we want to create awareness, drive education, and get people to act, we have the ability to do it all in this channel. Social can also be a key component to retention, an oft overlooked, yet powerful component of the overall process.

It requires building bridges across the silos that exist within your organization. Thinking about how each touchpoint creates a full story for your brand as they see different content within their social streams.

Think how can you narrate the story in the way that best suits your business needs, as well as providing value to your customers.

Social leads your online customer service.

Understanding the role social can play in customer service is critical. Customer expect to get their issue resolved through a message on Facebook or a direct message on Twitter.

Enabling your social teams to do so, and actually take action for certain items (like a password reset), can have an incredibly positive impact on your call centers. It can also help to improve the perception of your business by being able to solve things with less back-and-forth and in a more immediate manner.

Social provides key insights through data about your customers.

Leveraging the information about your fans and followers across your social networks can provide key insights to help drive future campaigns, and product development. You can discover what other brands they like (including your competitors) and gain tremendous psychographic learnings to apply to your marketing on and off social media.

Social is emotional.

From showing empathy through customer service to showcasing emotion tied to your brand, social is driven by the heart more than the mind.

It's a place to show you understand your customers; it should be relatable and relevant. And, it's a place for customers to show how they feel about your brand.

Social requires the right mindset.

There's more to social than just putting out a post on your platforms. It is a way of thinking about your business to create and deepen connections through relationships. It's also a way to leverage data that exists and use it in ways that surprise and delight.

Just because you're in the financial industry and there are a lot of barriers with compliance and regulations, there are always opportunities to think creatively about how to use social, whether it is in a program you launch or in the way you use the API data to do something that reduces friction for customers.

Overall, there is a lot more to think about with social and banking but, this is a start. Thankfully, banks have started to look outside their own industry for inspiration as well. Other highly regulated industries like insurance, have made great strides in how they create engaging and meaningful social campaigns that deliver for the business.

Banking can get there, too.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Reading Roundup: Week 8/28/17

Here are a few things of interest I've come across and have read in the past week...
Meet the 3 types of people who will launch your culture of growth:
Read the article to learn about The Pioneer, The Champion, and The X-Team.

Google Rolls Out Video Previews for Quick Searches:
Read about changes in the Google app for Android and Chrome on Android. When video results show up in the video carousel, just like text snippets for text results, you’ll see video previews.

5 Tips from Twitter to Boost Campaign Performance with In-Stream Ads:
Read to find out how creative teams can make the most of Twitter’s new ad offering, using research-backed best practices.

Generation Z Speaks Their Minds:
Read why, according research, there are four big cross-cultural themes that drive this generation: Diversity, Digital detox, Justice, and Nationality.

Design Principles: a guide to less shitty feedback:
Read and learn how design principles can help the creative process. "Design Principles are a set of statements that communicate what we want from a project or product. It’s a way for everyone to agree on a couple of core principles that the work should be measured by. By determining these ideas early on, you create a framework that will help you take design decisions and give constructive feedback."

Saturday, August 26, 2017

3 Tips for Retaining Great Creative Talent

Can in-house agencies be as creative as out-of-house agencies?

Earlier this week, The Drum published this interview with AirBnB CMO, Johnathan Mildenhall who is in the middle of a creative review for the brand but "says the management consultancies are not in contention, believing they’re incapable of retaining great creative talent".

Which is interesting, as he seems to think that in-house agencies, and out-of-house agencies in general, are capable of retaining great creative talent.

Overall, I'd say that's a good thing, but in-house (and out-of-house) agencies often have a lot of trouble retaining talent, too. There are a few areas that companies can focus on, in addition to making the right hires in regards to skill sets and with the right "fit" in terms of personalities that will work well together.

Value of Creative:

Many times in-house agencies are creatively strapped compared to their out-of-house counterparts. Innovative projects and "blue sky thinking" tend to go to the outside agency and the in-house folks are left to execute. Creativity is either squashed or just not nourished in the same way as at out-of-house agencies. There needs to be a space where collaboration can happen, where ideas can be pinned up and shared among the team. The technology to create needs to be valued as well, so that teams have the tools to do their jobs. You wouldn't ask an accountant to do their job without something to be able to calculate with--and for creative teams there is an overhead cost for getting people set up with the tech they need.

Creativity also flourishes better when there is a system of trust in place. For employees to know that they are trusted and free to explore their creativity is critical. And nearly as critical is to understand that you've hired an expert who has likely studied their field and should be looked to for advice and know-how, not just as "short order" cooks. Value what they bring to the table is important to keeping them happy (just like any other employee in any department).

Corporate Culture:

Cultivating a creative environment is not a core competency at many corporations. Many times that also stems from the general culture of a company or priorities where Operations, bottom lines, and many other factors tend to get higher priorities. As companies look to bring more work in-house, they need to consider how they will allow creative to flourish in its own pocket within the larger company to achieve greater results. Consider what your agency's environment was like, and then think about what the environment is like for your in-house team. Is it comparable or does it need to be improved with features to help drive better creative thinking?

In some cases, companies have set up in-house agencies as their own entities within the company, which provides some more flexibility and new structures to be more easily set up rather than trying to retrofit existing processes which can be more difficult or not make sense. This can help keep creative from becoming too embedded into the company as well, leaving the ideation free from all the nitty-gritty that folks in marketing will bring to the table (legal/etc) that should not be barriers to the ideation process. Staying at an arms distance allows for the ability to be agile and nimble but without getting too lost in the weeds. The balance can be met in-house, if set up correctly.

Growth Opportunities:

As many bring creative capabilities in-house, it's often done with the idea that in-sourcing is cheaper than out-sourcing. When cost is at the forefront of a decision, one has to also understand that often it results in teams that are understaffed and overloaded with work. I've seen many, many, many job descriptions asking for someone to basically do 2-4 different jobs that one person really shouldn't be doing--at least not anyone who will do any of the jobs well.

People leave jobs because they are constantly overloaded with work or they don't see opportunity for growth, and that their role will never evolve or grow because there is no scale built in to the team they are on. This is also why people leave out-of-house agencies, too. In order to keep people for the long term, you have to show that you're willing to give raises and provide growth opportunities--it's the number one reason most people leave ANY job.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Micro-Moments and Your Brand

Is your brand ready to handle micro-moments?

"Micro-moments have been accelerating consumer expectations for “right here, right now” experiences. People take for granted that information is at their fingertips and tailored to their specific needs. But the thing about human beings is they never stop wanting that little bit extra. It’s becoming evident that they’ll keep raising the bar, wanting more useful information, more personalization, more immediacy. My team wanted to dig into these evolving expectations and understand how consumer behavior has changed since we first introduced micro-moments."
- From Think With Google

Google groups micro-moments into three ways the data takes shape: well-advised, right-here, and right-now. It's possible your brand has something in motion today will suffice for passable mico-moment experiences. But, it's important to review the current customer experience and understand what hurdles you may have to overcome to meet these expectations.


Customer Behavior: People are using their mobile phones to research their purchases, for things as mundane as toothbrushes (yes, even a parity product!). Google's research even shows that searchers are using qualifiers, such as "best toothbrush". This means they're not just seeking out feedback about the item, but they're looking for crowd-sourced solutions in their results.

What to Consider: Check your content marketing and look over what you have currently and consider with the impact this could have for SEO results and rankings. If people care about the best product or service, you want your brand associated with this list, be it from John Doe's blog or Consumer Reports. Another piece to consider is the way you are overseeing customer reviews - take a look at how you are managing it and evaluate if you need to improve your current process. Be sure your teams are bringing forward thinking that helps your customers find more useful information to stay competitive.


Customer Behavior: People expect brands to gather enough contextual information to deliver location-specific responses. They know you have information because other brands (not even your competitors) do. If Yelp can know where I am, why can't my mobile banking app? You know that it's snowing where I am, so make the information you show me relevant to my situation. It's not about a competitive set - customers expect all brands to be able to deliver at the same level as an

What to Consider: Review the data you have accessible and explore interaction points where you can better apply the information to cut out unnecessary or redundant data inputs by customers. With new feature sets and product improvements, you should always put contextual personalization at the top of the list. Brands who use data to help customers find what they're looking for will be the ones to achieve success.


Customer Behavior: Customers are using their mobile devices for immediate needs like last minute purchases (think: forgotten birthday!). Instant gratification is not just wanted in the purchase phase but delivery as well--just look at companies like Instacart and Amazon Prime Now.

What to Consider: Explore your current ecosystem and seek out opportunities to deliver on more instantaneous delivery. Ask your customers for inputs, too. They're a great resource to get suggestions to for improvement and can help highlight the best placement in the user experience for it. Continue to push for immediacy and find new ways to get the sense of instant gratification to your customers.

Do you have other tips or suggestions? Leave them in the comments.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Thoughts on Digital from WFA's Global Marketer Week 2017

"What we do is the same as it ever was but the way we do it can be so much faster, smarter, better, and cheeper. And that's the promise of digital. But that doesn't mean that we have to be better at digital. what it means is that we have to be brilliant and stay brilliant at our core competencies as marketers, which is you have to be brilliant at marketing but accept that we're doing it in a totally digitized world. And that all the tools and the opportunities we have at our disposal should be leveraged with the same intent we used to use with the traditional things."
- Ivan Pollard, SVP Strategic Marketing, The Cola-Cola Company

Here are some other key comments from Pollard, giving his frank appraisal of the challenges relating to digital media investment at WFA's Global Marketer Week 2017: Back to Life, Back to Reality (but watch it, he is entertaining):
"We're doing our advertising in an ADD world...So we're We're spending way more time consuming way more things in way more places and we're paying less attention to everything we see."

"So maybe time spent is not the appropriate metric to work out how attention effects comprehension."

"We need to generate scale but "been hoodwinked into believing in wastage and in the validity of targeting."

"People who were outside of our desired audience, we were told they were worthless, but they weren't. They were just worth less."

"Weight of advertising works, and Byron Sharp is right about reach. It's also telling us that that quality of content is key and Ogilvy is still right about advertising."

"Not all moments are created equal, especially for those of us selling high volume, low cost goods. What we're looking for are decisive moments."

"We have to maintain the balance between, what is happening in the real world and what is happening in the digital world and pay appropriately for them."
"Reconsidering how we maintain ubiquitous in the real and digital world. Doing this with a fanatical focus on the I in ROI. Starting to challenge the means and models by how we spend our money."
"We're living in a complicated world but the job of marketing is essentially the same."

"We make the remarkable, to make the marketing remarketably smarter."

This is also worth watching:
Our connected audiences have the power to make or break a brand, literally, at their fingertips. While the world has changed, Raja Rajamannar continues to be guided by the insight that experiences matter more than things. Learn more on how Mastercard is striving to exceed the expectations of the connected consumer by shifting from storytelling to storydoing.

"Low price, surprise and delighted, and want to be rewarded. And then there's a feeling of entitlement."

"Because as a consumer when you get rewarded you want to brag about it."
"Some brands used to be so exclusive...but now that kind of mystery has been taken away."

"Consumers want experiences that are truly uninterrupted."

"Consumers don't care about your products. They care about themselves. They care about listening to stories. They want to be entertained. In the process you inform them about your product, ok, that's incidental, but what they're looking for - that's absolutely right. But, today, consumers are telling, 'I don't care about your stories, keep your stories to yourself. I want uninterrupted experience.'"

People are valuing having experiences vs. things at all levels of the economic spectrum.

Connecting with consumers and connecting with the things that they care about - passion points. And this is experiences. If you want to give experiences to your customers, how do you do this. Create and curate experiences that will truly have scale, will have profitability from country to country, and gives us impact we are seeking from our campaigns. Use the "priceless" theme to unite the ideas. This lead to developing things like Priceless Cities where customers can have experiences that money can't buy.

Friday, August 18, 2017

What does it mean to be a customer-first company?

What does it mean to be a customer-first company?

Today, it seems like every company claims to be a customer-first company. But really, is that true?

During the past 5-10 years, the brands I've worked with talk about it in meetings, but many rarely followed up with real action. And, as they say, actions speak louder than words.

So, what are some key ways for a brand to bring the concept of customer-first to life?


Being a customer-first company means your products start at the point of solving (or creating) a customer need or desire. That means the brand's products or services are built around the customer, not creating something and then figuring out the customer base for it or backing into a strategy to answer the "why".

Many new companies that leverage technology have done just that. Look at AirBnB, Uber, and Amazon as examples for this. They exist because they figured out a way to solve a problem, not attempting to retrofit a need into their offering. When brands start with their "why", it provides a stronger platform for all other communication strategies to stand on.


Most people say they understand that every touch point someone has with your brand is part of the customer experience. But, for some reason, many companies seem to let certain areas within their business slack off when it comes to putting the customer first.

It's understandable that brands get caught up in their own language and often start speaking to themselves, and that's why outside partners (ad agencies, consultancies, etc) are usually brought in to help provide that outside point of view and convert the internal language into something that makes sense for the audience, in the audience's language.

Another is instances of sales. Yes, of course the company needs to make money and be profitable. But it should not be at the expense of deceiving customers or providing terrible experiences. (Although recent actions by certain companies in the airline industry may prove this wrong.)


Knowing your customer is absolutely critical to being customer-centric. If you can't understand their wants and needs, you'll have a lot of difficulty proving that your brand is there for the customer. You need to understand their mindset, their passions and what makes them tick. You need to survey as many as you can to remove generalizations that come about from small data sample sizes. It's a brilliant company leader that then even takes the next step to spend time with their customers to get a direct line of contact to their voice, which leads me to...


Brands that listen to their customers can make a big impact to their bottom line. Providing channels for customers to give feedback on their experiences gives you an opportunity to improve. It also allows for kudos to be shared with those who are doing things right. Transparency of the feedback loops can also provide a lift in customers' perception of the brand. And if you bring forward a feature or service that was requested by customers, it naturally allows for a proof point to highlight that aspect of the brand in marketing and advertising.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Emotional and Apathetic Brands


It's a key component to many successful brands.

Visceral. Intuitive.

And yet, difficult to quantify.

There are brands which have such passionate fans that they tattoo the logo or other prominent graphic or tagline on their person.

There are brands that have a plethora of digital and IRL fan clubs.

These are brands that trigger chemical reactions in the brain.

They are brands that others want to be like.

But they never will.


Because they are the emotionless brands. The ones that are boring or present but don't stand for much.

They are not bad. They are not good. They just are.

These Apathy Brands deliver on a lack of feeling, emotion, interest, and concern. A state of indifference that holds no one's attention. Even one great ad, is just that for an Apathy Brand. A great piece of creative content and nothing more. A drop in a expansive ocean.

Emotional brands come from a raison d'etre. At their core, they have a meaning greater than profit. Great design. Ultimate user experience. The best customer service. Supporting local growers. A commitment to quality.

No matter what it is, it's something that drives the rest of the business. It's not something tacked on as an afterthought.

It is a central component that drives emotional responses. Emotional creative. And, passionate fans.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

It's time to take a stand

This morning I came across this article from The Drum, Is Advertising Finally Ready to Shake Off Its Last Taboos? It's got a great example using the recent Maltesers campaign from the UK as a way to break through the stereotypes that advertising often showcases and instead bringing reality and an authentic approach focusing on inclusion and equality.
It’s about time brands and mainstream marketing followed in Maltesers’ steps and started embracing subjects that have historically been taboo for fear of causing offence. Through embracing taboos we initiate a move towards a society where inclusivity and equality are truly mainstream rather than just for debate. The world at large might be oscillating from outright discrimination (take Trump’s comments on women and people of colour, right through to immigration being a key reason for our own Brexit vote) to healthy debate on diversity (gender equality and such). But advertisers have by and large been guilty of sitting on the sidelines in a bid to avoid offence and alienation.

The result? A safer, vanilla, kind of advertising that risks connecting with no one.

And that last bit about advertising that doesn't connect with anyone by trying to appeal to everyone is key. I hesitate to call it vanilla because, that's saying vanilla is bland and it doesn't have to be. BUT, the point being, you really cannot please everyone. And, that's OK.

I'm currently focused on creative for social media and I have been working to educate how in this space (but elsewhere as well), you need to connect with people based on what drives them. And, this is nothing new. As advertisers or marketers, our role is to help people find connection with the brand. And how that brand ties to their daily life, passions, and aspirations helps to drive that.

And it's great for a brand to take a stand. But it also has to be authentic.

It’s this sort of creative bravery that offers rich opportunity for brands: taking part in everyday conversations, however challenging, and doing so with relevance (and maybe a little well-placed irreverence) is clearly aligned to business success (as Mars is no doubt hoping to prove with Maltesers).

However, while brands should challenge themselves to take risks they must also be authentic. No token campaigns here please – consumers will see right through you. Authenticity is all when it comes to such personal engagement, and it’s no surprise that Maltesers had the help of disability charity Scope for guidance and a hands-on role in the creative process.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

On Project Management

No matter how great a creative team you've got, or how receptive your clients are to brilliant ideas, there's one very important piece to running a good creative department. That, dear readers, is organization.

Without it, you cannot meet client expectations. Delivering work late, unfinished or half baked due to rushing, being overloaded or understaffed doesn't result in good results or good feelings.

There are a few elements key to achieve great organization.


A solid creative brief can help set the stage for understanding the overall scope of work. What kind of project does the budget allow for it to be? How long does the project of this kind take to execute? These questions begin to frame staffing needs and help with overall project needs.

But the brief should also be abel to answer questions such as, Who are you talking to? What are their challenges? What is the key message? What are the key benefits? Getting answers to these questions that will frame the creative process help the creative come faster and be more on pointe from the start. You end up with less need for iteration because you'll be closer to an answer that's on pointe.

Project Managers

I've often said that a good project manager (or traffic manager) is worth their weight in gold and then some. Someone who can wrap their head around deadlines and the intricacies of different disciplines helps keep the team on track.

Project Management Systems

No matter how amazing the project manager, having a great project management system is also critical. Tracking projects, organizing information, deadlines, and much more in one place so that everyone is held accountable for their deliverables.

To-do lists & Status Meetings

Getting the team together for a status meeting weekly (or more frequently, depending on the project) helps everyone align on needs, dependencies, and work loads. It also helps to keep ownership and roles and responsibilities clear for everyone involved. Each team member should be well aware of their own to-do lists--whether that comes from the project management system, their project manager, or out of their own head.

Having certain elements organized, allows for unorganized thinking. It frees up time to put toward finding the most creative solutions to a problem posed by a brief. It Reduces the amount of stress and helps create an environment of trust and professionalism.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Great creative never starts with a blank page

Most people probably think that as ad creatives, we start with a blank page.

I would argue that in advertising that is rarely the case. And usually when it is, it means something is dreadfully wrong.

Starting point

Strategy is already shaping the page before we even touch it. And, that's as it should be. The all too crucial brief starts to put the structure together that defines a starting point, and the end point.

What is the problem we're solving? What obstacles might we face? What key insight(s) do we have about the problem or people we are trying to reach? What message are we trying to communicate? What is the reason to believe the message? How will we measure success/What is the end goal? What is the opportunity?

And the best will also include the audiences' fears, dreams, etc with pyschographics, as well as data on the competition for even more context.

This strategic foundation is the basis of great creative work, most importantly the key insight(s) which is the meaty goodness creatives love to sink their teeth into as they brainstorm.

Get inside the box

The all too overused phrase "think outside the box" when applied to advertising or marketing should really be "think inside the box". If there are budget constrains, specific requirements, or other elements that will ultimately constrain the "blue sky thinking" that most often happens in brainstorm sessions, it doesn't matter how great the idea is if the client can't pay for it. Sure, I've had plenty of projects where I've been able to sell in more expensive ideas--but it's not the norm. The solutions you can create that don't cost millions have to work harder and be smarter. Sure you can throw dollars at something and that alone might be enough. But, it's thinking within the parameters and constraints that is the challenge of developing great ideas that break through. It's also how we bring value to what we create; what makes our job skilled and not something just anyone can do.

Bring on the ideas

Great ideas play off archetypes that resonate with people. That help them see how a product or service solves a problem or helps achieve a goal. These ideas sometimes bring unrelated thoughts together in new ways that capture attention and drive engagement. Other times the ideas bring together new technologies and evolving social behavior in new ways.

Ideation or concepting might begin with doodles, random notes, and even research. Brainstorming brings some of these ideas together in ways not thought of before because different thinkers are combining their thought processes. It's one reason why team work is often better than the work of a single creative. Working in a vacuum, there is no outside voice to bounce things off or to build upon the idea with a different perspective. These additional idea builds can come from anywhere and from anyone.

The tricky part is to know what are good builds and what are bad builds--to keep the original idea from becoming too muddied--to keep it on strategy. All too often you see an ad where you wonder how it came to be. There's a gleam of something amazing there, but it's been stripped down or covered up with other things that it's a shadow of what it once was. Often that means it's a victim of "design by committee" or "too many chefs in the kitchen" issues.

Ideas that win

Put yourself in the audience's shoes. Sure, you might not be the target, but what are the kinds of things that resonate with you? What do you like to see? What ads have you loved? We are all human--we all have similar desires and fears. We want people to like us. We are afraid of being alone. We want to have it all. We want to be happy. There are many ways to skin these basic human emotions. The best ideas play into these in ways that are relevant to the audience you're trying to reach. It's why good creatives are curious. They want to understand what makes the people they are talking to tick. Because that's key to making ideas that win.

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