A 2014 Update

Greetings all!

I hope you all are well.

Things are steadily rolling along here. The second semester has been stop-and-go due to the wacky cold weather. As I write, CrownTown is projected to get close to 12″ of snow.


Other than that, below are a few things going on.

The Countdown

Yes, it is 60 days until I get married. That’s pretty exciting. We avoided some major pitfalls too, and everything (that we control) has been taken care of. For now.

Next Venture(s)

From spending nearly five years in the startup/entrepreneur space to jumping into the education world, I can not help but keep both doors open. I enjoy being busy. Plus, it keeps me out of trouble. I have several things on my plate I hope to steadily chomp off.

Writing a book– I know…I fell into the marketing strategist pitfall- creating something of my own. For the record, it is not entirely my fault. My future wife thought it would be a great idea, and when I’m given the opportunity for a new challenge, I can’t help it. Details about that soon.

Launching AdLand Heroes– One of the two big ideas I have. The Charlotte Agency will stick around, for the time being. But I picture AdLand Heroes as being an advertising publishing (own my book, probably), consultancy to help freelancers and small (3-10) advertising folks get noticed. I want AdLand Heroes to provide training for those populations that may not be able to receive it, and fill other gaps as needed.

Launching GoMatthewsMintHill– The second of two big ideas I have. These two areas, which are growing- and fast- has no real centralized digital presence so people know what’s going on. With help (programmer, sales people, office manager) I can get it off the ground.

Updating TCA– TheCharlotteAgency.com needs a serious facelift. So yea, that needs to happen too.

Needless to say, I am happy to see that though I am thoroughly enjoying teaching, that my entrepreneurial spirit has not yet withered.


Coming Up-

DECA States- Instead of being a judge, I will be an advisor during the North Carolina DECA Conference. Wild.
Social Media Day Charlotte (June 30th)- If you know people who’d like to be involved, give me a shout (Twitter: @SMdayCLT)

That’s it for now, folks. I hope to come back with updates on progress.

As always, thank you for reading.


Crowd Vs. Pro….I’ll Take the Pro

Color me old school, but I have a hard time taking the opinion of a crowd over anything.

Even if we play the “Founding Fathers” card, they too were against obliging the will of the majority. That’s why in the Senate, each state, how matter how big or small, has the same number of Senators. It is meant to balance out the crazies (on both sides) in the House.

The same applies in business. Professionals are called professionals because they spend a dedicated amount of time becoming proficient at certain activities. I may be able to understand using crowds of professionals (when necessary) but using consumers or the public for certain matters that were traditionally in the hands of “experts” is totally beyond me.

I do see the attractiveness of selling a product or service that the crowd of consumers design themselves. It goes back to a saying in marketing, that we want to provide what the consumers want.

But the saying was never meant to be taken literally.

A book came out about using crowds and Freakonomics covered it. I do believe they made valid points, but I think my studies of behavioral economics and following the research of Dr. Dan Ariely have made me conclude that there is no such thing as a rational crowd. When groups begin to make decisions, inaccuracies are bound to follow.

Maybe that product or service designed by the group will sell, but I would believe that the driving forces are not the features picked from the crowd, but in fact because the crowd wants to but the product they designed, and people- who don’t like many options- will choose the option others are buying.

I’ll listen to a crowd.

But obey one?

Don’t Bet on the Consumer


Consumers (Photo credit: lagaleriadeARCOTANGENTE)

Being in advertising, I have a love and hate relationship with consumers. “It’s complicated” doesn’t begin to describe our feelings towards each other.

In part, I believe (or want to believe) that consumers are truly smarter and more informed than ever before. That with information at their fingertips, that decision-making should be a cakewalk for many of them.

In other parts, I am repeatedly proven wrong.

I love the consumer, but they gotta meet me halfway.

I have talked about this before, but there is a popular behavior theory out there called the Prospect Theory. In short, it suggests that people value losses more than they value gains. For example, if you have a chance of winning $10, or the chance of losing $10, consumers would give a higher value to the chance of losing $10.

Consumers then, are naturally risk-averse.

Which makes sense- that’s why word-of-mouth is still, and will continue to be, the most effective form of marketing; it shows that the product/service recommended is a low-risk venture.

When my agency compiled research about the consumers’ perception of advertising, the majority thought that more information was good. But after digging deeper into the data, they didn’t quite understand why it was good.

This is my gripe with “big data” and crowdsourcing. Will you get data, yes. Will it show you what the consumers want? Maybe. But should you base your strategy on what the consumers tell you they want?

It depends. You know how your product or service works. You know what moves you need to make to improve your product/service. Consumers don’t like risky moves, so if you’re venturing out to do something different, something a little unusual, I wouldn’t bet on them to be sage advisers.

Listen to your consumer. But don’t bet on their advice.

The Blurred Line of Advertising and Publicity

Advertising, or the way of transferring information from an identified party to a specific audience, can take many forms. “Traditional” advertising usually refers to TV advertisements, radio, print ads in newspapers and magazines. New and online media would include online ads, banner ads, ads before online video, social media advertising, and the like.

Native advertising includes promotional messaging on your own sites and property. Advertorials are advertisements that look like editorials, which, knowing our lovely nation, many people get duped by.

Advertising campaigns can take all of these activities, and roll them together. Which is a good thing. An “integrated” campaign is becoming more and more common.

That means the industry is catching up. But those of you who regularly read this stuff, already know that.  Why are we going over this again?

Because many business owners don’t see the relevance. Case in point: BrewDog.

BrewDog got some noted publicity because the owners said they would rather “set their money on fire” than invest in advertising.

Yet they do publicity stunts. Invest in outrageous packaging and product development. And get this: they are going to host their own TV show about beer.

Did we miss something? You see, the BrewDog owners meant traditional advertising, because its true, many craft beers do not need to have the big production TV commercials. Their money is better spent on the nonconventional stuff.

But please refrain from acting high and mighty, saying that you wouldn’t spend on advertising. Because you definitely are.

I think that is the thing that ticks me off the most, the people who don’t call their advertising activities, advertising.

Stop it. It’s advertising. Deal with it.



People Doing Work in Social Media

There were several really cool activities going on in the social media environment, I couldn’t pick just one. It’s really a rare thing for me to see things in social media that even warrant a single post, let alone four activities that caught my eye.

Well, two activities, two pieces of solid research. I know, I can’t quit the research.

So here are the four, and feel free to let me know what you think.

Head of Publicis Groupe makes fun of himself while using new YouTube elements

This struck me in two ways: first, the head of holding company powerhouse Maurice Lévy willingly makes fun of his annual YouTube speech. Two, the new YouTube elements are pretty sweet.

If you watch his entire video, it doesn’t make a pause. One would think it is just a normal video.

But then you fast forward, and you see Lévy shuffle through his notes. And pause it, and guess what game Lévy plays on his phone. Then try expanding it to fullscreen.



Petsmart Uses Pinterest to Engage Fans During the Holidays

If you read this blog and are in the marketing industry, you well know that nearly every piece about social media tries to tie it with “ROI”. How does this activity correlate with sales or revenue (if that’s how your brand defines ROI..you’d be surprised). Well Petsmart is a key example of how to do social media right. Petsmart, earlier this month, launched a campaign on Pinterest. They want fans of Petsmart and their animals to pin a holiday-themed picture with their pet, along with the hashtag #pinitforpetsmart. Each pin raises $25 for petsmart charities, up to $25,000.

Thank you Petsmart. They realize that the point of social media is the sharing and “social proof” factor. People love sharing photos of their pets, and the fact that each pin will raise money to a good cause is just icing on the cake. Well done.


Home Shopping Ramping Up

Ask Your Target Market did a survey and nearly 42% of respondents said that they would rather shop online rather than in stores. And a plurality (33%) said that they had no preference.

This can have major implications on how businesses operate. First, businesses should survey their own customers (or compare online vs. offline purchases) to see where most of the sales are coming from. If the online category is highly favored, the business should really look at if having a brick & mortar location is truly worth it. If the business’ customers are torn like the 33% “no preference”, behavioral and incentive implications may be involved. The business should ask what drives them to buy stuff online versus offline, and then use that information to guide them whatever direction you see fit.


Mobile Gives Email Marketing New Life

No one really thought that email marketing was going away. Those “marketing ninjas” who said that were kidding themselves and clearly not following any real sources of information.

But the resurgence of email was not entirely anticipated. MediaPost covered a report done by email specialist Return Path, which revealed that 4 out of 10 emails sent have been read on a mobile device. Also, consumer are more likely to open webmail on a mobile device (37%) than using a browser (30%).

The report also shows that out of all the sector-related emails, retail, consumer product and real estate emails are the types opened the most. Anything that may make the consumer have security doubts will more than likely be opened on a computer.


So there is good stuff being done in the social media and research space, we just have to look a little harder to find it. Thanks for reading!


The Practicality of Marketing Economics

Inbound marketing. Big Data. Social care. Marketing Analytics. Content marketing. Social neuroscience. Neuromarketing.

What the heck does it all mean?

It means that the evolution of our marketing and advertising landscape is speeding up. And we are all trying to keep up.

For several years now, I have championed the application of economics (both traditional and behavioral) in marketing and advertising activities. Naturally, I have been met with responses (and more, admittedly,  the lack of) from all over the spectrum. Objections and criticism stem from my “attack” on creativity, lack of focus on digital, to simply missing the point.

Forgive me for applying science to an art form.


Let’s be honest, the majority of the advertising and marketing out there cannot, with a sound conscience, be called art. In many cases, calling it advertising is a stretch.

The reason why I thoroughly enjoy economics can be attributed to the most simple definition of it:

“choice under scarcity.”

Those three words, though simply put, are absolutely profound. Consumers are thrown into a market, and producers must fulfill the needs and wants of these individuals and entities in order to survive. And sometimes, in order to survive, those producers may have to contrive needs and wants to create their own market.

How is this not applied to marketing?

Simply being creative cannot suggest a successful campaign. Running Google Analytics and deciding, based on the numbers, to push a certain product is not a sound foundation for strategy.

Yes, pretty pictures and numbers without context is not enough.

There are great brains already out there on the outskirts of marketing economics. Dan Ariely, for example (whose course on game theory I’m taking in January and am absolutely stoked about), has conducted several research projects on consumers’ “predictable irrationality”. Another author in the UK wrote about how and why consumers make decisions. William Bonner, a finance guy, wrote about how consumers and markets interact. Even Malcolm Gladwell’s books show consumer behavior in an interesting light.

But clearly, their advice falls on deaf ears. Perhaps if they added the words “engagement” and “content is king”, they would get more buy-in.

Forgive the long post, I’m almost done.

The point is, I am fascinated and disappointed at the same time on why marketing economics is failing to take off. If we want to do the lame marketing jargon, I would reckon it to be the Marketing Scientist 2.0. No more focus groups looking at ads saying if it would work or not, but more focus groups that ask consumers how they feel in certain situations, shopping alone versus with others, and making them choose items in different environments.

I’m toying with the idea about writing a white paper, or presentation about marketing economics. If you’ve made it this far, I’ll keep you updated as my idea evolves.


A New Consequence of Blogging

Many of our generation (Millennial/GenY) have taught or been told about the dangers of placing and sharing information online. That is nothing new. On social network sites like Facebook, we must be careful about our privacy settings and what kind of information we are sharing about ourselves. On Pinterest, we must be wary about if the content and pictures we are sharing carry any copyright or content-sharing caveats we must abide by.

But blogging about news, topics, and goings-on around your community was usually safe.

At least, it was.

A fellow marketing professional was sued this year because of his sharing of information about a certain event in his neighborhood. He notes that he didn’t even comment on the actual event, but his emphasis was on how technology was incorporated and used in the situation.

The “victim” of the coverage wasn’t happy about the way they were portrayed by everyone who shared the information. I guess we’ll leave it at that.

The point is, and the point that the marketing pro was sharing, is that we have to be ever more careful about what we choose to share online. Not only do we live in a place where we can access information freely and quickly, but also a place where people can sue anyone for almost anything.

Yes, we now made it to the times where we must tiptoe around- even the internet- for fear we may hurt someone’s feelings to the point of being sued.

The future of the internet. Get excited.