Redefining Engagement to Understand the Future of Marketing

Published in ClickZ on July 15, 2015.

Media and technology are continuing to merge providing business opportunities that will engage customers in new ways.

Digital marketing transformation is occurring within enterprise companies across the globe as they seek to better understand their stakeholders who have infinitely greater control. This is not new, we knew this shift to the empowered customer has been happening for years, but it seems to have reached a tipping point.

Businesses of all sizes are (truly) embracing the concept of customer centricity and understanding that marketing is no longer a department, because everyone (customers and employees alike) has a voice that can be amplified through social and mobile channels. Every interaction with a customer is part of their experience with your brand. It is why companies are focusing on employee engagement now more than ever - employees are the face of the company to the customer.

Effectively tackling customer engagement today can certainly be overwhelming. Look at this list of over 2,000 marketing technology vendors that's Scott Brinker has compiled.

Above: The Marketing Technology Landscape, January 2015.
Image Credit: Scott Brinker/

And while at VentureBeat's GrowthBeat Summit in Boston last month, Brinker pointedly called out that "the tech is a distraction," but the fact that marketing is changing "in fundamental ways" is what is driving the landscape so radically. We now need to weave a company’s storytelling into digital experience – and digital itself is changing.

Internet-of-Things (IoT) is coming online rapidly. "IoT provides a new channel to reach customers through devices and interaction points", with Goldman Sachs predicting that IoT has the potential to connect 28 billion "things" to the Internet by 2020, ranging from bracelets to cars," says Cynthya Peranandam. This is providing business opportunities to create new revenue streams by effectively engaging customers in new ways.

But let's take a look at some of the near-term changes in the space. LUMA Partners has forecast the top 5 trends for 2015 and beyond are:

  • Programmatic
  • Mobile
  • Omnichannel/personalization
  • Identity
  • Convergent TV

I encourage you to check out LUMA's "State of Digital Media 2015" presentation to understand these trends in detail and how media and technology continue to merge. Review it alongside Mary Meeker's "2015 Internet Trends" report for a full view into current and future state of how we will engage with customers and each other. I find it helpful to stay informed of these trends as they will quickly be upon us to develop strategic engagement strategies as part of our ever-evolving marketing plans.

We live in exciting times and I can't wait to see the incredible marketing that is created on and from these new insights and platforms!

Is Social Technology Making us More or Less Human?

Show Recap

Michelle Killebrew is a “social optimist.” In this episode of The Social Network Show, she speaks with listeners about her conviction that social technology is helping us be more human, rather than less, as many fear.

Ms. Killebrew leads customer-centered marketing strategy for Social Business at IBM. Since earning a BS in Economics at Santa Clara University in the heart of Silicon Valley, Michelle has worked in IBM’s Enterprise Marketing Management division, thoroughly integrating Coremetrics analytics into campaigns. She then headed up IBM’s World Wide go-to-market and demand generation organization in the Smarter Commerce initiative. Now she is refining the definition of social business and creating research-based content to guide businesses in embracing it.

Together Michelle and Dr. J discuss whether engagement with online communication seal us off from genuine face-to-face relationships. Whether we are inclined toward optimism or skepticism, it is important to realize that technology can be used for good or ill. Public engagement in debate and analysis of the issues involved, such as privacy, security, social skills, and human empathy, is crucial, while apathy and defeatism is a worse enemy than any of the threats technology presents.

Michelle Killebrew’s talk on this subject, delivered at TEDx, University of Nevada in Reno, can be watched on YouTube and you can visit her website to learn more about Michelle.

Michelle Killebrew is passionate about marketing, especially innovative online marketing strategies that deliver a superior brand experience – from initial acquisition through to loyal customer – and increase growth and profitability. She currently leads the go-to-market strategy for IBM Social Business, where her team focuses on messaging and solutions that define social business and demonstrate how organizations can embrace this next information revolution in the workforce. Previously, she headed up the worldwide go-to-market and revenue-bearing demand generation campaign strategy for IBM’s new Smarter Commerce initiative, where her team was responsible for marketing B2B/commerce and enterprise marketing management solutions to meet the needs of the empowered customer. Michelle has over 15 years of high-tech marketing and holds a B.S. in Economics from Santa Clara University.

You can connect with Michelle on LinkedIn and Twitter, and read her recent articles on ClickZ.

Jane Karwoski, PhD

Dr. Jane Belland Karwoski is Chief Science Officer of Social Network Intermedia and The Social Network Association as well as the lead host of The Social Network Show. She holds a doctoral degree in experimental psychology and dedicated her early research efforts to combining social, cognitive and health psychology as they relate to the influence of key opinion leaders in spreading best practices.Prior to the availability of formal online social networking tools, Jane developed Genomicus Americus, an e-newsletter connecting North American and South American social scientists studying genetic and genomic issues. She has been a Research Assistant at the Centre for Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (Cardiff, South Wales), an ORISE Fellow with the National Center on Birth Defects (CDC, Atlanta, GA), and a Post-Doctoral Fellow with the Center for the Study of Healthcare Behavior (VA of Greater Los Angeles/RAND Health/UCLA). She has held adjunct professor positions in the psychology departments of The University of Nevada, Las Vegas; Excelsior College; and Drexel University.

The Social Business Frontier: Randal Ries on Measuring Progress

Published on the IBM Social Business Insights Blog on April 30, 2015.

“The Social Business Frontier” is a video blog series consisting of a number of short interviews taking a deeper look inside the IBM Research Labs to explore the groundbreaking and innovative social analytics research that's redefining the future of social business. 

In the fifth and final episode of The Social Business Frontier we speak to Randal Ries, IBM Senior Research Analyst, about how IBM is providing an example for businesses to measure the progress of their social business journey. A key aspect of an organization’s transformation into a social business is culture change. In order to measure culture it’s necessary to rely on traditional research methods. It’s Randal and team’s mission to understand employees’ attitudes and behaviors toward working socially. To do this they’ve developed a survey that measures different aspects of a social workplace. Their strategy helped them understand how employees felt about the value of working socially, how their management was embracing social and if there was enough education on how to work socially. Listen in to hear Ries explain how these results helped IBM understand where it is in its social transformation journey and how it can continue to grow as a social business.

Social Business: Shifting From Noun to Verb

Published in ClickZ on March 17, 2015.

Increasingly, businesses need to embrace social strategies in order to succeed in the digital world.

The meaning of the term "social business" needs to and is evolving from being a thing, an end-state, a noun to an action, a methodology, a practice…a verb. The idea that collaboration technology allows us to connect with one another and share ideas is wonderful, but there are fundamental strategies that are even more important.

In 2014, the IBM Social Business Category Management team joined forces with The Economist Insight Unit (EIU) to uncover how different thought leaders in a variety of industries across the globe are enabling social business in their organizations. Leadership driving social business change is diverse — in some cases sprouting up from management systems, in others from customer engagement strategies — but in all instances focused on true people-centric engagement.

The social business phenomenon isn’t just about tweeting and likes – it’s about something far more powerful. As Bryan Kramer explained in his book: "There is No B2B or B2C: It’s Human to Human: #H2H" businesses are starting to behave and sound like real people dealing with other people, rather than "business" to "consumer."

We are at a unique point in time with the concepts of social business truly starting to gain a wider foothold, and as such we see companies at various points in the maturity curve for adopting social principles. They have reached their current state by taking varied paths, and yet these pioneers have one main thing in common: action. They are actively seeking information, methods, and practices that can harness the best of the people inside and outside of the organization. These social business leaders are allowing people to share their stories and forge relationships with each other and the brand – and as change agents, they’re asking the tough questions to push their organizations out of "business-as-usual."

"The first question we had to ask ourselves is, 'Can a bank be a social business?'" a Toronto-based bank’s vice president of social media and digital marketing said at a New York conference last year. "We’re a heavily regulated industry, and we take a very conservative approach."

The study was launched publically about 10 months ago, and beyond the findings of the study itself, we have reflected on the process undertaken to conduct and drive awareness of the study, and have learned some details about the process itself. This effort was social from the start, when we leveraged social media to request nominations for social business leaders in one of five categories: Visionaries, Strategic Thinkers, Culture Shapers, Storytellers, and 'Fully Social' (Adaptive, Open, Entrepreneurial). After the advisory board finished the task of narrowing to 25 leaders and the campaign was launched, we went back to social media.

Now, the beauty of highlighting social business leaders is that they have large networks of followers, so with a social plan and content (blogs, video, memes, and more) the campaign took off.

I love when it works out that the message is the medium and vice-versa. In this case leveraging social media to reach social business leaders through a community-based nomination process that then was able to be shared and amplified through a strategic social campaign. During the campaign promoting the study we featured each of the honorees for a week, which gave us content for 25 weeks to use in our newsroom and our employee evangelism - leveraging their profile videos, creating social tiles, and writing blogs to support the leaders' various social business successes. You can see more about what we learned behind the scenes here.

Top 5 Social Business Leaders From the 25 Leaders Named in the Study

Scott Monty
Former chief of global digital communications, Ford Motor Co.
MAKING MESSENGERS: Using old values to make new connections

B. Bonin Bough
Vice-president of global media and consumer engagement, Mondelez International
FUTURE FACING: Embracing the ethos of a start-up

Gilberto Garcia
Director of innovation, Cemex
SHIFT WORK: Making communication simple within a global enterprise

Marisa Thalberg
Vice-president for corporate digital marketing, Estée Lauder
ONLY CONNECT: Using social causes to connect with customers

Chris Laping
Senior vice-president for business transformation, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers
COMMUN(ICATE): Giving employees a sense of purpose and ownership

Thanks again to our advisory board for selecting such a varied example of inspiring social business leaders: Brian Solis, Cheryl Burgess, Lisa Gansky, Nick Blunden, Maria Winans and my special thanks to Maria Huntalas for leading the project.

People-Centric Engagement through Social Technology

Published on the IBM Social Business Insights Blog on March 10, 2015.

There is no doubt that the future is upon us and the rate of change we experience in technology and its impact on our daily lives are advancing rapidly. Technology has made it possible for us to connect, and now social media has made it possible to do it in a more organic, human way. Facebook and LinkedIn have been around for over a decade and Twitter almost seven years. Together, they’ve fundamentally changed how we engage with each other online – and opaque social technology like Snapchat and Secret are the next evolution in this area.

Millennials who grew up in a social world are entering the workforce and becoming active citizens. What happens next? Social business.

Social business is the next step in the evolutionary process in the day-to-day functions of digitally enabled organizations. Much in the same way that the Internet revolutionized how we all work in the era of e-business; social processes, technology, and mindsets will revolutionize how people in organizations connect, collaborate, and share knowledge. 

With and despite social and other technological megatrends changing how we live our lives, how can we stay focused on being more people-centric—more human?

I share my perspectives in this TEDxUniversityofNevada talk.

The answer is as simple as it is complex. Because of advances in social, mobile and digital communication channels, society has the ability to share ideas quickly and the opportunity to build and iterate off the ideas of others. The more data we create—and we are creating exponentially more data each year—the more human the message must be in order to garner our precious attention.

In order for messages to resonate, they need to be relevant to the individual, which is forcing us to embrace the ancient art of storytelling and bringing the importance of relationship and empathy to the foreground. Information has been democratized.

New Content Economy? What’s Old Is New Again!

Published in ClickZ on February 19, 2015.

As the marketing ecosystem evolves, we can look to our past for inspiration on how to deal with the new challenges we face.

"What will it take to win in the new content economy? The best way for publishers to earn more is to interrupt less. The best way for brands to emotionally connect is through meaningful content. But for the new content economy to thrive, all of these efforts need to happen at scale." - The Rise of the New Content Economy, VentureBeat

I was reading the above article - by now you know I read a lot; philosophically agreeing with B. Bonin Bough’s thought "I'm so scared to become irrelevant so I try to spend time constantly learning what’s new" – and struggling with a massive case of writer’s block for this piece when an epiphany hit: as with most things, we’ve been here before! I actually agree with what is stated in the article, that we, as marketers, need to think through how we properly engage with our audiences given the latest advances in technology. But with that said, the fundamentals of marketing are just that: fundamental. They still hold true even if we think of "modern" ways of applying them.

Recently I had the privilege of presenting at TEDxUniversityofReno. My talk was called "How Technology Can Make Us More Human," focusing on how we, as people and as brands, are leveraging technology to enhance or interrupt our experiences with others. In preparing for my talk, I researched current data points, forward looking global trends – but I also reflected back on past predictions of what our future may hold. I re-read Fahrenheit 451 (written 1953) and 1984 (written 1949) - which, if you haven’t read in a while, I highly encourage you to do so! I’m also adding Brave New World to my "on deck" reading list – and was reminded how our human history is cyclical. Our discovery and re-discovery of how we engage with one another is both fascinating and humorous.

Currently in the headlines as being new and "must execute" trends:

  • Native Advertising and Content Marketing: While I’m sure it goes back further, native advertising in our modern world can be traced back to the 1930’s advent of radio soap operas - where the brands were in charge of creating original content with which to engage their target audience: housewives.
  • Social Technology: This is really a technological application of our human nature in "word-of-mouth" conversation. Applying this to promote products, brands, and services is as old as time immemorial. Yes, we need to continue to refine our methods of speaking authentically through these channels and yes, tools and analytics can help us do this more effectively, but the concept is not new.
  • Relationship Selling: The latest resurgence in building out sales teams is a trend resulting from our over-reliance on technology (marketing automation, etc.) and people’s true desire to seek advice from a human during complex buying decisions. This seems like common sense to me and apparently customers are beginning to demand it, as shown by the business models supporting the headcount to fund for these new teams.
  • Print Marketing: I’ve been saying this for a while now - print marketing is not dead. In fact, as we focus more on digital channels, the physical, tactical, and experiential nature of print makes it even more special, and I agree whole heartedly with Tessa Wegert in her recent ClickZ article on the topic.

What can we learn here? As we are faced with new and more complex marketing challenges, we can look to our past for inspiration on how best to use these seemingly new obstacles. Tried-and-true foundational marketing practices can be re-imagined and re-engineered to meet today’s expectations.

I love that that as people seek to engage with one another, they are looking for more "natural" ways to do so, a la Snapchat. "'You know this conversation we just had? Snapchat is just like that. It’s like real life. It’s just between us and you’re left with nothing but the memory.' It sort of puts the fun back in social again; just like when some of us were kids," says Steve Tobak.

So, as we look forward, take a moment to look back – we’re an amazing human race, and we have likely already thought through similar challenges.

PS – I also love that Millennials have this affinity for nostalgia; I consider it a proof point of the above, plus it makes me smile to see the toys from my own youth on the shelves today!

IBM’s Michelle Killebrew Discusses the Growth of Social Content Strategy

Social media and content marketing go together like peanut butter and jelly. However, creating a content strategy that takes advantage of social media’s growing power isn’t that easy.

In this week’s Innovator Series interview, I speak with Michelle Killebrew, program director of strategy and solutions for IBM’s Social Business arm. Killebrew has spent the last five years at IBM working to improve demand generation and social content marketing strategy on a global scale. Today, Killebrew answers my questions about her approach to social content marketing—as well as how IBM encourages employees to think differently.

Question: What are three ways you know your social content strategy isn’t working, and how can you course correct to see improved results?

1. Listen: The most basic evidence of engagement is a bidirectional conversation with your audience. If they are not conversing with you as a brand, then you are not engaging them in a discussion—you are talking at them through various channels. Be sure to have a community manager overseeing each of the channels that you are interacting in, and arm them with both the tools and policy to effectively respond to your audience. It’s important to understand how your audience wants to be engaged; not everyone uses the same platform to engage brands. And don’t forget to empower your employees beyond those community managers. Your employees can be your best brand advocates, and we all know it takes a village. Encourage all employees to take an active role in social engagement and content creation.

2. Analyze: Look at engagement metrics to see what is resonating. There are many tools and key performance indicators (KPIs) to investigate here; start small and expand to delve into deeper insights. Look at social interaction metrics to see which conversations are resonating, who’s in the conversation, and to determine your share of voice around a topic. Look at site metrics for engagement with the content that you’re driving to. Things like site visits, returning visitors, conversion metrics, sharing metrics can all start to inform how you optimize your content strategy.

3. Think and Learn: Hopefully most of us realize that just because we’ve always done things a certain way doesn’t mean we should persist. Things are changing so quickly that we need to think about why we’re creating content; in the B2B space we’ve traditionally created white papers, but what are we trying to achieve? We’re trying to inform a buyer about something, so we should consider if we can achieve the same goal more effectively with a video, an eBook, or an infographic. Remember that your audience is going to have different content preferences based on things like where they are in the buyer journey, device, learning style, and personal taste. We need to learn from each other. Read trade publications. Be observant of good marketing in action in both B2B and B2C spaces, think about what made it compelling, and apply those concepts to your initiatives. Understand how other marketers are applying strategies around marketing, social, and publication platforms.

Q: How can you improve user experience to surprise and delight your audience?

Understand Your Audience: Think through your audience’s likes and dislikes and create personas and profiles around them. Do you know their major turnoffs and turn ons? Before you even begin designing an experience, make sure you have a baseline understanding of who they are. Blanket campaigns are no longer effective today because we are trying to reach a “market of one.” You need to personalize the experience to their preferences. You should look to your analytics to fine-tune your understanding over time.

Provide Value: Make sure your experience provides the individual with value. You need to truly think of the person you are creating for: What is going to serve their needs? Can you answer a question or entertain them? Can you offer them content to save them time in a way your competitors can’t? People are busy; provide them value—they’ll appreciate it!

Be Beautiful: Literally. Your user experience needs to offer visual appeal and intuitive functionality. In order to compete for attention, your visual creative needs to be distinct and engaging. It needs to capture the eye and pull it in. The design of the user experience needs to be intentional, providing clear calls to action or value propositions for the individual.

Foster Engagement: If your content is good, people will want to share it with friends, peers, other brand loyalists, and, ultimately, the world. When you think about your user experience, part of that planning should be around planned sharability. Make it easy for your audience to share content, engage with others, co-create, and further the conversation, and make sure that you’re part of that conversation, listening to ideas, frustrations, and new opportunities.

Iterate and Optimize: Instrument your digital experiences, look at the metrics, and, more importantly still, take action on the insight! Look at what your audience is gravitating toward and create more of it. Be intentional in your pursuit to understand whether is it theme or format. For instance, is it a high-value microsegment of your audience that you should customize a new experience for? Never stop iterating.

Q: Can you offer some examples of successful IBM content marketing campaigns?

The Rethink Campaign: A demand generation campaign that was created based on the learnings of several years of campaign optimization (from Coremetrics, acquired by IBM in 2010). Thinking through the 11 new audience profiles in eight recently acquired companies we needed to speak to, the value proposition for each, and the type, quality, and quantity of content was the challenge here; its success was based on driving marketing qualified leads (MQL). Ultimately, MQL and sales qualified leads (SQL) were the success metrics here, but along the way we optimized based on conversion and interaction data.


The Economist Social Business Leaders: An IBM-sponsored awareness campaign that co-branded with The Economist and celebrated the achievements of social business leaders in a variety of accomplishments, including internal collaboration, sophisticated customer engagement, philanthropic endeavors, and more. The success of this campaign is based on visibility and awareness: social impressions, site visitor data, and influencer engagement.


Q: What advice do you have for marketers big and small when it comes to social content strategy?

I was asked at a conference recently if a midsize business should split its social channels as it ventured into a new direct-to-consumer model, adding to its bulk manufacturer-to-installer sales model. The product was the same, but the value proposition to each audience was drastically different. In this case, it was fashion versus function. My advice: Split the channels so that you can effectively engage with the audience’s unique perspective (if you can support the channels effectively). We all know that you can’t create a social engagement channel and then not monitor it for interaction, questions, trolls, or worse. If you don’t have the resources to split the channels to ensure that they are unique, develop a content marketing strategy that engages with each audience based on their specific value propositions, especially around key events. As your resources grow, prioritize the most effective channels to support (in a measured way) those audiences.

Q: Are there any in-house mantras for how IBM approaches this discipline?

One of the (many) wonderful things about IBM is that we truly believe our employees are the best representation of our brand; in fact, it has been said that IBM employees are our brand. To this end, we were one of the first companies to create a Social Guideline for employees to engage and advocate on the company’s behalf. These guidelines were created in 2005 (before Twitter, and only a year after Facebook was founded) by crowdsourcing across the hundreds of thousands of employees through our internal wiki. The intention was to unleash the smart and wonderful people of IBM to engage with users, buyers, inventors, thought leaders, students, and the world.

At IBM, our in-house mantra is “You are our brand: Go out and represent our brand!”


Published in ClickZ on February 4, 2015.

A look back at this year's bevy of ads from the big game - the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Now that the Super Bowl is over, it’s time for us marketers to have some fun analyzing the advertisements. There are lots of articles already talking about people’s reaction to the ads – the fact that many of the ads put a damper on the celebratory mood of Super Bowl parties around the country, and that a few (foot fungus, especially) made people just plain uncomfortable (most of us are eating after all!).

I can say that at my house, we were taking to guessing what we thought they were advertising in some cases. Honestly, I can’t recall a more uninspired Super Bowl commercial lineup (not all, but in aggregate). I had hoped for and expected better. It felt to me that only some of the advertisers had invested in "Super Bowl-worthy" ads, instead running standard ads in the prime spots due to the expense of the placement itself.

All this said, I won’t delve deep into the commentary I already see posted, instead choosing to observe some of the general themes.

In Effort to Be Real, Brands Went Serious.

We all realize that brands are trying to demonstrate authenticity and truly engage with their audiences via storytelling – but I think we may have gone a little far, forgetting the context of the outlet and the mood of the audience. The Super Bowl is an annual national sporting event, a cause for gatherings and parties – a celebration! A show. People are seeking entertainment. For years the Super Bowl ads were equated with creativity, humor, and surprise. Marketers, let’s please remember context!

This year, it felt like the surprise was figuring out the brand and their angle – I’m still scratching my head at the relation between a Nissan Maxima and an absentee father. (By the way, there’s a debate online as to whether this was a positive or negative commercial – to me, if it was meant to be positive, I think they should have rethought the choice of sound track.).

Fewer Hashtags.

Overall, I noticed fewer hashtags for commercial campaigns than the last few years. My speculation as to why resides in that fewer of the campaigns were made especially for the Super Bowl AND had less entertainment factor (versus the Public Service Announcement aka PSA feeling) and therefore less engagement. Generally, I found it an interesting observation and am curious as to how we’ll see this play out – do advertisers feel they don’t need to add them any longer? However, some of my favorite campaigns did have hashtags: #BestBuds#Sorta#500X#TheBigRace.

New Push for Mobile Game Apps – Paired Up With Celebrities.

One of the few topical areas that felt to me like we were moving forward and not backward with our advertising. Mobile is a growing part of all of our lives, and gaming is certainly part of that. Pairing celebrities with enhanced graphics vividly bringing the games to life made sense to me, especially for this fun-seeking audience.

Squarespace and Wix Went Head to Head.

These ads took a few more steps toward our future, as we evolve from advertising just hosting companies to the design-your-own-website platforms - as we as a nation become ever more digitally sophisticated. I thought both were clever and well done, if not earth-shattering.

Television and Movies Made a Big Push.

This was telling to me, it was further proof of our segmented and multi-device viewing trends. It was estimated that 110 million Americans tuned in to watch the Super Bowl, so this was network TV’s opportunity to showcase their latest series to an audience that consumes content in very different ways than in the past; asynchronously, binge-watching, streaming, multi-device, and without commercials. I was surprised to see so many ads for entertainment, and yet it makes perfect sense given the consumption trends for the industry.

Lots of Car Commercials.

There are always automotive commercials in the Super Bowl, but this year it seemed like more than usual. And the mood of the auto ads were all over the place. You already know my favorites if you’re familiar with the hashtags above, Fiat and Mercedes; they were clever and well-produced. The Chevy commercial was also a standout for innovative attention-getting in tricking Super Bowl fans into thinking their TVs cable or satellite just went out – very clever way to promote their Wi-Fi enabled truck! I thought Dodge’s #DodgeWisdom was a great balance of authenticity and fun – it felt real, connected both to the brand and the audience, but wasn’t a downer the way some of the commercials were.

Nissan, I think was a big miss in execution, though I can see their good intentions directionally. The Jeep ad was trying to promote environmental responsibility, but for me just struck the wrong tone for the day (somber again). Apparently, it is sparking this years’ debate about national pride given the historically American song paired with international images – we’ll see how this plays out over the next few days.

I’m hoping that the sheer number of auto commercials is representative of stabilization in the national economy, as people begin to think of replacing those that they’ve made do with during the down turn.

…and the Super Bowl Wouldn’t Be Complete Without Some Snacks!

The Doritos ads were irreverent and fun – perfect for the Super Bowl. Doritos had run a "Crash the Super Bowl" contest to crowdsource the best ads for their placements. I love this concept – this is true fan engagement, especially leveraging social leading up to the big event! The winner won $1 million and a dream job at Universal Pictures. Mars delivered two spots for Snickers and Skittles; Snickers was great, Skittles was on-brand silliness that was just OK for me. Mars created a clever teaser campaigns leading up to the Super Bowl:

Snickers said it would release the ad early if its teaser generated "2.5 million social media engagements," which could include views, likes, comments and shares on Youtube, Facebook or Twitter.
The brand, which debuted the full spot on NBC's "Today" show on Thursday, told Ad Age that that final results are still in being tallied but the teaser had accumulated more than 2.7 million views on YouTube alone.
- Watch Snickers' 'Brady Bunch'-Themed Super Bowl Ad, Ad Age

So despite a lackluster commercial lineup this year, I found the trends fascinating to observe.

  • Brands are struggling to engage with their audiences authentically and appropriately at the same time, but some are starting to get it right.
  • Social and mobile continue to push forward in their presence in our lives, and smart brands are finding ways to leverage them in their effort to engage us as consumers.
  • Our world is becoming more digital – yes, we know this because this is the world we live in as marketing professionals, but hosting and Web design platforms now have a viable market across the majority of middle America firmly rooting themselves into our (national) new normal.
  • Changing entertainment consumption patterns are impacting how the entertainment industry showcases and promotes new franchises.
  • And hopefully, we’re starting to get on more stable economic footing across the country.

More Interested in the Game Than the Ads?

See the Super Bowl game stats that tell the story behind the story. As fantasy sports have grown from a niche pastime into a multi-billion dollar industry, sports fans have gotten even more obsessed with statistics.
IBM's Watson Analytics, a new cloud-based platform that finds patterns in data and uses that information to make predictions about the future – giving fans access to similar tools that executives of pro sports teams consult to understand, say, how many yards Marshawn Lynch averages after first contact, or in which situations Tom Brady is most likely to throw to Rob Gronkowski.
- How IBM is bringing front-office data analysis to Super Bowl fans, Business Insider

Live Online Shopping Data: The Gift That Keeps Giving This Season

Published in ClickZ on November 26, 2014.

This holiday season, real-time analytics could help marketers keep up with the successes (or failures) of their campaigns, and make the necessary adjustments.

I don’t know about you, but this year flew by for me and I cannot believe that the holidays are officially upon us. That said, it is one of my absolute favorite times of the year, with the opportunity to spend time with family, enjoy the season - AND watch how brands and retailers pull out all the stops to engage with their customers with all of the latest tech trends and innovations! From TV commercials to digital initiatives and in-store experiences, I love to see how brands differentiate from one another and the way with which the strategies differ depending on their target audience.

Reading advertising and marketing publications like this one is a favorite pastime as pundits comment on the strategy and success of what is working out in the market. It’s the season where brands test like crazy, because the stakes are so high, and that gives us a window into what will be on trend for marketing in 2015 and beyond. Even better is getting right into the numbers, and now we can do it ourselves much more easily. Though I am not currently managing B2C profits and loss for the season, being a data geek, I love keeping a pulse on the success of the season as it happens. So I thought I’d share some of the exciting insights from the U.S. online shopping transactions observed this past weekend (the weekend before the Christmas shopping season "officially" begins with Black Friday) – you’ll be interested to see the data behind the early start consumers, retailers, and marketers got on the season.

IBM's real-time analytics reported these online shopping trends during the weekend before Thanksgiving:

  • Online sales were up 18.7 percent over the same two-day period in 2013
  • Mobile traffic accounted for 48.8 percent of all online traffic, an increase of 24.4 percent year-over-year (YoY)
  • Mobile sales accounted for 26.6 percent of all online sales, an increase of 23.9 percent YoY

This early data clearly shows the continued growth of online shopping (in general) and a drastic increase in mobile traffic and sales, as many predicted. But let’s take a quick look at some highlights to understand the drivers behind these trends (full analysis available here).

  • Consumers Cash-In on Online Bargains: Average order value was $112.86, a decrease of 5.4 percent over the same period in 2013.Shoppers also purchased an average of 3.2 items per order. This trend may indicate that shoppers are becoming more comfortable and digitally savvy in how they use online coupons and rebates to secure the best bargains.
  • Smartphones Browse, Tablets Buy: Smartphones drove 31.8 percent of total online traffic, nearly double that of tablets, which accounted for 16.5 percent of all online traffic. However, tablets are winning the shopping war. Tablet sales accounted for 17.3 percent of online sales, nearly twice as much as smartphones, which accounted for 9.2 percent of total online sales.
  • The Desktop Is Not Dead: Even as mobile shopping continues to grow, many consumers chose a more traditional online experience. Desktop PC traffic represented 51.2 percent of all online traffic, and 73.4 percent of all online sales. Further, consumers spent more money on their desktops $123.29 than their mobile devices at $105.37, a difference of 17 percent.
  • Facebook vs. Pinterest: As marketers continue to rely on social channels to drive brand loyalty and sales, IBM analyzed trends across two leading sites, Facebook and Pinterest. Facebook referrals drove an average of $101.83 per order while Pinterest referrals averaged $103.87 per order. However, Facebook referrals converted sales at twice the rate of Pinterest.

This real-time data will allow marketers to fully analyze the success of their holiday campaigns as it occurs. Enjoy the data and the insight – it’s our gift to you. I hope it will be helpful to you as you drive your season to success, and hope that it will allow you to plan and optimize your time during this busy time of year so that you can enjoy extra time with your friends and family.

Happy Thanksgiving and best wishes for a fruitful holiday selling season!

For free access online shopping data live as it happens throughout the season, check out the IBM ExperienceOne Benchmark Live self-service data application and/or stay tuned to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark Hub for detailed analysis of the metrics for the biggest shopping days of the season.


DMNews November 2014 Magazine

Cover Story: Under 40 and Overly Ambitious • Best Practices: Marketing Accelerates Customer Engagement in its Drive for Loyalty • CMO Confidential: A Chat With Thomson Reuters CMO Toby Lee • NEXT: 8 Email Marketing Myths Debunked • Best Case: The Art of Loyalty Programs • Marketing Challenge: Perception Can Change a Brand's Reality • + more...

How Social Is Your Business, Anyway?

Published in ClickZ on October 29, 2014.

Evolving into a truly social business is a tricky task, and one that can take a while to accomplish. How does your brand stack up?

#IBMSocialStudy -- new research from the IBM Center for Applied Insights

I think we, especially as marketers, can all acknowledge that whether or not companies admit it, all businesses are already social. After all, customers post comments and reviews and employees are individuals with lives they share with their friends and families - including thoughts about their employers. In fact, there is even a coined phrase "dark social" to describe referrals that aren't trackable by Web analytics (here's a great real world use case of dark social in action). But for those businesses that have knowingly picked up the gauntlet, where are we on the path to real social engagement?

New IBM research has some interesting insight into this social adoption, including how companies themselves are defining what it means to be social. Three-quarters of the respondents in our latest study believe a social business is one that uses social technologies to foster collaboration among customers, employees, and partners - and we agree. So social is about helping people work together more effectively to make better business decisions. But this transformation isn't easy and organizations can't realize all of their social aspirations at once, as evidenced by the fact that only 20 percent of executives we surveyed say their own enterprises have attained the social interaction mentioned above.

"Hypotheses and assumptions abound, so we turned to science to help us determine what's really happening. Through cluster analysis of 19 different social capabilities that executives are currently implementing or planning to implement, we discovered that companies tend to deploy certain groups of capabilities together. These five distinct clusters of capabilities - or 'social ambitions,' as we've called them - reveal the particular goals enterprises are aiming to achieve as they become more authentically social.

Charting the Social Universe: Social Ambitions Drive Business Impact, IBM Center for Applied Insights, September 2014

It's a journey, and one that companies are tackling from different starting points based on their business needs and specific market conditions. Data showed that common (and logical) starting point for many organizations are to deploy capabilities around internal and external collaboration. Foundational social capabilities - like infusing social into basic business processes - still seems more difficult to attain, and is one of the least-deployed social ambitions.

So what are the five distinct social ambitions?

1. Drive Internal and External Collaboration


  • Increase employee productivity
  • Increase customer loyalty and advocacy


  • Collaborative applications
  • Enterprise social networks
  • Social media marketing

2. Build, Educate, and Protect the Workforce


  • Increase employee productivity
  • Optimize workforce talent


  • Security intelligence
  • Workforce training
  • Recruiting
  • Policy communication

3. Understand and Engage Customers


  • Increase customer loyalty and advocacy
  • Increase sales


  • Customer analytics
  • Customer support
  • Social CRM
  • Social analytics

4. Mine Community Expertise


  • Optimize workforce talent
  • Increase employee productivity


  • Onboarding
  • Locating experts
  • Crowdsourcing/Idea sourcing

5. Improve Business Processes


  • Reduce costs
  • Increase sales


  • Workforce analytics
  • Sales software
  • Supply chain
  • Business process management
  • Workforce performance

Evolving into a truly social business is new and uncharted territory, so we can all learn from the pioneering companies on the forefront of this journey. To learn more about what surveyed companies tracked as success metrics, lessons we can learn from their experiences, as well as a checklist of the four key considerations of strategy, implementation, involvement, and metrics that you'll want to apply as you chart your own course for social success, I invite you to see the details about the study and access the ungated research report.

IBM Social Business for Small-Medium Size Businesses and Enterprises

Video interview focused on "IBM Social Business for Small-Medium Size Businesses and Enterprises". In the video we discuss various business drivers and include a few of IBM's tools that can help any company looking to sell more products, increase customer retention, employee engagement, collaboration, and innovation.