Buzz, Hype, and Shiny Objects — Where to Focus Instead

By Ginger Conlon| 2.9.19

With all the hype in marketing, some topics get way too much attention, while other — in some cases, more important — topics languish because they're not as sexy or too hard to deal with or feel overwhelming. What topic or trend do you think is overhyped at the expense of a related, more important topic or trend? What is it, and why should marketers start focusing on it?

Contributors
 

Manny Medina, CEO, Outreach

AI and data are two areas that are overhyped. The pitch about predictive analytics is, “buy me and all will be revealed.” The reality is... More...

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Tod Loofbourrow, CEO, ViralGains

What’s overhyped are metrics that feed the ego versus metrics that matter, like business outcomes—which marketers need to pay more attention to. More...

Amit Dar, GM of US, Taptica

Instead of focusing on the problems that the last-click attribution gives us—including fraud—we're focusing on the revenue that last click generates on the other side. More...

 

Abbey Thomas, CMO, Tremor Video DSP

Data-driven marketing is overhyped. All these adtech and martech companies talk about the art of data-driven marketing. Everybody has data, but data is just a way to get closer to your audience. More...

 

Ray Kingman, CEO, Semcasting

Blockchain is clearly overhyped. It's a jackhammer going after a tack. The other area that fits in that category is artificial intelligence. More...

 

Joe Lazauskas, Head of Content Strategy, Contently, and author, The Storytelling Edge

One trend that's maybe not overhyped, but is prevalent, is this instinct to take a check-the-box approach to content marketing.

More...

 

Matthew Fanelli, SVP of Digital, MNI Targeted Media

The biggest topic we continue to hear a lot of chatter about is the collection and use of data from the perspective that it's freaky. It's creepy. More...

 

JP Hansen, CEO, Rouser

There are many things, like AI, augmented reality, and virtual reality, that people keep talking about. But too often innovation is detached from business context. More...

Allen Pogorzelski, VP of Marketing, Openprise

There’s an obsession with having the biggest possible marketing stack with the greatest number of shiny objects. If you go down that path, there are fundamental problems with that. More...

 

Carolyn Corda, CMO, Adara

Tens of millions have been invested in customer experience, and with good reason. But customer experience is overhyped and under-measured. More...

Dave Helmreich, Group VP, Oracle Marketing Cloud

The hype cycle is always interesting. I read an article several years ago from Fast Company that said social, mobile, and cloud are all overhyped and that marketing on social is passé. Now everyone is talking AI and saying it’s the area that’s overhyped. More...

 

Steve Durbin, Managing Director, Information Security Forum

 Since GDPR took effect, there’s been a lot of attention given to things like customers’ data access requests and how we collect and store information. What actually caused the biggest concern is the issue of customer outreach—understanding what is and isn’t acceptable in this new legislative environment. More...

Responses
 

Manny Medina, CEO, Outreach

AI and data are two areas that are overhyped. The pitch about predictive analytics is, “buy me and all will be revealed.” The reality is, predictive analytics tools are simply reading information back to you — for example, prioritization of what personas to go after — which your analysts can do for you. Instead, start with fundamentals; start with customers and a story, ask if the story is resonating with them, and then tweak the story accordingly.

What I wish had traction is having more of a beginner’s mindset. Let’s figure out what works by testing it, instead of, “I hear video is the shit, so let’s do it!”

Testing is especially important for understanding what works at different points in the funnel.

What gets a deal to accelerate or gets a particular customer to respond? Triggers and landing pages are table stakes. Today, marketers need to understand the full end-to-end customer journey—that is, what works along the entire sales and marketing funnel. This will help with attribution, as well as sales and marketing collaboration; tracking engagement together not just for prospects, but also for customers throughout their lifecycles.

 

You need to know what causes growth as much as what causes declines. Put on your scientist hat, so you can double down on what works and stop doing what doesn’t. Understand customers better to deliver a better experience. Back to Contributors list

Tod Loofbourrow, CEO, ViralGains

What’s overhyped are metrics that feed the ego versus metrics that matter, like business outcomes—which marketers need to pay more attention to. Most marketers measure themselves on things that are easy to get, as opposed to the things that actually matter. For instance, there are still lots of marketers who measure video success on CPM, clicks, and impressions — how many people did it scroll by for a second or two in a news feed or play when half of it was off the screen.

But, as a storytelling medium, video is all about engagement. So, marketers need to measure things such as engagement and behavior and attitude and action: How long did someone spend watching the video? What does someone value? What does someone believe about

 

your product and your brand? Are you seeing brand lift? Are they considering a purchase?

 

I could show you a wonderful video of my car driving fast on the highway, ask you at the end whether you care most about performance or styling, and you tell me performance; so, the next video you see might be about the engine. And the next might be about other performance features. In this approach you think about sequential messaging and customers journeys, then you measure the things that move the needle on that. That’s when you move away from vanity metrics that really don't have an impact.        Back to Contributors list

Amit Dar, General Manager, U.S., Taptica

Currently, in digital marketing—and specifically in mobile marketing—attribution is based on last click. Instead of focusing on the problems that the last-click attribution gives us—including fraud—we're focusing on the revenue that last click generates on the other side. So, there’s basically a race for the last click instead of a race to what's actually engaging and making a difference.

Marketers need to take into account the whole cycle of a user being engaged with a brand. Few people wake up in the morning and out of the blue decide to download an app or make a purchase. Usually, they've seen the brand somewhere, somebody told them about it, there is search optimization, there's a whole lot of back-end activity. Instead of taking all that into

 

account, the industry is focusing on last click. It’s time to focus on how last click is being reached.   Back to Contributors list

Abbey Thomas, CMO, Tremor Video DSP

 

Data-driven marketing is overhyped. All these adtech and martech companies talk about the art of data-driven marketing. Everybody has data, but data is just a way to get closer to your audience. Everybody is talking about data, but they’re not talking about the customer. Who is the audience profile behind the data? That's what really matters.

 

To me the antidote to too much data is creative. It's not just about reaching that right person; it's also about what you say to the person in the moment that really matters. Brands that love their customers, and that love insights, are going to think about what to say in that moment to make that connection and make that storytelling moment most opportunistic.

 

And the more that brands share their creative approach and their overall marketing strategy with their agency and media partners in their creative briefs, the more those partners can translate that into the brief that goes to publishers and into the recommendations that those partners serve up. It’s not just about a 30-second spot or a video asset; it’s about putting much more thought in what we're saying in that moment of truth with a customer.  Back to Contributors list

 

Ray Kingman, CEO, Semcasting

Blockchain is clearly overhyped. It's a jackhammer going after a tack. The other area that fits in that category is artificial intelligence.

AI, and to a certain degree, blockchain, only works with really big data—like medical data and studies of patients in the millions and clinical reactions to drug studies. Marketing isn't that big a problem; it's not that complicated. Machine learning has got more legs than true AI for marketing.


With machine learning, we have a technology that does predictive modeling based on algorithms. It's essentially taking all information available to you, comparing it to every other

possible variable…to find out what is more predictive. AI is overkill; machine learning works just fine.

Also, using correct references to AI and machine learning would be useful in marketing.

And then there’s blockchain, which is a little more obtuse than even is AI for people to understand. Understanding accounting, much less ledgers that don't compare cryptographically between each other, just blows most marketers’ minds. They're going to have to find a way to figure that one out. Right now, I don't know that blockchain makes much sense except for fraud detection in media.

What needs more attention is connected TV. It seems to just double quarter after quarter, and maybe that's just because we're dealing a lot with politics right now. We're at a point where convergence is starting to happen. Omnichannel is real, and I believe it’s being helped along by the at-home devices quite a lot. And then we have the cordless generation, which is coming into play in a more meaningful way. In parallel with that, attribution across media is something we're hearing about a lot more.

With all these changes, marketers and agencies should be looking for a way to connect the dots and find out actually what's working.  Back to Contributors list

Joe Lazauskas, Head of Content Strategy, Contently, and author, The Storytelling Edge

 

One trend that's maybe not overhyped, but is prevalent, is this instinct to take a check-the-box approach to content marketing—viewing content marketing as getting some stuff up on your blog, so you can say you're doing it, instead of having any real goals for your program.

The second thing that goes along with that is taking the lazy approach to content marketing—doing the pieces that are easy to do, that have been done before, that are pinned to social media, rather than the harder work of content strategy, which includes examining who your target audience is and understanding their needs, what they’re interested in, and what problems they're facing.
 

 

Marketers need to focus more on using content marketing to build stronger relationships with customers. That’s when it’s magical: when you’re using it to help them in some way…. Brands that do a great job of creating that type of helpful content for their target audience tend to be the ones who are most successful at content marketing.

Also, you can't measure ROI unless you start with an understanding of the KPIs that actually matter to you. You see a lot of marketers just going in afterward and trying to pull any metric out of Google Analytics that they can to show that their content marketing was a success. But then they won't have the ability to do better next time, to learn from their successes and failures.

Back to Contributors list

Matthew Fanelli, SVP of Digital, MNI Targeted Media

The biggest topic we continue to hear a lot of chatter about is the collection and use of data from the perspective that it's freaky. It's creepy. What are they tracking? What are they doing with it? Everything from the hype around GPDR to seeing the creator of Facebook in front of the Senate, to talking about how Russia used data to hack the election and sway the vote.

People are concerned because although they understand what's being collected, 90% of the time they don’t understand how it's actually being used and what the benefit is to them.


We have more choices than ever before. We have the lowest attention span ever. And we have more screens and more ways to access information. Without the use of data in a

 

powerful and positive way to break through all of that, to make the consumer's life and the path to purchase a little bit easier, we're lost.

Also, we've gotten so hung up big data. No one really understands the applications of it. It's not just about reaching the right person; it's about reaching the right person, in the right mindset, at the right time, in the right environment, to get them to complete a predetermined desired action.

The focus is on big data, GDPR, privacy. It's important, but what's really important is success. Actionable use of that data. Consumers saying, “Yes, take my information because you're going to make my life easier” as a focus. That's what it's all really about.  Back to Contributors list

JP Hansen, CEO, Rouser

 

There are many things, like AI, augmented reality, and virtual reality, that people keep talking about. But too often innovation is detached from business context. That’s often the problem with chasing shiny new things.

 

A lot of technology is based on what Silicon Valley thinks our problems are without knowing enough about how businesses work. For example, consumers can download a supermarket app that will help them go to the shelf where Heinz ketchup is. So, first they have to download it, then they walk around the store looking down at their phone. But the store owners want people to look around, that’s how supermarkets make their money.

 

AI doesn’t mean anything. It’s an aspirational goal. Same with disruption. You can make it to mean anything at all. Chasing AI is interesting, but it’s like chasing shadows. And in marketing, AI is really machine learning.

 

Technology, in general, is always going to be a means to an end. If you haven’t done strategy first, you. won’t reach heights with AI, or AR, or VR. If you determine that best way of reaching your objectives is AI, then, by all means, do it.

 

It’s a “tactified” marketing climate. Marketers are too tactics-focused; they’re not focused enough on strategy. But fundamentals are essential to get to results. Strategy, diagnostics using market research, setting objectives—those should lead you to tactics. Do strategy first.     Back to Contributors list

Allen Pogorzelski, VP of Marketing, Openprise

There’s an obsession with having the biggest possible marketing stack with the greatest number of shiny objects. If you go down that path, there are fundamental problems with that.

 

The first one, of course, is it implies you need to have one of everything and nobody has the budget for that or the time and resources to make it work. The other issue with this shiny object syndrome is the assumption that just by buying the product it suddenly works. What ends up happening is people spend all this money on all these shiny objects, then don't understand why they're not effective and dump them 12 months later.

The problem is not the shiny object, per se, but that the marketer buying it didn't really

 

think through the data it needs and the business processes needed to support it. The result is marketers doing “rationalization projects” because they don’t give the shiny objects the love and attention needed, and they never really cleaned up the data so they could take advantage of the functionality those products have.

Smart CMOs should know better, but are still buying products because they have a problem, yet not thinking about the root cause of the problem in the first place. Those problems aren't getting solved.

We see it with account scoring, lead scoring, lead routing, and attribution. And we're seeing it with data enrichment, where someone says, "I just need to buy some more data, and everything will be fixed."

I recommend that before marketers buy that shiny object, they take a hard look at what has to go into it, where the data is coming from, and whether or not it's going to be of the quality that they need. Stop buying stuff until you be sure that you've got everything you need to make it work.    Back to Contributors list

Carolyn Corda, CMO, Adara

Tens of millions have been invested in customer experience, and with good reason. But customer experience is overhyped and under-measured.

About a third of marketing budgets are going toward customer experience, according to Accenture. Yet a lot of the experiences aren't as personalized or as relevant as they need to be, and most of all, they're not measurable. You see lots of what you can easily say are positive outcomes from many customer experience initiatives, but they’re not as measurable because they're not transaction based.


What often happens is that we measure what we can versus what matters. It's challenging to

 

figure out how you’re going to measure customer experience and what metrics make sense.

Marketers need to understand which experiences for which segments drive the sort of outcomes they care about. What is the actual behavior data — such as how customers are spending — that indicate mind share and what customers really feel about the brand, versus what they might say in an NPS or satisfaction survey?

Don’t not do something you think is beneficial and, ultimately, is the right thing for customers just because you can't measure it. But there's an opportunity to be more rigorous, to be more disciplined. When we as marketers have the ability to determine, unequivocally, that a program performed well, we’re willing to put more investment in it.    Back to Contributors list

Dave Helmreich, Group VP, Oracle Marketing Cloud

 

The hype cycle is always interesting. I read an article several years ago from Fast Company that said social, mobile, and cloud are all overhyped and that marketing on social is passé. Now everyone is talking AI and saying it’s the area that’s overhyped.

 

One problem is that AI is not well understood. The concept that robots can create better than humans is fundamentally flawed. Yes, AI automates faster. But when it comes to “better, faster, cheaper,” the “better” element is always humans. What we as marketers cannot neglect with all this attention on AI is an intense focus on creativity. It engages us and builds lifetime relationship with brands.

 

Another issue is that AI is being presented as a solution to everyone’s problems: “I’m going to get an AI something and my world is going to get better.” That doesn’t work.  We should consider AI to be “assisted intelligence” and to be part of how solutions operate. Also, AI that lacks substantial data assets to test and learn will fail. Without the right data, AI will be a box that doesn’t perform.

 

That means CMOs need to spend more time on organizational design. They shouldn’t tolerate a structure that doesn’t support marketing and overall business success. There are far too many silos of acquisition and retention marketing. They don’t know what each other is doing; the data doesn’t flow across teams. That needs to change.

 

In a world where nearly 7,000 companies fill the martech landscape, CMOs have to have conviction to focus on their priorities and not get distracted by a technology just because it’s being hyped. Instead, they should focus on the new things that will drive their business.    Back to Contributors list

Steve Durbin, Managing Director, Information Security Forum

 

Since GDPR took effect, there’s been a lot of attention given to things like customers’ data access requests and how we collect and store information. What actually caused the biggest concern is the issue of customer outreach—understanding what is and isn’t acceptable in this new legislative environment.

The challenge is that nobody has the answer. From a marketing standpoint, that’s hugely frustrating, because you have to navigate your way to what is acceptable or not. The reality is that all of this is still open to interpretation.


Validating, from a marketing perspective, what you can and cannot do under GDPR is difficult.

 

It will get a little easier, but ultimately, it has changed the way in which marketers operate, and it's raised awareness, causing marketers to question what responsible marketing is all about.

Marketers have to bear in mind that if you're gathering customer information, you have a responsibility then to look after it. Actually, there is quite a big burden associated with that data. It should be about making sure you're collecting the right information, because you don't want to be storing more than you need to.

Increasingly, there is a valuable role for the marketer to play when it comes to data security. Security is a team sport. The CMO owns probably some of the most valuable data that the organization will ever come across: everything about customers that you need to be effective in terms of how you take your product to market. Because CMOs occupy that particular space, they need to step up and not only understand, but also help to determine how that information is going to be protected and where it's going to be stored, as well as how the company should be behaving from a cybersecurity standpoint.    Back to Contributors list

About the Author

Ginger Conlon, chief editor and marketing alchemist at MKTGinsight, catalyzes change in marketing organizations. She is a frequent speaker on marketing and customer experience, and serves in advisory or leadership roles for several industry organizations. Ginger was honored with a Silver Apple lifetime achievement award for her contributions to the marketing industry.

Find her at @customeralchemy and on LinkedIn.

 © 2019 MKTGinsight/DMCNY

 

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