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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

What is Viewability aka Viewable impressions?

At CES 2015, Google announced about rolling out viewability reporting capabilities across its ad platforms. The concept of viewability has been there since 2010 from early advocates such as RealVu and OnScroll. However it started picking up heat again when The Media Rating Council lifted an advisory, published few guidelines and advised that the industry can start using viewable impressions as a digital currency metric. Let's try to understand what viewability or viewable impressions represent and how it matters to an online marketer?

What is Viewability?

One of the most used metric in the digital world is impressions. Impression is when an ad is shown in the web page. It's similar to the impression metric used in the offline world. However an ad shown doesn't mean the visitor to the web page actually saw it. There could be multiple cases where the visitor is not actually viewing the ad - It could be that the ad is appearing down the page where the reader is not even scrolling down to; or it could be that the user opened multiple tabs and closed immediately. The concept of viewability is a shift from impression served to impression viewed.   The Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) consider a “viewable” impression as the one which is at least 50% visible for a minimum period of one second. When it comes to video viewability, the standard is at least half the video has to be on screen for a period of minimum two seconds. The Making Measurement Make Sense (3MS) group, founded by the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A’s), the Association of National Advertisers (ANA), and IAB is responsible for coming up with such standards and guidelines. Check out the latest guidelines produced by the Media Rating Council here.

Benefits of Viewability

View-able impressions take the digital measurement capability one step ahead. A marketer needs to pay only for those impressions which are actually viewed; thus giving her the opportunity to understand the real impact of ad spend. From a Brand Marketer's perspective, she will be able to understand the lift happening from viewable impressions and understand the elements that increase viewability. From the end customer's point of the view, websites will be more user friendly, and ads will be more relevant ones. Since the ad supply may get reduced, publishers will be forced to improve site designs and find creative ad spots. Premium content (read top slot of ET or The Hindu etc.) will attract more premium for the ad slots associated with those sections.

Challenges in adopting Viewability

First and foremost, it is expected that the amount of impressions that are not actually viewed is enormous. Thus an adoption of this metric without proper standards and authentic technology is a challenge. Secondly technical challenges involved to measure viewable impressions are enormous. Let's take one example - iFrames; cross domain iFrames used in ad delivery takes ads from a  different domain than publisher's site. This means we can't measure whether the impression is viewed. Possible adoption of viewability as a metric has resulted in publisher trying some new design features like  automatic scrolling, click-to-scroll and also more ad formats like takeovers, pop-ups, disruptive reading and so on. This could be countering the use experience. Wikipedia article on viewable impressions provides a good over view of how viewability can be implemented and its associated limitations.

Thus, while viewability is a right step in improving the digital performance measurement, we are still away from adopting it a full-fledged standard!

Friday, April 24, 2015

Personal Branding and Measurement

It's once again the time of personal branding! The concept of personal branding is not new. Way back in the late nineties, Tom Peters coined the concept of personal branding With the advent of a plethora of online channels available, it has become easier, relevant and at the same time tough to build a personal brand today. We know about hundreds of books that speaks about how to project oneself, how to come out as positive and brilliant while discussing with others and so on. Online world has made the concept of personal branding more accessible and important. Personal branding is focused on the value you add to a business (Call it the skills you possess if thinking from the career perspective; showcasing your talent has become easier than never! Today is the time when recruiters are increasing the focus on social media and online channels in their hunt). It is essentially following the same core branding principle - how are you different; what's the promise that you offer?

In brief, the principles you should keep in mind before considering to build your brand are - what do you have to offer, how comfortable or passionate are you about the area that you picked up and how consistent you are with your efforts? We don't have any shortage for the medium we can use to utilize as channels for branding ourselves; what actually matters are the passion and willingness to learn and share the learning. Three channels I recommend you be active in are
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • Blog
You may think blogging is not your cup of tea; no worries, new options like LinkedIn posts and event regular tweets are good to start and continue with. As I mentioned in my previous post on how to make your content fly; two key aspects of any content are relevance and share-ability. You can be in any of these channels - LinkedIn, twitter, social bookmarks and you name it - but what matters is how many followers you have, how many are reading and sharing your content; ultimately how many are looking forward to you as the subject matter expert?
As like these online channels, plenty of free tools are available to get a view of how well you are doing as a personal brand. Of course these are based on parameters a software/algorithm can read; so take all with a pinch of salt. I would recommend considering them in a relative sense than an absolute sense.For example, a klout score of 70 is good; but what is more important is how are you keeping up with the score over a period of a month, quarter or a year? Here are two tools that you may want to try out to understand better about your personal brand

Klout measures your influence across various social media channels like twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn and so on and rank Klout users accordingly. It gives a score which is a measure of your popularity. Depending on the channel, the criteria could be different for measurement (Example - for twitter, number of followers, re-tweets, favorites could be criteria; in case of LinkedIn, network coverage could be the criteria).

Similar to Klout, this tool is more focused on twitter.It provides with you an analysis of how many followers, history of follower-ship, re-tweets, mentions and so on. The beauty of this tool in my opinion is the demographics details it provides for you to fine tune your branding efforts.

Before you start your journey of building your personal brand, don't forget to read first the article written by Tom Peters on Personal Branding - The Brand Called You)

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Book Review : The Art of Social Media by Guy Kawasaki

I had the opportunity to get a copy, read and review the latest book by Guy Kawasaki titled The Art of Social Media. It is co-authored with Peg Fitzpatrick. A short yet practical book written for social media professionals!

The authors don't start with the usual gyaan on why social media is important, where it is going; what are the opportunities for a marketer and so on. The first chapter straightaway goes into the details of how you can make your profile pages in social media better. In essence, the authors opine that the profile page should be likeable, trustworthy and competent. One advice that I liked in this chapter is to have a mantra or tag line for yourself like the ones for companies (For example DIGISTRA: Digital marketing untangled).
The next section of the book concentrates on content. The authors tackle the content piece with two pillars - one on how generate content (not only yours; but utilize others' content) to keep your social media accounts active and the second pillar being how to create effective social media content. Guy Kawasaki provides a list of aggregators, scheduler and websites one can consider to populate the content. When it comes to the second pillar on how to make your content stellar, the authors provide these mantras -
  1. Make the content valuable to readers
  2. Make the content share-able, bold and interesting
  3. Make the content brief. Respect others' time
  4. Make the content visually appealing
  5. Make references while you write the content and be organized while sharing in social media
Later, the authors discuss about improving engagement - How to enable it using tools (like sharing buttons or joining networks), handling comments. A chapter is also dedicated to using social media in promoting events. But I felt most of the tactics discussed were commonly known ones. The last few chapters are dedicated to using platforms like Google Hangout and running twitter chats. A chapter is also dedicated to tips & tricks in using various social media platforms like LinkedIn to slideshare to twitter.

Overall a light and good read on time-tested best practices, tips & tricks in using social media in your digital marketing mix.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Framing effect and marketing communications

In the last blog post on heuristic biases in decision making, we discussed about representativeness heuristic. Today let's understand how we can make use of another such heuristics in our communications - Framing effect.
The ‘‘framing effect’’ is observed when the description of options in terms of gains (positive frame) rather than losses (negative frame) elicits systematically different choices (The framing effect and risky decisions: Examining cognitive functions with fMRI, Cleotilde Gonzalez, Jason Dana, Hideya Koshino, Marcel Just). Framing effect is one of the aspects that fundamentally question the ‘Rationality’ school of thought.

It proves that emotions can help play a role in decision-making when information is incomplete or too complex, to serve as at times critical rules of thumb . Once again we can see very interesting applications of framing effect in marketing, selling and organizational behavior. Few of the examples are
We prefer ‘The product is 95% fat free’ to ‘The product consists of 5% fat’
A take-away restaurant offers a free home delivery or a ten per cent discount if you pick up rather than No discount for picking up and suffer a ten per cent fee for delivery.
Another application of framing effect that I have seen is by managers in performance appraisal meetings or an entrepreneur pitching to an investor. Starting with a positive frame primes the audience to be more receptive to the presenter. Framing effects are also widely used in politics especially when it comes to creating buzzwords or sophisticated sounding terms. An example from wikipedia article -
Recent popularization of the term "escalation" to describe an increase in American troop-levels in Iraq. This implies that the United States has deliberately increased the scope of conflict in a provocative manner. It alsoimply that U.S. strategy entails a long-term military presence in Iraq,whereas "surge" framing implies a powerful but brief, transitory increase in intensity.
As part of an experiment, I asked three paired questions that are somewhat relevant in my day-to-day work. While writing marketing messages for our products, we take utmost care in the usage of words. Hence one of the questions I asked was to choose between Software automation reduces testing time by 5% and Software automation reduces testing time to 95%. We make use of this in most of our marketing collateral when writing about results or customer quotes. As expected majority of the respondents choose the second option (60%).
Some of the other questions in the survey and associated results are
Which sounds better?
90% of manufactured units meet quality requirements with the adoption of ISO 9000:2011 [95.7%]
10% of manufactured units don’t meet quality requirements despite the adoption of ISO 9000:2011 [4.3%]
Which sounds better?
Save 1 rupee in buying a mango [30.6%]
Save 12 rupees in buying a dozen of mangoes [69.4%]

Friday, April 17, 2015

Making use of heuristic biases in advertising & brand building

Have you heard about heuristic biases? These are essentially biases or traps that we often fall in to while making decisions. I believe Kahneman and Tversky coined these terms to represent the thumb rules we use. Read their 1974 article here. For today, let's understand one of them, representativeness heuristic and two practical applications; one in decision-making and other on how they can be utilized in marketing communications.

Before we start, keep in mind a  general questionnaire survey  showcasing some of the general scenarios in the day-to-day life of a Marketing Manager. Representativeness Heuristic is the fallacy wherein we determine the probability of an occurrence based on our learning from past experiences. It is based on the school of thought that we as normal human beings tend to categorize our lives. A simple example may be that we may think - if a person wears kurtha and white color attire, he must be a politician. Representativeness Heuristic finds many applications in marketing and advertising. A typical example used in marketing is the use of similar packaging by unknown brands or counterfeit products to mimic bestselling products. Few examples are provided in this Yahoo article (The 10 Most Counterfeited Products in America).

Let's now turn our discussion to a scenario we recently tested out. Often a content marketer need to decide between two vendors or channels of promotion for activities and resources she create. For B2C marketers  whose products are slightly techno-gadget oriented, the choices become complex since the audience rely on various channels when it comes to buying a gadget. For example, while buying a product like a premium android smartphone, a lady in the rich segment may rely on a magazine like Linux for You to keep abreast of changing technology whereas when it comes to the final decisionon buying the gadget; she may also rely on Fashion Indie. The protagonist in the scenario is a Marketing Manager trying to understand a promotion analysis report to decide the marketing channel. The scenario and questions are provided here. Though the scenario was given in an incomplete format, the theory behind represntativeness heuristic was clearly evident in  the responses we received. As per the scenario provided, 90% of the potential customers read IEEE journal and 10% read Fashion-Mag. Seven sample descriptions of various potential customers were given. Respondents were asked to identify which magazine each of the seven would be reading in their opinion. If we have to go by the population data, most of them should ideally identify them as reading IEEE magazine since the scenario states 90% of the potential customers read IEEE journal. However the survey results show that 56.7% of the respondents choose Fashion-Mag and 42.3% chose IEEE Journal.

You may ask what does this have to do in marketing & communications? As you may have thought, representativeness heuristic is an underlying concept in consumer behavior and how one make purchases. Packaging, and advertising themes having positive associations in a consumer's mind has a better chance of conversion. One of the success factors of Apple products is the association of Apple with high quality and brand. Similarly a product which had a high impact advertising theme will be more successful than a rival whose advertising theme was mediocre. In other words, a company having a positive brand association stand a better chance in being successful.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sensory Marketing - A new opening for advertisers!

In the March 2015 issue of Harvard Business Review, there was an article on sensory marketing (The Science of Sensory Marketing). Though discussed briefly during Marketing classes at IIM, this article made me to think and research a little bit about this topic. Sensory marketing is nothing but making use of five sense creatively to attract consumers for building awareness and making purchases. We  know very well that traditional advertising involving videos make use of visuals as a sense. Similarly radio advertisements use jingles to tap on the hearing sense. Sensory marketing as a domain focuses more on how the product itself can make use of other senses to build acceptance and loyalty.

The concept of sensory marketing aka sensory branding is not new. It has been there for decades. Let's take Lays as an example. Starting from how the name is written in packaging to the touch and feel you get while taking a slice in your hand can be considered well though-out effect of sensory branding. Similar is the example of a themed restaurant. The ambiance along with a perfume the restaurant uses, gives a special feel and attractiveness. Another interesting example provided in the above HBR article is about Dunkin' Donut which used an atomizer to release a coffee aroma whenever its advertising jingle is played in municipal buses. Aradhana Krishna, a professor at University of Michigan is considered to be an expert in sensory marketing provides some more examples and concepts of here. If you have been watching National Geographic's Crowd Control program, Daniel Pink talks about many examples which drives our decisions are controlled especially by making use of touch & feel as a sensation.
Let's take another example - Volkswagen. Volkswagen Sweden created a buzz at a subway for advertising its BlueMotion technologies by converting the steps into a piano! The brand didn't stop there. It created a website - The Fun Theory with many such examples showcases how we can change behaviors.

Research studies have shown that non conscious subtle stimuli can be more powerful than what traditional advertising provides. These techniques may not be perceived by customers as advertising. And since  an experience is created, the brands using these techniques get into consumer's consideration set and also recall is better.

Advent of technology and digital provides marketers more such opportunities to reach consumers with sensory elements. Advertisers are experimenting how to make ad viewing more fun. For example - you may visit a blog talking about cars. A car ad could be shown which produces the sound of a car racing. Another example , once again from Volkswagen in The Times Of India - readers heard an audio advertisement when they unfolded the newspaper! Let's take mobile advertising space; it provides immense opportunities limited only by creativity to try something - How about showing a discount ad every time you win a game; how about you use the gyroscope to make the ad viewing an experience?

What do you think about sensory marketing…?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Five years of existence

I started blogging may be 8 years ago. Since then have tried multiple platforms including blogger, wordpress, and tumblr. Among them, this five year old blog has been the most read one in my list. Last year, started out a new one to write about digital marketing. Due to time constraints and other priorities, I am consolidating it to just this blog. The next few posts will be copying from Digistra. I hope to be regular in blogging here this year. I plan to continue writing about marketing, business and in general. Hope you will continue to enjoy reading and find something useful from here. As usual let me know your valuable feedback and comments!