Digital storytelling with a focus on visual content marketing, photography, and events. Serving the technology, nonprofit, and education sectors.
Author: Geoff Livingston
A digital marketing pioneer and social fundraiser, Geoff has helped brands and nonprofits raise more than $225 million online. As a marketer, Geoff has advised more than 10 members of the Fortune 500, including AT&T, Cox, eBay, Ford, General Dynamics, Google, PayPal, Pepsi Co., Procter and Gamble, SAIC, Verizon and Yum! Brands. He has also advised nonprofits, including United Way of America, Live Earth, The Case Foundation, Razoo, Environmental Defense Fund, and the Philanthropy 2.0 Project. He most recently launched the Legends of Learning brand.
Geoff helped the first and second Give Local America events in 2014 and 2015, which raised more than $120 million for nonprofits. He has also built a Kickstarter that funded Meyer-Optik's Trioplan 50 lenses with more than $660,000.
Geoff started and sold social media boutique Livingston Communications (2009). He was won awards from the Society of New Communications Research, the American Marketing Association, the International Association of Business Communicators, and an Axiom Award.
The podcast unravels the way marketers tell stories and how it impacts society. The three of us take a deep look in the mirror and discuss the truth about how marketers tell stories.
Jay pulls no punches as he dives deep into the content marketing strategies we’ve been deploying since the beginning of advertising. We review the different versions of the hero’s journey and then reflect on how marketers can create stories that inspire and empower humanity.
Sometimes when talking about potential jobs and projects, I feel a sense of discriminatory ageism about my digital experience. Perhaps it’s the gray beard or that I am not as enthused about Fortnite coming to my Nintendo Switch as the rest of America.
Because I am a Gen Xer and not a hipster Millennial (whatever that is), when I do run into conversations with younger peers — and frankly older executives who assume you need to be in your 20s or early 30s to understand digital — age comes up more often then you’d you think.
Here’s a fictional comedic attempt combining many of the dialogue points I have heard over the past two months.
“So, you were early, one of the digital marketing pioneers. What was your first experience?” asks decision maker X.
“Oh, I hand coded EIA — the Electronics Industry Association’s — first website back in ’95.”
“Seriously? I haven’t heard of EIA.”
“They broke up and became the Telecommunications Industry Association, and the Consumer Technology Association, you know they run CES? That was my first trade show experience.”
“Wow! That must have been crazy! Hey [Grandpa], tell me about MySpace.”
“Well I marketed Sully Erna’s book on MySpace and sold 2,000 copies the first day. He’s the lead singer of Godsmack. But personally, I wasn’t on it, it struck me as pretty cheesy.
“My first social network was really blogging, then when Twitter and Facebook broke in the mid 2000s, I was one of the first power users. I am not on Twitter anymore, though. Deleted my 20,000 person account.”
“What? Why did you do that?”
“It’s a great place to be if you are a brand doing customer service, or a public celebrity or politician opining. Not being one of those, I can do without the troll kingdom and bots. Don’t get me wrong, the last brand I maintained was very active on Twitter, but I see little personal value.”
“So tell me about today’s digital strategy environment? I mean with digital advertising media and Hubspot.”
“Well, we are definitely in an era of data and analytics, which makes it a very exciting time for companies who want to invest in marketing that directly impacts their customers. Automation — Hubspot, Marketo or Pardot for example — is just one type of marketing technology that can empower precision communications. When I implemented Pardot…”
Combating Digital Ageism
It’s always a good conversation, yet potential employers or agencies hem and haw. You would think historical experience is an asset in digital, but many just believe your time has passed. Or dismiss you as overqualified (translation: too expensive) to handle the project they had in mind. Or because of your experience and age, you don’t fit their digital marketing unicorn image.
The question is how to combat ageism. Here are a few suggestions.
1) Training and Certification
Dismissing someone’s skills in today’s marketing world can be easy, even if you know the technology or medium well. That’s where training and certification can come in handy.
Becoming certified in a specific technology eliminates the questions. It’s just assumed you understand the marketing technology. Currently, I am embarking on Google Analytics certification, a crucial aspect of understanding today’s data environment for most brands.
Once I got past bubbling 20 somethings explaining to me on video how a blog works, I understood Hubspot within the context of general automation principles learned using Pardot. The strengths and weaknesses of both programs became evident, and as a result I am better able to have a conversation about marketing automation.
2) Dress the Part
Another way to demonstrate that technology hasn’t passed you by is to dress the part. Not only in your clothes. Don’t wear a shirt and tie when your colleagues are going to show up in a t-shirt and $200 designer jeans. That doesn’t mean look like a slob, but dressing casual — e.g. sport shirt, jeans and cool shoes for me — conveys “not antiquated.”
Dressing the part also means using relevant technology. That includes putting away that beat up iPhone 6 and carrying a modern device (Google Pixel 2 XL for the win), and perhaps a smart watch, too.
Use digital media, too. While no longer on Twitter, I am super active on Instagram, 500 px, LinkedIn, Facebook, and other social networks. I also podcast, and yes, still write a marketing article or two every month.
If someone really wants to look, they will see an active professional working in current media. Communicating with others via those media forms helps convey that indeed, I still get digital.
Marketers that know how technologies change quickly, and are media agnostic — e.g. able to shift as audience preferences change — can better guide companies through volatile evolutions. Consider how many brands were impacted this year by the collapse of SnapChat’s popularity, and Facebook;s self-inflicted data marketing wounds.
Even better, how many are shifting to experiment with Reddit given its corresponding surge in popularity? Successful experiences year after year in digital are the hallmark of a leader that can evolve as technology changes.
Also, be ready to discuss new trends like blockchain and AI and how they may impact a company or organization’s business in the future. It’s one thing to check the boxes, it’s another to navigate a company towards ongoing technology relevance.
What are your thoughts or experiences with digital ageism?
Chris blew our minds by revealing why GDPR applies to every business in the world within the first 10 minutes and then continued to open our eyes to what is really happening with consumer data. We review the facts, the truth and then reflect on how marketers can move forward in a time when we need data the most and consumer trust in how we’ll handle it is at an all time low.
Eight months ago I did the unthinkable: I deleted my 20,000 person Twitter account.
Removing a presence that portrays influence and commands respect amongst many in the marketing world may be the equivalent of social media suicide. But it wasn’t.
While perception may suffer, the real life impact has been negligible.
On a personal basis, I don’t miss Twitter at all.
The Land of Trolls and Bots
Visit Twitter and you find a place dominated by angst, a dystopian social media nightmare filled with trolls, bots, and social media marketers spewing links. The level of vitriol, hate, and general nastiness, fueled by the ongoing toxic political environment made Twitter an unenjoyable experience.
Personal network engagement was fractional compared to other social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. There was little personal value.
Don’t get me wrong. The brand I represented at the time maintained a healthy Twitter presence for customer relations and to reap the benefits of community engagement, Twitter search, and any Google and Bing SEO benefits.
At the time, I was in-house and not promoting a business. So I had little need for those benefits. It seemed natural to pull the plug.
At the same time I am looking for opportunity again, creating content and marketing myself. Will I return to Twitter and reap the same benefits many brands do?
The real value of social networking for the individual consultantorthe photographerremains peer connectivity. LinkedIn, Instagram, and to a lesser extent a post Cambridge Analytica Facebook deliver higher volumes of authentic engagement with my networks.
Many personal conversations include reference posts I made on LinkedIn or Instagram. That’s how word of mouth works, and that’s the way it used to be on Twitter. Plus there are other ways tomake yourself findable in Googlethese days.
Why invest in something unenjoyable with less yield? No, the solopreneur needs to value their time.
I don’t miss Twitter, personally or professionally.
Data drives almost every decision made in today’s marketing department, in large part because of improvements in yield. As every marketer adapts data-based precision marketing, you can foresee an inevitable ceiling to quantitative marketing.
According to Forbes, 66% of marketing data is used to better focus on targeting offers, messages, and content. That trend will only increase. In 2018, you cannot possibly take on any significant marketing job or project without embracing marketing data and analytics.
With data, marketers create stronger CTAs in more precise channels to deliver higher desired yield. Today, the danger for marketing is letting data-based intelligence become the only voice driving content. Qualitative data and creative are dismissed, at best relegated to a multi-variant test.
What do you get when every marketer in the world uses data to determine who, when and what they communicate? An endless stream of precise spam. That uniform spamming across channels produces a results ceiling.
“You can get the right eyeballs in the right time, the right format, and if you put something crappy there,” it’s all for naught, said Daniel Slotwiner, director of advertising research at Facebook (via Contently).
What the Ceiling Looks Like
Sooner or later, the better performing spamming organization — err marketing organization — will run into a competitive marketplace that provides growth challenges. When the only thing driving marketing and brand is data — while precise — that marketing organization will lose ground to savvier competitors. Those competitors use the same or better data to inform emotionally intelligent brand creative that inspires customers.
Spammy marketers always lose to stronger brands that invest in customer-driven product insights, creative, and content.
To see this play out in real time, look at the auto insurance market. If you think State Farm, GEICO, and Progressive aren’t operating off the same marketing data points, you are sorely mistaken. There a differences, but you can bet the differences are minute.
So why are these three the only auto insurance providers with double digit market share? Is it really because their competitors don’t have marketing automation, data centric approaches to customer marketing, etc.? For example, All State certainly has access to extensive marketing data tools.
It comes down to understanding what compels customers. And the better, more relevant the product’s value proposition, creative content and communications are, the bigger the advantage.
In spite of GEICO’s still often funny ads, the brand sits at number two these days. One can argue that State Farm’s new simplified direct buying process, recent modern creative advertising, and ongoing agent-based distribution channels have simply made it more relevant. As the ad says, you can feel the connection.
Data-based marketing is not a panacea, and has its issues. There is a data glut, and the ongoing uncertainty about which data sets matter most. That in turn produces missteps.
When you dive into the inevitable navel gazing amongst the data marketing influencer set, their answer for marketing data’s weaknesses remains extending networks for more data, such as social networks or CRM. Or even better, identifying the quality data that matters.
Yes. All true.
Data and social analytics provides the compass towards the customer’s specific needs. They can tell you what keywords may work best, when to deliver your messages, and how. Data cannot deliver intangible emotional intelligence or creative brilliance, though.
Therein lies the problem. While the very best most precise data can tell you where to go, it cannot craft the ultimate strategy and campaign content needed to succeed. Perhaps AI and automation can deliver said content, but these tools still need the logic. In essence they cannot drive.
Testing and Artificial Intelligence
Right about now, you will hear data marketers argue they can test creative and content messages, finding the right communication. On this we can agree.
Let’s not pretend that the data revolution provided a new revolutionary way to think about creative: Testing. Smart brands have invested in testing creative for decades. Data has simply made testing cheaper and more accessible to small brands. In the data era, surveys and focus groups are often replaced with live A/B and multi-variant tests of content across small sample sizes.
What the data marketer needs to understand is value. Until you invest in quality content and creative, you will only get stock creative value and crowdsourced level results. You get what you pay for. Since most data-centric organizations are bottom line focused, they will only invest in creative and communications when the larger market forces their hand.
A more interesting argument revolves around artificial intelligence (AI). An algorithm that learns based on performance will provide better and stronger communications to customers.
Will marketing AI replace strategy, creative communications, and content? Unlikely. Perhaps at a base level, much like how simple sports stories are written by algorithms. Instead, AI will replace much of the data analyst’s responsibilities, providing a much more precise view of which data points are compelling customers.
Whatever marketing AI’s impact will be, it’s not ready yet. Is search better because of AI? Yes. Do you still need to enter queries multiple times in different ways to find what you are looking for? Yes.
Human Insight and Spirit is Missing
Today, we value the measurable over the immeasurable. Data fixation as the primary method for determining marketing direction has dismissed the intangible emotional intelligence necessary to compel customers.
The truly successful marketing brand will use data to fuel incredible campaigns that leave its lesser sister brands in the rearview mirror. In addition to supporting the general thesis of this post, the above TEDx chat from Tricia Wang has a fantastic case study about leveraging qualitative data to dominate a market.
Netflix ignored quantitative data about its service in favor of a qualitative data set. The qualitative data showed that people enjoyed bing watching content series for hours on end. The rest, well, that’s history. Today, Netflix has more online video customers than Amazon, Hulu or any traditional Hollywood media brand.
Imagine that. A Silicon Valley data centric company using qualitative human intelligence to dominate a market.