Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
February 26, 2017 7:31 AM

The Social Organism With Oliver Luckett - This Week's Six Pixels Of Separation Podcast

Episode #555 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

When it comes to celebrity and athletes winning at social media, many point to Oliver Luckett. Oliver Luckett is a technology entrepreneur and currently CEO of ReviloPark, a global culture accelerator. He has served as Head of Innovation at the Walt Disney Company and co-founder of video sharing platform Revver. As CEO of theAudience, Luckett worked with clients such as Obama for America, Coachella, Pixar, and American Express. He has helped managed the digital personae of hundreds of celebrities and brands, including Star Wars, The Chainsmokers, Steve Aoki, and Toy Story 3. He recently co-authored the book, The Social Organism - A Radical Understanding Of Social Media To Transform Your Business And Life, with Michael J. Casey. Now, Oliver has left Hollywood behind as we chat from his new home in Reykjavik, Iceland. Enjoy the conversation...

You can grab the latest episode of Six Pixels of Separation here (or feel free to subscribe via iTunes): Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast #555.

By Mitch Joel


February 25, 2017 5:44 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #349

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (Solve for InterestingTilt the WindmillHBS; chair of StrataStartupfestPandemonio, and ResolveTO; Author of Lean Analytics and some other books), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist's Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person "must see".

Check out these six links that we're recommending to one another: 

  • Hollywood's Forgotten Gay Romance - BuzzFeed. "Since Will and Grace, Brokeback Mountain, and their ilk, Hollywood's portrayal of gender diversity in relationships has changed quite a bit. But this 1982 film was way before its time -- and despite its progressive message, the AIDS crisis quickly shut the door with even more stigma. 35 years later, this is an interesting look at what it took to make the film, for which one of the producers said, 'I want to make this movie so some kid in a small town in Missouri will know that he's not alone. And it's going to be OK.'" (Alistair for Hugh).
  • The Alien Style of Deep Learning Generative Design - Carlos E. Perez - Medium. "If you have a design conceived by a human, it must meet certain constraints: Weight; force; durability; cost; and so on. But that design is guided by patterns humans know, and by tools at our disposal. What happens when you feed those constraints into a machine and let it explore possibilities? Turns out, you get better designs that look like something HR Giger would have put on the set of Aliens." (Alistair for Mitch).
  • Hardcore History 48 - Prophets of Doom - Dan Carlin. "You get the feeling, with fake news and thousands of Albanian political Twitter bots/agents provocateur, and the implosion of the mainstream media (as reported in mainstream media), and info silos and Milos and alternative facts and that guy I'm not allowed to talk about in our link sharing, that perhaps, perhaps the info revolution of the web might create more societal chaos than (some of us) expected. We've been through this before: Gutenberg's printing press ushered in more craziness than me and my bookish friends like to talk about. Listen to Dan Carlin talk about one of the most insane periods in early post-Reformation history, and the strange case of the city of Munster, in 1534-35. (Note: the audio is ... long!)." (Hugh for Alistair).
  • Why Aren't Baby Boomers Eating Pho? - Jennifer Wright - Medium. "How many articles have you read about the mystery of millennials and why they don't [insert thing olds expect them to do]. But the big, unexamined question is: why don't boomers eat pho?" (Hugh for Mitch).
  • Sorry Y'All - Humanity's Nearing An Upgrade To Irrelevance - Wired. "We're about to enter The Matrix and - once we do this - what will be the point in humans? Don't laugh. Think about it. If all we're here for is to create, nurture and consume data this may not be the life that we had all thought we would be participating in, as we opened the Pandora's Box of technology. Yuval Noah Harari is a deep thinker about life, civilization and what we're really working towards. His new book, Homo Deus - A Brief History Of Tomorrow, is getting rave reviews. In this Wired interview, he talks about the future that we are creating and how useless we may all become." (Mitch for Alistair).
  • Life's Work: An Interview with Jerry Seinfeld - Harvard Business Review. "He's not just a comedian. He's not just the guy behind one of the most successful sitcoms of all time. Jerry Seinfeld is - without a doubt - one of the most creative humans beings in the world. He brings a serious work ethic to everything that he does. In this awesome Harvard Business Review interview, Seinfeld gives out gem and gem insights that are relevant to anybody who toils in creative work - which is all of us." (Mitch for Hugh).

Feel free to share these links and add your picks on Twitter, Facebook, in the comments below or wherever you play.

By Mitch Joel


February 24, 2017 4:57 PM

An Open Letter To Brands: Be Mobile-First. Now.

Dear Brand Leaders,

The time has come.

I've been patient. Your consumers have been patient. Enough is enough. The discrepancy between what I see when I engage with a brand "out in the wild" (meaning, when I shop, search and try to inform myself) verses what I see when brand leaders get up on stage to talk up the marvellous marketing initiatives that they are engaged with during an industry event, could not be further apart. In short, your mobile experience is lacking (at best) and pretty sucky (on average). 

"Don't worry! Most consumers don't use us on their mobile devices!"

Give it up. You can back these statements up with as much data and analytics as you like, but sticking to this based on your vanity metrics is putting you on the wrong side of history. I could have been shopping for a laptop case. I could have been shopping for a car. The results are always the same: if I really want to dig in and get the information that I need, I've had to switch over to my laptop. Always. Do you think the same could be said for your consumer's Instagram, Uber, Snapchat and Twitter experiences? What about Tinder?

Yes. Tinder. Think about it...

If your consumer can find someone to mate with by simply swiping right, how frustrated do you think they're going to be while trying to find out the information that they want about your brand and services - as they scroll, tap and pinch to find what they want? One tap and a car will show up at their front door and yet, your mobile car configurator is one big confusing mess. Claiming that your brand's experience is fully responsive isn't even tablestakes anymore. The fact that your consumers view mostly everything on a mobile device, doesn't mean that they engage with the brand with the same functionality that mobile engenders. This causes frustration. Across the board.

Mobile and brands have not reached the tipping point yet.

The data is not working in your favor. Just this week, eMarketer released updated estimates about US digital users. The results? More than eight in ten internet users will use a mobile phone to access the web regularly in 2017. What does this really mean? 

"...there will be just 17.9 million desktop/laptop-only internet users in the US this year, down from 20.3 million in 2016. And the number is expected to edge lower in the future... The number of mobile-only users is on the rise, totaling 40.7 million this year, up from 36.6 million in 2016... The number of these mobile-only users will see steady growth over the next few years, reaching 52.3 million in 2021."

Brands, you had one job. Brands, you have one job.

It's not too late. Make the move. Get aggressive. As we continue to question when was "the year of mobile"? We can all agree that the year of business mobile is right now - 2017. What more do you need to make this happen? How hard would it be for you to rethink what your brand means - not just in a digital world, but a mobile-first world? Your customers are - quite frankly - begging for it... and they're ready for it. Think about it this way: perhaps you are not feeling the impact as dramatically, because your mobile experience is so bad, that your consumers are not even bothering. So as you view your growing desktop usage, it could be fooling you into thinking that this is where the growth or current population truly lies. The truth is simply that you are letting consumers down where they want you the most.

We won't get fooled again.

It's not just one data source either. Here are some other key leading indicators that all brands need to focus on:

That's not all. You know that there is much more data on the subject. Just Google it.

So, what's it really going to take? Brands were so slow to adopt the Internet. Many are still trying to pull together a decent web experience. Many still grapple with ecommerce. Many have yet to embrace social media. Brands don't have to continue on this path. The opportunity is now.

Don't make the same mistake again. Please.


Mitch Joel... a loving and passionate marketing nerd.

By Mitch Joel


February 23, 2017 5:24 PM

What Humans Want Vs. The Chatbot Struggle

Do you think that chatbots are the future?

You cannot not throw a marketing professional down a flight of stairs these days without the word "chatbots!" tumbling out of their mouths. There is no doubt that building automated tools for brands that reside inside messaging apps is a key near-to-mid-term strategy for connecting to consumers. We are already seeing services like Uber reside in popular messaging apps in other parts of the world. We're also seeing a significant growth curve in both usage and adoption of messaging services. In short, people are messaging and sharing (chats, images, videos and links) in messaging apps - at scale - and this usage is taking over for time that was usually spent on email, surfing and other app usage. It's not just about chatbots as an engine of commerce. Many believe that the current advantage with chatbots is being able to provide a quicker and fully-automated customer service offering. 

So, how's that chatbot thing working out for you?

"There's a disconnect between stores and shoppers over tech. Maya Mikhailov, a co-founder of GPShopper, works on commerce tools for such stores as Crate & Barrel, Lane Bryant Inc., and Foot Locker Inc. She explained that, while retailers fawn over the latest glitzy gadget, hoping it'll catch on as the next big thing, people just want to buy stuff as quickly and easily as possible."

This is the crux of the BloombergTechnology article, Consumers Don't Want Amazon or Google to Help Them Shop, that was published the other day. So, while retailers, brands, agencies and the media talk about building better omnichannel experiences for customers, and while those conversations also lay into retailers for being so behind, when it comes to technology, it turns out that consumers want what they have always wanted from brands: Be brilliant. Be brief. Be gone. Simplicity, selection, value and trust. Chatbots seem like a perfect way for the brand experience to be augmented: fast, always-present, automated, etc... 

Not so fast.

According to recent reports, Facebook Chatbots have a 70% failure rate. So, while consumers are warming up to the idea of chatbots, they're only getting what they want 30% of the time. You can imagine the kind of brand experience this creates (hint: not good). With that, we have the challenge of companies like Facebook and Microsoft and many others (including agencies like ours) talking up the value, merits and opportunities of chatbots. On the other hand, we have a technology that may not be ready for primetime and precarious consumers who are eager to try out a chatbot, but will be quick to dump it and thrash talk when it doesn't work. Yes, the future of marketing will involve machine learning, artificial intelligence and chatbots. There is still a reality that must be faced: most of this tech is simply not ready from primetime. 

Maybe everybody is getting it wrong?

Could it be that the technology is primed and ready, but we're experiencing "human error" with this technology? Could it be that we just don't have the tech chops to wrassle this programming into a great customer experience? Whatever the excuses may be, the experience to date with chatbots seems to be less than impressive. Still, brands should not give up. We have seen data and reports like this before. It's classic for any nascent technology. It looks like people are having a bad experience, so it's painted with a dead-on-arrival headline (remember how Facebook was dying because the olds were starting to use it?). The same was said about the early days of websites, ecommerce sites, mobile adoption and on and on. Chatbots may be struggling with the technology and the adoption today, but they will become mainstream tomorrow. Consumers pushing back and saying that this technology is not, necessarily, the technology that they want is a non-starter argument. How many customers know what they really want when it comes to technology? Seriously. How many consumers knew they wanted a computer in the home? A laptop? A mobile device? The ability to check email on the go? The ability to type on a glass screen? Consumers stating - at this point - that they don't have a need for chatbots should not be the reason for brands to sit on the sidelines. Ever.

Chatbots may be struggling today, but chatbots will play a huge roll in business soon enough. Stay tuned. 

By Mitch Joel


February 22, 2017 4:36 PM

Will The Marketing Agency Of The Future Look Nothing Like The Agency Of Today?

Nearly twenty years ago, the agency of the future seemed very obvious.

We launched our digital marketing agency (then it was called Twist Image, now it's called Mirum) in 2000. We had a clear objective: we wanted to create the agency of the future today. Our mission seemed obvious (to us, at the time). We felt that technology had not permeated the marketing department. We knew that marketers were - candidly - afraid of technology. They did not understand the Internet. They did not grasp the power that these connections would create. At the same time, there was a power struggle taking place as the IT department did not want to relinquish control of these websites to marketing, and the marketers were tepid to take it on (they did not want the liability should there be issues relating to security, data, etc...). That power struggle endured for many years. Still, we believed that the agency of the future (back then) would be a digital-first agency. That has come to pass. Some might argue that the battle between marketing and IT still exists in many organizations. The reason may *seem* logical enough: the marketing department is (mostly) creative. Let them focus on the branding, messaging, communications, advertising, etc... and let IT handle the "heavy lifting" of the platforms, hosting, infrastructure and delivery of the digital communications. Arguments could be made on both sides. Still, digital as a primary channel to connect with consumers is true and continues to grow.

What if marketing... and marketing agencies... should no longer focus on just the creative output?

There is this ongoing (and vibrant) debate about the future of the agency. It may seem like a dire conversation for the more traditional agencies, but even those with "digital" in their descriptor are seeing some big shifts. First, when it comes to the online channels, consumers see loyalty in a whole new light (check out my article from yesterday: Consumer Trust Is Not What You Think It Is These Days). Second, brands have a much higher expectation for what their agencies should be delivering based on a myriad of developments from analytics to procurement to business transformation to c-suite demands and beyond. Third, simply being great at creative and/or strategy has become commoditized in our world. This doesn't downplay their critical importance, but saying that your marketing agency has the best creatives or the best strategists rings hollow, in a world where these talents are shifting from agency to brand side to consulting firms to platforms to publishers to competitors at a dizzying pace. There does not seem to be a lack of talent, skill and knowledge in the marketing industry these days.

What you offer today is not what brands are in dire need of. 

Forrester Consulting recently published a report titled, The Future Of Agencies, that was commissioned by Adobe. This is a two-part report. One focuses on customer experience and the second is focused on data-driven marketing. It's no surprise that these reports both bring to light the need for marketing agencies to build better strategic alliances with technology partners (the report was commissioned by Adobe, after all). With that, the messaging is both clear and scary. For a marketing agency to be successful in the future, it must make customer experience mapping and engagement, data-driven marketing and marketing technology core to their offering.

Agency's have one role: to make the brands that they represent as awesome as possible in the marketplace. 

This is not as simple as it seems. It's going to take more than a viral video or a strong email list to make this go. And, after reading through both of these reports, it's not unfathomable to say that the majority of marketing agencies are not only ill-equipped to deliver on these needs, but it would require a dramatic shift in staffing, positioning and their core business model. Yes... it's not so simple. 

Here's what the research says about what agencies capabilities must be:

  • Agencies can't just keep pace with marketing technology, this needs to be a core competency.
  • Agencies must have strong technology partnerships (with companies like Adobe, Marketo, Acquia, Salesforce, etc...) and layer on top of it innovative services. Brands will favour agency partners that have a true working and integrated relationship with the technology providers.
  • Agencies need to provide superior customer experience strategy, mapping and deliverables. Brands are shifting their marketing dollars from advertising to customer experience.
  • Agencies will need to bulk up on content marketing, web/mobile development and advertising technology not as stand-alone centers of excellence, but how these services integrate and deliver against real metrics and goals.
  • Agencies can't just position themselves as experts in this space, they will need to demonstrate how they build, nurture, capture and extend these experiences. This will be more important than telling brands that they are either a full-service agency or a specialist.
  • Agencies can't just talk and sell data. Analytics, personalization, testing and optimization are not just dreams of the future. The technology is here to do this - in a cost effective way - now. These tools drive new customers to brands and helps to retain the older ones.
  • Agencies need to get better (much better) at figuring out how to integrate the various agency partners' results. Someone must understand how all of these agencies and all of their datasets fit together. Right now, there are plenty of gaps, and this results in less than stellar results for the brand.
  • Agencies will not differentiate on strategy and creative. Don't shoot the messenger, this is what the report's key findings were. 

The agency of the future...

According to Forrester, the agency of the future will differentiate on data and technology. As the need for these technologies and services continues to rise, the agencies that succeed will be the ones who are truly "cross-channel data experts who create new sources of value for clients through strategic technology partnerships." Candidly, is this what you signed up for? Is this truly the future of successful marketing? Where does strategy and creativity fit in this business model? Are agencies merely going to be relegated to the world of being a VAR (Value-Added Reseller) like the consultants and developers of other business technology platforms? Does this even sound like what a marketing agency means to you? This should be both exciting and terrifying at the same time.

How does your agency stack up? Do you believe this to be the true future marketing agency business model? 

By Mitch Joel


February 21, 2017 3:52 PM

Consumer Trust Is Not What You Think It Is These Days

What is the number one reason that a customer is loyal to a brand? Some might think that it's all about price. If a customer can save a few dollars, they will jump that brand ship without thinking twice. Candidly,... Read more

By Mitch Joel


February 20, 201710:28 AM

Your Google Searches May Be Used Against You, Artificial Intelligence Gets Smarter And More On This Week's CTRL ALT Delete Segment On CHOM 97.7 FM

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio out of Montreal (home base). It's not a long segment - about 5 to 10 minutes every week - about everything that is happening... Read more

By Mitch Joel


February 19, 2017 6:53 AM

How To Be Happy, Awesome And Authentic With Neil Pasricha - This Week's Six Pixels Of Separation Podcast

Episode #554 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to. Sometimes, in life, you get lucky. You meet someone that you have always admired, and you become fast friends.... Read more

By Mitch Joel


February 18, 2017 5:44 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #348

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see? My friends: Alistair Croll (Solve for Interesting, Tilt the Windmill, HBS; chair of Strata, Startupfest, Pandemonio, and ResolveTO; Author of Lean Analytics and some other books), Hugh McGuire... Read more

By Mitch Joel


February 17, 2017 3:23 PM

The Data Is Watching You

Just how much data and analytics does a brand need? We can track everything online. How is that working out for you? I believe in the power of micro-transactions (a phrase that I either created after spending time with Google's... Read more

By Mitch Joel