Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
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, if you asked me what the number one reason might be for a customer's loyalty, I'd grapple between price and value. What would you say? This morning, eMarketer published the news item, Money Can't Buy Me Love: US Consumers Loyal to Brands They Trust. At first, I did a double take. How could a consumer say "trust" over "price" or "value"? A brand can't really earn trust until they have demonstrated fair pricing and good value, right? It all felt a little backwards. The piece went on to say...

"Consumers are loyal to brands that respect their privacy, and that demonstrate their trustworthiness by safeguarding customers' personal information... Consumers are also loyal to brands that respect their time. Roughly eight in 10 respondents said it's important that brands are there for them when needed, but otherwise want to be left alone and contacted only minimally."

Wait what?

According to this article (and a report conducted by Accenture) the number one factor that influences US Internet users' loyalty to brand is: "Being trustworthy with regard to safeguarding and respecting of my personal information." This answer scored 85%. To put this into perspective endorsements from influencers was the lowest at 23%, support and acting upon causes was 37%, personalization was 41% and gifts of thanks and acknowledgment was 69%. Price and value were not even a part of this list.

This means: A brand's online experience should not be the same as their offline experience? 

How a brand builds trust (as we have traditionally defined it) may either be shifting or it's completely different when it comes to the online world. Perhaps price is not as important online as knowing that the brand is protecting your data. Would you buy from Amazon if the price was more expensive than another online retailer that you had never heard of? This is not as outlandish as it might seem, at first blush. Think about all of the major brands that have been hacked over the past few years. I'm sure that a few of them immediately come to mind. Has that eroded your trust in them? For many, this is a truism. For many, shopping online is not the same as walking into a store. The results of this report prove that a customer online looks nothing like the customer that just walked into our stores.

Imagine if a corporation had brand values that looked like this:

  • We promise to protect your personal data at all costs.
  • We promise to not spam the hell out of you, even though you gave us explicit permission to stay connected.
  • We promise to be better to you, the longer that you stay with us.
  • We promise to always give you, our current customers, the better prices.
  • We promise to make each experience you have with us more personalized and relevant to your needs.
  • We promise to always keep you on the cutting edge with the most up-to-date products in the industry.
  • We promise to engage with you to design more relevant experiences for you.
  • We promise to leave you alone most of the time.

Some do this. Most do not.

Do brands truly understand the nuanced shifts in customer expectations, and can these brands become more and more digital-first by nature? What's more relevant is to look at the language and engagement that consumers expect in these digital channels (see the article above) verses their expectations when they deal with you in your "protein forms" (as I like to call it). A truly digital-first brand - it turns out - is really about the data. Not the data that you capture. Not the data of what your customer's do on your site. It's about the customer's data. Proove to the customer that brand loyalty is really about how much care you demonstrate in protecting their data - and using their information to create a more personalized experience (without spamming them at every corner to hit your sales numbers) - and you may have just unlocked a whole new way to wins friends and influence business outcomes.

Winning customer's trust feels like something very different these days. Would you agree?

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 in the world of technology and digital media. The good folks at CHOM 97.7 FM are posting these segments weekly on iHeart Radio, if you're interested in hearing more of me blathering away about what's going on in the digital world. I'm really excited about this opportunity, because this is the radio station that I grew up on listening to, and it really is a fun treat to be invited to the Mornings Rock with Terry DiMonte morning show. The segment is called, CTRL ALT Delete with Mitch Joel.

This week we discussed: 

Take a listen right here...

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. I've been with my talent bureau for over a decade (hey Speaker's Spotlight). Each year they have a holiday party for staff, speakers and friends. I always have the best of intentions to go, but I've never been. This past December, I finally went. While standing in the darkish and loud office space, Neil Pasricha came over and introduced himself. I've known about Neil for a long while. I knew him as the hugely popular #1 bestselling author of The Book Of Awesome and The Happiness Equation. I knew him as one of the most popular TED speakers in the world. I knew him, because he used to work at Walmart in their leadership development division (and Walmart was a client of Mirum). I knew him as a very popular speaker on the topic of happiness, authenticity and living a life with meaning. Still, we never had the chance to connect - one-on-one and in our protein forms. Until now. Neil is also known for his blog (that started this all) called, 1000 Awesome Things. Now, he's focused on The Institute For Global Happiness and recently gave a brand new (and awesome) TED Talk called, How do you maximize your tiny, short life? 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 #554.

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 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: 

  • Google Maps: Hyperlapse Around the World - IDEAndo. "I'm almost at the point where I take mapping for granted. I used to have a sense of direction, and print travel instructions. We've had Google Maps for less than 15 years, and today, everyone with a smartphone and a data plan has the kind of geographic intelligence past military commanders could only dream of. One Maps fan decided to celebrate, stitching together thousands of images from Google. The hard part was removing metadata and stabilizing images, as this PetaPixel post explains." (Alistair for Hugh).
  • Meeting Earth's most typical person - CBS Evening News. "In an era of tailored marketing and personalization, it turns out that you can learn a lot from averages. National Geographic analyzed the data on human population, and combined nearly 200,000 faces to make a portrait to accompany the person: 'He is Han Chinese so his ethnicity is Han. He is 28 years old. He is Christian. He speaks Mandarin. He does not have a car. He does not have a bank account.' And then--plot twist--CBS News went and found him." (Alistair for Mitch).
  • The Rise of the Like Economy - The Ringer. "How the little thumbs up has transformed the world." (Hugh for Alistair).
  • Enter Sandman - Iron Horse. "Does Mitch love metal? Hell yeah. Does Mitch love bluegrass? I doubt it. But, love it or hate it, you have to take your hat off to a bluegrass cover of a Metallica classic." (Hugh for Mitch).
  • Automation Will Make Us Rethink What a "Job" Really Is - Harvard Business Review. "What value will a 'job' hold if we do, in fact, see the rise of intelligent automation? Famed Futurist (and co-founder of Wired), Kevin Kelly, would call this an inevitable moment. I believe him. With that, our economy is going to change as machines become intelligent. They will learn by experience and improve (with leaps and bounds) over time. These are facts (whether you want to admit it or not). So, what are we all going to do? Don't think that 'being creative' is the answer, either because that too will become automated over time. So, what's a job for?" (Mitch for Alistair).
  • A Conversation With Brian Eno About Ambient Music - Pitchfork. "I think that I like the way Brian Eno talks about music and creativity more than I enjoy the music that he creates... and that's saying something (love his stuff!). He is so intellectual and creatively inspiring when he speaks about his work - or the type of music that inspires him. This is a great example of that. If you feel like you might obsess a little too much over the work that you're doing, take a reads of this..." (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 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


February 16, 2017 9:46 PM

Is The Chief Marketing Officer A Company's Weakest Link?

Marketing has become a much more important corporate function. There is no denying that. We live in a world where ad spending will reach close to $500 billion in 2017. Digital advertising had $17.6 billion in investment from US companies... Read more

By Mitch Joel


February 15, 2017 9:47 PM

Don't Throw Good Brand Money After Bad

This article could also be called, "who says you can't go home?" I was in Orlando this morning, presenting to the Retail Industry Leaders Association. I grabbed a coffee with an old friend, who is now running marketing for a major... Read more

By Mitch Joel


February 14, 2017 2:50 PM

It's Not Easy To Be A Loving Brand These Days

Be careful what you wish for. Never has a sentiment been so true like it is for brands these day. We have never lived in a more politically-driven and open-social environment at the same time. Brands should be spinning like... Read more

By Mitch Joel


February 13, 2017 8:55 AM

The Trouble With Twitter, Flying Uber Cars 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