Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
December 1, 2016 5:05 PM

The Life And (Working) Times Of Millennials

You can't flick a screen these days without reading something about Millennials and the workplace.

As a professional speaker, I get to see the types of topics that corporations are trying to tackle. You would be hard pressed to not see a conference or corporate event without some time allotted to Millennials, and how they're changing the face of work today. Who are they? What do they want? What do they believe in? Are they so different from adults of generations past? With that, this generation (and, by way of definition, most would agree that Millennials are people who are from the early-1980s as starting birth years and ending birth years ranging from the mid-1990s to early-2000s). It's a pretty broad timeframe, but that's what we're working with.

So, what makes them so different? It depends on who you ask.

Simon Sinek is a deep thinker and brilliant orator. Simon is the author of three best selling books, Start With Why, Leaders Eat Last, and his latest book, Together Is Better - A Little Book of Inspiration. His main fascination is how leaders and companies can make the greatest impact in the world. He looks for those with the capacity to inspire. Simon is also best known for popularizing the concept of "Why" with his first Ted Talk in 2009 (just his spoken words and a simple flip-chart). That talk (Simon Sinek - How great leaders inspire action) has become the third most watched talk of all time on It has close to 30 million views. With that, Sinek took part in Inside Quest, which is a great content marketing platform created by Quest Nutrition that features the company's Co-founder and President, Tom Bilyeu, as the host. In the clip below, Simon defines Millennials, their challenge and how it affects the work that we do today.

This is staggeringly smart stuff from Simon Sinek. Watch this: Simon Sinek on Millennials In The Workplace - Inside Quest.

So, are Millennials that much different or have the rules of our society and work changed that much?

Most business professionals will watch this clip, and think that Simon has his pulse on who Millennials are and what they're looking for. He does, but that was not my main takeaway. My main takeaway is this: this is not about how a certain generation was brought up, and what their expectations are. This is - one hundred percent - about how the rules of society and work have changed. It's about how the expectations of our society has shifted. How will public markets keep pushing on, when the workforce doesn't see revenue and pure wealth as the main reason to do something? Simon is most widely known for helping individuals and corporations to find their "Why"? After viewing this clip, it became abundantly clear that, perhaps, our society has yet to tackle this one question, and all of the complexities that it may imply.

Regardless of a new generation coming into the workplace, what is the "why" of our society today... and moving forward?

By Mitch Joel


November 30, 2016 4:20 PM

The Mobile Commerce Chicken And Egg Conundrum

This was a big week for shopping.

Unless you have been living under a rock in North America, we had both Black Friday and Cyber Monday take place this past week. Beyond the riot police and YouTube filming of customer stampedes, fisticuffs and people behaving badly, these two days act as a key indicator as to how the holiday shopping season is going to roll out. Obviously, this is even-more closely monitored, as it also provides a peek into the wealth of nations. Just how much people are spending is directly related to the overall economy and beyond. 

Well, we're spending... but how are we buying?

As a business professional, who gets up in front of large audiences to talk about consumers and their shifting buying habits, there is some data that points to a large opportunity, wrapped in one of the biggest consumer shifts in buying that our world has ever seen. Let's put this all into context. AdWeek published the news item, Cyber Monday Sales Totaled $3.45 Billion, Which Set a New Ecommerce Record Up 12% year-over-year. Adobe stated that $3.45 billion was spent online for Cyber Monday alone. This is a 12%+ year-over-year spike. Impressive. The same report from Adobe also stated that for the first 28 days in November, that four-week period showed closed to $40 billion in digital sales. In fact, only one day this month generated less than $1 billion in online revenue.

Billion is the new million.

It's true. We toss around the number "billion" like it's any other "million." These amounts are staggering. Period. Full stop. Still, this is not where it could be. The number could be a lot higher. For years, I've been on a "mobile-first" rant. In short: your mobile experience should be better than your desktop experience (think about Instagram, Snapchat, Tinder, Uber and beyond). It also means that your mobile experience should not be a less-than experience from your desktop. It's an area that brands are failing at. It's an area that is costing brands huge revenue. If brands are ever going to actualize their true market opportunity, the time has come (and, maybe, passed) to ensure that your mobile experience is not a watered-down version of your desktop website, or a responsive design without the usability and experience that mobile does provide. Your consumers are used to apps and smartphones and more. They're living it. Your brands are failing them.

The argument against mobile-first.

Too many brands believe that mobile traffic is not significant enough for them to make the full-on mobile-first leap. That, for some reason, their consumers are different. Their consumers don't follow the macro trends, growth, usage and penetration of smartphones. Hey, it's your head and your sand, if you ask me. MediaPost published the news item, Cyber Monday Breaks Records, Hits $3.4B in Online Revenues, that boasted similar numbers from the AdWeek piece. Still, the quote that we should all pay attention to is this one:

"Mobile drove 47% of visits to retail websites, about 38% came from smartphones and 9% from tablets. Smartphones also drove purchases with 22% share, compared with 9% from tablets. Conversions were well above holiday averages, with smartphones at 2.8%, tablets at 5.1% and desktops at 6.3%, compared to holiday averages of 1.3%, 2.9% and 3.2%, respectively... The average order value (AOV) on iOS smartphones came in at $141, which remained slightly higher compared with Android smartphones at $128."

TL;DR: Smartphones were used in one out of every three purchases. That's staggering.

Many would see this as a massive sign. Mobile continues to grow in marketshare. Mobile still has a long way to go, until it can catch-up and surpass desktop usage. That's not the sign it signals to me. Mobile is not being given a real chance to shine and prove its dominance. And that, dear brand people, falls directly on our shoulders. Yesterday, Research Brief published, Mobile Smartphone Shoppers Struggling With Navigation. Guess what? Mobile devices accounted for one-third of every sale on Cyber Monday, and according to a comScore report, they also accounted for 20% of the $84.3 billion in US digital commerce spending in Q3 2016. 

What's happening here?

e-commerce is shifting. Big time. It is moving from desktop to mobile devices, but brands are woefully unprepared. So, the numbers look worse. The numbers don't look as impressive. Why? According to the Research Brief article: 

"Mobile devices could be even more influential... if some user experience problems were taken care of. Recent research from Monetate indicates that only around half of e-commerce site visits come from mobile devices. Mobile's smaller share of actual sales is a result of lower conversion rates relative to desktop and smartphones, as mobile users struggle with navigation, difficulty with checkouts, and security concerns. These problems lead to lower shopping cart conversion rates, with just 1 in every 6 shopping carts on smartphones turning into orders, as opposed to 1 in 4 on desktops."

In short: brands must wake up and start removing all of this friction that their mobile experiences are providing.

From pinching to touching the wrong part of the page and from checkout process and product information, it's a struggle. Think about it this way: your consumers can hop over to Tinder and find someone to mate with in a fraction of the time that it takes them to add one of your products to a shopping cart and purchase it. Ugh. The data will tell you that mobile is not everything, so you should take your time with. The data will tell you that your consumers are mobile-first, but struggling with your mobile experience, so they're just not bothering. This makes no sense in our "customer at the center" experience world, that each and every CMO in the world leads off their brand presentations with. 

So, which comes first? Your amazing mobile experience or your belief that most of your consumers are not on mobile, because your analytics don't speak to how bad your mobile experience currently is?

By Mitch Joel


November 29, 2016 4:25 PM

Waze Does Display Advertising Right

There was a time when I thought all display advertising was "meh." 

I have reasons (and deep) rationale to think this way. Few were around selling banner ads when they first came out, like I did. I was on the front lines of the dot com boom, bust and echo. I was there when search engine marketing first became a thing. I was there when the IAB came online, and standards became part of the formalization and validation of this advertising channel. This was before search engine marketing became the online advertising juggernaut that it is. Back then display (known as banner advertising) was much bigger than search. Now, it's becoming abundantly clear: publishers can't get off of the drug of display advertising. Still, consumers are pushing back with ad blocking, and marketers need a place to park the massive ad spend from dollars that are shifting over to digital. From brands to media companies to publishers, I have spent the vast part of the past two decades selling, promoting and watching this form of online advertising evolve. From the initial promise of performance and analytics, to its current state of branding.

Most of the time, display advertising is an afterthought. 

As online advertising evolves, my feelings have changed as well (I trust that yours have as well). Display units have become a necessary but complex part of publishing, and have not adjusted to replace the dollars that publishers have lost in their other traditional business models. Candidly, I had accepted them for what they are. That is until I started using the mobile app and awesome navigation tool, Waze (which was acquired by Google for over $1 billion in 2013). 

Waze does display advertising right. 

Like most display advertising formats, I was initially frustrated by the interruptive nature of Waze's display advertising. After about ten minutes, I was in awe by how well done it is... and, more importantly, by how well done it will be, as it evolves and matures. Waze takes display advertising, and adds two components to it that make it so glorious. It's not only relevant and powerful, but perhaps one of the smartest applications of display advertising online that I have come across:

  1. It's only there when you're not moving. Waze is great. Waze is free. It amazes me, because of what the typical cost of navigation systems have been in the past, and also because of the high level of user-generated value that is layered on top of it. Road closings, accidents, where the cops are hanging out, and more... in real time. This is the type of app that I (and many others) would probably be willing to spend some serious dollars on. So, if the "cost" of usage Waze is advertising, I'm willing to power through it. There are tons of dubious ways that Waze could have deployed an ad platform (banners along the bottom, interruption interstitials as you tap in your coordinates, etc...). The first thing they do brilliantly, is that you only see an ad when your car is at a red light or stopped for a longer period of time. At first, it was still an interruption model, but as soon as I realized how the creative was being initiated (and how it gracefully departs when the vehicle moves), it felt like a really smart execution.
  2. It's hyper-local... or, at least, it can/should be. Almost all of the ads are relevant to where you are or what you're doing. Gas stations, fast food dining, local merchants and more. If there is a lack of local advertising, Waze adds in a major chain (think fast food, gas stations, etc...). So, the ads are (or can be) super relevant, super local and super useful. This part is not perfect, but you can see that it can be, from the advertiser's perspective (being able to target specific types of drivers in a range of distance from their business). Plus, it tells you how far that advertiser is from your current location, and wisely allows you to add them as a stop along your way.

What makes a great ad?

Relevant, timely, easy and valuable. Waze's advertising platform is not perfect. It's not always relevant and timely, but you can feel that this publisher has put a significant amount of effort into making the advertising experience valuable to the brand, and relevant with a hint of additional value to the user. Huge win in a world where most (including me) have become skeptical of display advertising efficacy and evolution.

You can't ask for more, when it comes to display advertising

By Mitch Joel


November 28, 2016 7:39 AM

Facebookers Are 2.5 Times More Likely To Read Fake News Plus More - The 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 broadcasting 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. 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 and Heather B. morning show. The segment is called, CTRL ALT Delete with Mitch Joel.

This week we discussed: 

  • Last week we had a deep discussion about fake news, and whether Facebook should be held accountable for the spreading of it. Well, here's some interesting data: It turns out that Facebookers are 2.5 times more likely to read fake news. Also, super-interesting, Millennials are least prone to do that sharing! 
  • Let's not get too excited about those millennials! According to another study this week, researchers were "shocked" by how many students failed to effectively evaluate the credibility of news items. The students displayed a "stunning and dismaying consistency" in their responses, the researchers wrote, getting fooled over and over. They weren't looking for high-level analysis of data but just a "reasonable bar" of, for instance, telling fake accounts from real ones, activist groups from neutral sources and ads from articles. More than 80 percent of middle schoolers believed that 'sponsored content' was a real news story. "Many assume that because young people are fluent in social media they are equally savvy about what they find there," the researchers wrote. "Our work shows the opposite." Ugh. 
  • What if you no longer needed Yelp and other recommendations for dinner, because real data lives in unique places? Well, Business Insider just published an article titled, The top 9 most popular restaurants in New York City, according to Uber. It got me thinking: Uber could have seriously interesting and divergent business models that we've never even thought of. Including the fact that it might become the best recommendation engine any of us could have ever imagined... without the need for anybody to review, rate or say anything.
  • App of the week: The Companion app.

Take a listen right here.

By Mitch Joel


November 27, 2016 6:43 AM

Finding What Fascinates With Julie Klam - This Week's Six Pixels Of Separation Podcast

Episode #542 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Mirum Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

Our team at Mirum has launched a interesting program for InterContinental Hotels & Resorts. It's a series that takes places across multiple InterContinental properties to tell stories that will get consumers excited about what travel brings into their lives (beyond visiting a different city or country). The first part of this program has been focused on the theme of "fascination." With that, our team connected with famed bestselling author, Julie Klam, at the InterContinental New York Barclay's Gin Parlour for a conversation about the power of fascination. Truthfully, I had nothing to do with this project, but jumped at the opportunity to have Julie on this show. I've been a fan of her work for a long time. Julie Klam interned at Late Night with David Letterman and went on to write for the likes of Rolling Stone, Harper's Bazaar, and The New York Times Magazine. She also worked on the VH1 television show Pop-Up Video, where she earned an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Special Class Writing. She's the author of many narrative non-fiction books like Friendkeeping, Love At First Bark, You Had Me At Woof and Please Excuse My Daughter. Her next book, The Stars In Our Eyes, will look at celebrities, memes and what makes us all so enraptured by those who have influence. So what makes us fascinated? Do we all have the same ability to capture attention like celebrities? Where do great stories come from? 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 #542.

By Mitch Joel


November 26, 2016 5:18 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #336

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 (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete... Read more

By Mitch Joel


November 25, 2016 6:59 AM

What Problems Are You Solving?

Disruption. Automation. Innovation. People are no longer terrified that their jobs are going to be shipped overseas. Oh, don't be fooled. There's still that. Now, technology is also threatening to have our jobs (yes, all of our jobs) become obsolete... Read more

By Mitch Joel


November 24, 2016 6:24 AM

Creativity Is Alive And Well

Don't worry, the robots and artificial intelligence-driven creatives will have a hard time doing this. The rock band OK Go make some of the most astonishing and creative music videos. In fact, I'd argue that they are much more than... Read more

By Mitch Joel


November 23, 2016 5:14 PM

The Thing About Disruption

How good is your brand when it comes to disruption? For my money, disruption is the current big bad wolf of business today. It's everywhere. B2B, B2B, small, medium and large enterprises. Everyone is feeling the huffing, puffing and heavy... Read more

By Mitch Joel


November 22, 201611:16 PM

We Are Not (That) Social Media

Social media was not supposed to act like traditional media. In fact, one could argue that everything we thought was possible about connectivity and social media could best be understood by reading the business book classic, The Cluetrain Manifesto. The... Read more

By Mitch Joel