Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
August 1, 2014 4:21 PM

The Distortion Of Sound

We have everything that we need at our fingertips. Is that a good thing?

Need an article on something? There's a site for that. Need a video tutorial on any topic in the world? These a YouTube channel for that. It's hard to imagine how we did anything before the Internet came along. People are consumed with culture in a way that we have never seen. Watching movies, watching television, listening to music, reading a book... whatever your heart's desire is a mere swipe of the finger away. The question (and it gets raised time and time again) is this: how much quality do we have access to in a world of quantity? Most of the music we discover now happens on YouTube, but just how good is the quality of this music. Whether it's a MP3 or a YouTube video, the music is heavily compressed to make is as accessible as possible. Does anybody care? Is it just musicians and purist who really notice the nuances between something that was created in a studio instead something compressed down to a MP3 file and pushed out through mediocre earbuds? Well, it turns out that musicians are really feeling the sting, and that consumers are suffering because they're not getting the full spectrum and audio experience that the music was created for. A wonderful mini-documentary titled, The Distortion of Sound, was recently published online, and it examines the massive decline of sound quality and how technology has dramatically changed the way we listen to music.

Do you simply want more music or a richer music experience? Please watch: The Distortion of Sound...

By Mitch Joel


July 31, 201411:25 PM

The 7 Deadly Sins Of Digital Marketing In 2014

Have we solved the most basic of questions for our digital marketing efforts?

I would argue that the vast majority of brands engaged in digital marketing have left the fundamentals behind them. These brands and are, at mass scale, following/chasing the bright and shiny objects of the day. The problem is that if you don't have the fundamentals down, there will be little chance of experiencing any form of success if all you're pursuing is what's popular now. You can pick a brand (any brand) and benchmark them against these 7 deadly sins of digital marketing in 2014, and you will see where the real gaps truly lie.

Here are the 7 deadly sins of digital marketing in 2014.

  1. Website is not responsive. If your website is not responsive to the myriad of screens and platforms that consumers are now commonly using, how can any brand be mad at marketing initiatives that don't convert? If the consumer needs to pinch, move, expand, or rotate your website, you are ensuring that they will have an brand experience filled with friction. Brands don't like to hear this, so they are ignoring the fact that the destination for all of their marketing and impressions is failing at the point of conversion, simply because the website experience is unusable for most consumers.
  2. A lack of mobile. The statistics don't lie. We live in the one screen worlds. Screens are everywhere, they are connected and they are highly mobile. The consumer does not care that a mobile experience may be a costly investment. They also don't care that you have an eighteen month IT roadmap that doesn't allow you do to much. They're simply having a bad experience. When brands talk about the true omni-channel, they fail to realize just how poorly they're performing in a mobile world, where the vast majority of users are connecting through smartphones and tablets. A mobile site that simply is a lesser version of a website is not the right solution. We live in a world where consumers have a digital first posture, and it's primarily taking place on mobile devices.
  3. Not being powerful in SEO and SEM. This isn't the sexy stuff, but it is the fundamentals. Think about it this way: in one hour, how many people go to Google (or any other search engine) to look for you, your competitor or they're searching for a brand to help them, and it's your business that does provide this solution? These searches are leads. These are primed leads. These are people who are raising their hands and saying, "I'm either looking for you or for somebody who does what you do." So many brands are still focused on impressions and branding in the digital world, but they are not thinking enough about how their properties are optimized for both organic search and paid search.
  4. Not capturing emails. If you want to talk about regrets in digital marketing, this is - without a doubt - my biggest regret. For over a decade, I have blogged and created a weekly podcast. In all of those years (and even as I type this), I have never bothered to build a database, to collect emails and to better understand my community. So many companies collect email addresses and (basically) spam everyone the same way. If you're not capturing emails, you really should be (do as I say, not as I do) and, if you're not, start thinking about what it would take to make that happen. If you are emailing your customers, how personalized and customized is the experience?
  5. Display advertising leads to nothing. The advertising spend on display advertising is still a monster. Still many brands don't drive the advertising to a specific landing page. Many brands don't leverage the power of multivariate testing. Many brands don't optimize, iterate and change course based on performance in real time. Ultimately, most brands see display advertising in the same construct as their TV advertising (plan it, set it, forget it... then hope it did something). Don't be that brand.
  6. Not truly using and understanding analytics. There are people who are much smarter than me on the topic of web analytics (I'm looking at Avinash Kaushik right now). Most brands are not measuring or leveraging the right analytics. We look at vanity metrics like users, clicks and whatever else. We don't use analytics to drive better insights and performance. This doesn't mean that we should ditch our current metrics, but brands have a tremendous opportunity to think about a true digital sales funnel. The new opportunity is in understanding how to develop micro conversions, while using your analytics to better understand the landscape and conversion points. When you understand the true opportunity of analytics, the sun will start to shine on your brand.
  7. Thinking that social media is the same as direct response. It's not. Social media is an amazing place to connect, inform, build community, deliver superior customer service, to speak to consumers in a human voice and much more. Sadly, the time I spend in most corporate boardrooms revolves around strategies to suddenly monetize the audience. There's nothing wrong with thinking about how to get fans, followers and likes to convert into sales, but it's should not be the primary/only directive. Social media is not about making something go viral (though, that's an awesome outcome). Social media is an opportunity for every brand to connect, share and create in the curation and publishing of both original content and third-party relevant content to build consumers into a state of influencers. To create moments of engagement with a consumer. Social media should be about getting consumers to actually care about a brand. That should be job one.

There are others.

It's true. There are many more "sins" that brands commit daily. The fact remains: if you don't have the fundamentals down... if you're chasing the latest shiny object, you may be doing more harm to the brand (and your own marketing department) than you realize. The fundamentals can easily be summed up as this: if someone thinks about your brand and connects to it, the brand is able to convert that impression into something more meaningful. Without nailing down these seven areas, a brand will always be left worrying about whether their advertising is effective, instead of knowing that they are doing everything they can to move that customer further along in a very strategic sales and marketing funnel.

Any other deadly sins of digital marketing that you can think of?

By Mitch Joel


July 30, 201411:37 PM

Pushing Through The Pain

I have no idea what I did to my back... but it's bad. Really bad.

When I used to do a whole bunch of close quarters combative training and coaching with Tony Blauer, I would often think about the notion of pain and what it means. Have you ever stubbed your toe? Your initial reaction is to scream out in pain, but is it really all that painful? Here's an exercise I used to do: I would take moments like stubbing my toe, getting a paper cut and other instances of personal abuse and, before yelping out in pain, I would ask myself, "does this really hurt?" I mean really, really hurt? More often than not, I found that my attitude would change. I'd no longer scream out in pain, but rather acknowledge that I had done some kind of minor/stupid physical damage to myself, try to rate the pain and then realize that my flinch response would have been to scream or react, but the reality was that the pain wasn't all that bad. In the end, I wound up not screaming or being upset over every little ache, pain, bump or scratch.

That was not the case last Friday night. 

I had been experiencing some back pain and I thought that it was just me sleeping the wrong way. Then, while lifting something heavy out of my car on Friday night, I must have tweaked it even more. It was blinding pain. The kind of pain that gives you both the sweats and nausea at the time. I didn't know what to do with myself or where to put myself. I have no idea how I made it into the house, but I could not move for days. Literally... stuck in the same place and every little movement hurt. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, an amazing doctor and more, I'm on the road to recovery.

Did you notice my pain on social media?

I kept to my usual schedule of blogging (six days a week) and podcasting (every Sunday). I'm not looking for a cookie or a pat on the head for sticking to my editorial calendar. Those moments made me realize something: whether your pain is physical, mental or both, only you can choose what you will do during that time. Sometimes pushing through the pain is the worst thing that you can do (I probably would not have made it through a session at the gym in that condition), but sometimes pushing through the pain is the smartest thing that you can do. Seth Godin wrote an amazing book on figuring out when to stop (it's called The Dip, and everyone should read it). Like most things he publishes, Seth is spot on. You have to know when to keep going, mostly because the best of what we have to offer mostly comes in the moments when we are pushing through the pain.

How often does a brand push through the pain?

This analogy works magically well, when I think about brands and their digital marketing. The truth, as we have often discussed here on this blog, is that digital marketing looks and feels nothing like traditional advertising. To this day, I often hear brands complaining that Facebook advertising doesn't work or that Google's AdWords aren't converting as efficiently as they once did. More often than not, it's the brand that is failing on the platform, and not the other way around. I've seen brands test something new (like Pinterest) and drop it quickly because they didn't see any kind of bump right away. It's regretful, because the brand attitude is that whatever else they had been working on (and refined over time) is better than this new thing right out of the gate.

Doing something new is painful... but push through the pain.

There are too many instances when the power of digital marketing is marginalized because one test... one pinkie toe into the ocean... didn't satiate the entire body. Changes are painful. Brands need to not only embody this newly realized culture of change that we're living in, but how to push through it and get to a point where the decision to keep going (or to stop) is happening because the initial pain was pushed through. Look, I'm just like you. I don't like change... I don't like pain. It's a lot harder to stare at a blank screen with pain ripping through your back, than it is to stare at the same screen while sitting in a Starbucks sipping on a cafe latte. Still, we push on. I wonder what online marketing would look like, if every brand was accepting of the pain and enabling their teams to push through it, and then figure out what the true value and merit was of the exercise?

I'm going to push through this pain to keep on creating work. Brands shouldn't give up, just because they stubbed their toe on something new.

By Mitch Joel


July 29, 201411:32 PM

The Only Consumer That Matters

Who is really a customer of yours?

I often get to hang out backstage at conferences and events. When you have that kind of access to other speakers, business leaders and authors, it would be silly not to take advantage of it. So, I do. I ask them questions. I prod them. I engage them. I do my best to not be a pest, while at the same time, I see these as moments that should never be wasted. If I'm lucky enough to be one of a handful of people to have direct contact with a former President or current New York Times bestselling author, it feels like a moment that should not be wasted. That being said, I don't consider myself a professional speaker. Not like these people do. A lot of these speakers have one form of income: speaking. It always made me chuckle to hear professional speakers tell me that some group, company or organization that brought them in to speak is a "client." I've been speaking for close to a decade, and I never considered any of the organizers my client. It's a term that never sat well with me. Just because I spoke at an event (even after being paid for it), it didn't feel right proclaiming that the company was my client. It would be like me calling you a client simply because you bought one of my books.

So, who is really a customer of yours?

When I was spending time in Silicon Valley two weeks ago, Avinash Kaushik (Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google and bestselling author of Web Analytics - An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0) told me that a major brand once remarked to him that they don't consider anyone a customer of theirs unless they have bought from them twice. Two is a big number in this day and age. Most retailers struggle to retain customers because of digital technology. It's easy for a potential customer to walk through a physical retail environment, and then use their smartphone to either find a better price, become more informed about their purchase or ask their social network their thoughts on the pending purchase. It's called, showrooming, and it's something that I've written about countless time over the years. Initial thinking on showrooming was that it would cause mass disruption to the retail space. In fact, it's become so pervasive that retailers have created other terms around it to put it into perspective. Reverse showrooming, is one such term. This happens when consumers go online to research a product and then head to a physical store to buy it. Silly, right? Did we call it reverse showrooming when we would ask friends about a product and then go to a store to buy it? Retailers now waking up to the fact that consumers do research online first (really, this is something new that retailers are just waking up to?) are now initiating in-store tactics like offering in-store pick-up of products bought online, free wi-fi and training a more knowledgeable sales staff to build a more congruous experience.     

Reacting to reality.

There have been many reports that dismiss the power of social media in relation to driving sales. What these reports often don't take into account is how powerful of a referral source for both bricks and mortar chains and e-commerce sites social media is. What this really means is that consumers have a tremendous amount of firepower prior to making a purchase. They have power through the information available to them online via their smartphones, and they can also leverage the wisdom of their own crowds if generic searches and consumer reviews don't pass the sniff test. So, while some retailers might argue that consumers are much smarter than they ever were, I would argue that they're simply more informed and have more options than ever before.

How does this change retail?

In short, this ends the traditional retail cycle of "too bad." It's the end of: we don't have what you're looking for... too bad. It's the end of: we're sorry you didn't have a great customer service experience... too bad. It's the end of: we're sorry you had to drive all the way over here and we don't have your size... too bad. It's the end of: yes, it's more expensive than somewhere else, but you're already here... too bad. When consumers have information and options, it pushes traditional retailers back on their heels, and it forces them to provide a higher level of service (which, ultimately, is a mix of the physical and digital world). Ultimately, I'm hopeful that it also pushes brands to figure out who a customer is. A real customer. Like the one who buys from you twice. At least.

Call it showrooming, call it reverse showrooming... consumers just call it a pleasant shopping experience.

By Mitch Joel


July 28, 2014 8:38 AM

Social Media, Politics And A Myopic World View

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 to SoundCloud, 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:

  • Rob Kemp sits in for Terry DiMonte.
  • Facebook, politics and the new world view.
  • The news has become more opinion-based, instead of facts.
  • We need to be more media savvy.
  • Technology can analyze sentiment as well.
  • ComicCom San Diego and the revenge of the nerds.
  • The rise of Geek Culture.
  • Those who were beaten up on the playground are the new heroes.
  • Google dominates search... and there may not be other competitors.
  • Quartz: Google has run away with the web search market and almost no one is chasing.
  • The power of targeted advertising.
  • Facebook is getting increasingly powerful because of their newsfeed and mobile.
  • Will anybody catch Google?
  • App of the week: IFTTT.
  • Heather gets all freaked out about Evernote.

Listen here...

By Mitch Joel


July 27, 2014 8:16 AM

How Does The World See You?

Episode #420 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to. Have you ever taken one of those personality tests? Some employers force people to take them (employees or... Read more

By Mitch Joel


July 26, 2014 8:10 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #214

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


July 25, 2014 5:40 PM

How To Do The Nearly Impossible

We live in very different times. It's hard to imagine that we live in a day and age when individuals - from a very young age - can start a business, build something formidable and - literally - change the... Read more

By Mitch Joel


July 24, 201410:52 PM

Brands Can Have Real Conversations

Are there any real conversations happening out there? It's been a long day. I hopped an early flight to Boston to speak at the Marketo customer summit. Direct flights are a funny thing. On one had, you want the ease... Read more

By Mitch Joel


July 23, 201411:11 PM

Facebook Proves Us All Wrong (And It's Not Just Facebook)

All too often, we fall victim to a the market of one syndrome. I was on Facebook when somebody I know (and respect) said something akin to: "Nobody I know has ever click on a mobile banner ad." That's the... Read more

By Mitch Joel