July 31, 2014

Buzzwords With Marketing Expert Vic Montana

Let's explore buzzwords via an interview with marketing guru, pundit, and consultant Vic Montana. Yes, this is fiction. If this isn't your thing, we'll see you on Monday.

Kevin: Vic, welcome to the show, nice to have you here today.

Vic: It's a pleasure, Kevin. I love discussing best practices with thought leaders.

Kevin: Oh boy.

Vic: Excuse me?

Kevin: Why do vendors, trade journalists, researchers, and consultants insist on using buzzwords?

Vic: I don't know what you're talking about?

Kevin: Let's start with best practices.

Vic: Can't live without 'em.

Kevin: You recently wrote an article titled "Four Tips For Omnichannel Retailers". Do you remember the article?

Vic: Of course, I wrote it!

Kevin: It was underwritten by Woodside Research, correct?

Vic: Vic's gotta get paid.

Kevin: The first tip suggested that "brands" follow all established best practices.

Vic: Correct.

Kevin: Your fourth tip suggested that leading "brands" break all the rules.

Vic: That's what separates the wheat from the chaff.

Kevin: Doesn't the fourth tip violate the first tip?

Vic: What?

Kevin: You tell "brands" that they must follow best practices .... they must follow the rules ... then you tell "brands" that they must break the rules. Doesn't this create a form of circular logic that paralyzes a brand?

Vic: The secret to these thought leadership articles is to make things sound simple, while in reality, we don't say anything useful, meaningful, or actionable. Further, what we're advocating is so complex that the brand must consult with us to solve a problem the brand didn't even know existed.

Kevin: So you're not really advocating a strategy. You're trapping a brand in a maze of circular logic?

Vic: It's all about creating personalized, relevant, engaging content. Brands who execute against this imperative will reap the rewards.

Kevin: Do you realize that nobody outside of your profession speaks like you speak?

Vic: Language is the purview of the thought leader.

Kevin: How do you personalize your efforts?

Vic: What do you mean?

Kevin: Your mind-warping sentences suggests that brands who personalize content will reap the rewards, whatever that means. And yet, vendors offering personalization solutions consistently broadcast their message without any personalization at all (see below). How do you reconcile this issue?

Vic: There's nothing to reconcile. Customers love personalized messages.

Kevin: But you and most vendors don't personalize your own marketing efforts? You broadcast your message via trade journals or Twitter.

Vic: Personalization is really hard.

Kevin: So your clients must personalize everything, but vendors, trade journalists, researchers, and consultants are off the hook?

Vic: I'm just saying that brands must create relevant content in order to engage today's savvy consumer. The digital revolution has put the customer in charge.

Kevin: So in 1994, the customer wasn't in charge?

Vic: Why are you being argumentative? It's obvious that a mobile consumer is a savvy consumer. The consumer can pick and choose brands at the whim of a finger swipe on a smart phone.

Kevin: I don't call humans consumers. I call humans "people".

Vic: Look, Woodside Research surveyed 204 likely shoppers. A majority, 53%, said that they prefer a seamless cross-channel experience fueled by a social strategy that is implemented within the mobile ecosystem.

Kevin: What was the confidence interval around the 53% estimate?

Vic: Huh?

Kevin: The confidence interval might be +/- 6 points. It's possible that only 48% of customers prefer a seamless cross-channel experience, a minority of customers! In that scenario, you'd be steering my clients in the exact wrong direction, all because of sampling error.

Vic: Now you're just twisting information for your own benefit.

Kevin: This comes from a person that was paid to write an article telling "brands" to follow all established best practices while simultaneously breaking all the rules?

Vic: Listen, that article had the highest level of engagement on the Omnichannel Retailer website in July!

Kevin: What good is engagement? Have you been able to link engagement to profitability?

Vic: In order to cater to today's savvy consumer, you have to engage the consumer with relevant content.

Kevin: Like when I visit Weather.com and am given opportunities to read articles like the ones listed here, correct?

Vic: Can you imagine the page views and revenue they generate from engaging content like "The Secret to Colonizing an Alien Planet"?

Kevin: I only visited the website to obtain the five day forecast for Twin Falls, ID.

Vic: Modern marketing is like the lunch buffet at the Golden Corral ... take one of everything. Nobody has time for long reads.

Kevin: Like this interview?

Vic: It's an omnichannel world, Kevin. Your content strategy must be agile, relevant, timely, and anticipated. Then you have to optimize all of it.

Kevin: If the content is anticipated, then why even send it in the first place, given that the customer has already anticipated it?

Vic: I'm not sure what you mean by that?

Kevin: Exactly. Anyway, what does omnichannel mean to you?

Vic: Brands who do not employ a comprehensive omnichannel strategy are destined for the scrap heap of retail history. Digital changed everything. Executives can no longer lead with blinders on.

Kevin: Was there ever a time when Executives could lead with blinders on?

Vic: I'm just trying to get Executives to deliver exceptional experiences across all channels. That's table stakes these days.

Kevin: Like Circuit City, who was a pioneer in buy online, pickup in store? They did what the pundits told them to do, and they went out of business.

Vic: That was before the SoLoMo movement fundamentally transformed retail and marketing forever. Everything changed.

Kevin: SoLoMo?

Vic: Social, Local, and Mobile.

Kevin: Oh Boy.

Vic: All fueled by beacons. Beacons represent the great promise of the omnichannel movement.

Kevin: Because customers love being tracked in-store, right? Customers love the dream of pop-up promotions ... "did you not like the orange color of those shoes ... why don't I offer you 20% off right now if you take the orange shoes to a sales associate holding an iPad?"

Vic: Look, there are industry leaders like Gap or Macy's, companies who are following the omnichannel playbook and are reaping the rewards. Then there are companies like Tiffany, one of many luxury retailers who are laggards.

Kevin: Tiffany grew by 40% over the past five years. Gap and Macy's were lucky to grow by 10% to 15% over the past five years, growing roughly at the rate of inflation.

Vic: I don't like to reflect on the past. I provide thought leadership on the future of commerce.

Kevin: So by employing the tactics and strategies you advocate, brands can perform like Gap or Macy's? I mean, who would want to perform at +40% over five years when you could experience tepid growth by aligning all channels into one big bowl of omnichannel soup?

Vic: Tiffany has a different value proposition. They don't count.

Kevin: I thought in tip number four, brands must break all the rules? Isn't that what you said? Tiffany isn't following your rules, they are breaking your rules.

Vic: Look, I'm just trying to help leading brands compete for the mind share of today's savvy multi-device omnichannel shopper.

Kevin: Don't you find it funny that with all these devices, all these channels, and all these options, the customer who is, as you say, "in charge", does not spend more, when adjusted for inflation, than what the customer spent twenty years ago?

Vic: Did I miss a Woodside Research report? Were they commissioned to draft a new thought leadership download? How did I miss the metric you just cited? I pay Woodside Research tens of thousands of dollars a year so that I have the metrics necessary to pen my articles.

Kevin: If omnichannel was so powerful, then wouldn't Amazon crumble under the intense pressure of retailers who have a better value proposition? Why buy a book from Amazon when you could visit your local Barnes & Noble store? Oh wait, Borders failed, and Barnes & Noble is struggling, while both adhering to your bricks 'n clicks theory, correct?

Vic: Amazon is an outlier because they are evil. Just ask Hachette and other book publishers, they'll tell you horror stories.

Kevin: Do you realize that customers pre-pay Amazon for a year of shipping, having not purchased anything yet? And you want retailers to compete by offering discounts, promotions, free shipping, personalized and relevant and engaging content, buy online and pickup in store, ship to store, ship from store to home, and whatever supplemental nonsense you think is necessary, all because Woodside Research was commissioned to write a report that showed that 53% of 204 respondents wanted an integrated omnichannel experience? You whole premise is based on what 108 likely shoppers think!!

Vic: The facts speak for themselves.

Kevin: They sure do.

Vic: Pay attention to catalogers. They were obliterated by Amazon. They have to compete to win the omnichannel game. They should have put all their chips in the middle of the table and gone all-in.

Kevin: What does that even mean?

Vic: You know, with today's savvy shopper ....

Kevin: Ten years ago, you told catalogers they had to be multi-channel in order to survive. They had to align their website with the catalog. Catalogers did exactly what you told them to do. Did they "reap the rewards"? Absolutely not! By executing against the multi-channel strategy you authored, they ignored younger customers and instead focused on the core customer. Today, that core customer is 60+ years old, often lives in rural areas, and is disconnected from the omnichannel future you describe. You and your ilk are, in large part, responsible for trapping catalogers with a core customer base that won't shop in an omnichannel manner. assuming that it is relevant for customers to shop in an omnichannel manner in the first place. You are partially accountable for creating this problem!

Vic: A problem that I can solve with the most current thought leadership available.

Kevin: Oh my goodness.

Vic: Catalogers should have adapted to a changing reality.

Kevin: They did. They did what you told them to do.

Vic: They should have been more agile when it came to the mobile mindshift.

Kevin: What does that even mean?

Vic: Agility is important. You have to break down corporate silos and focus on the customer.

Kevin: If that is true, then why do vendors and research organizations have sales staff that are part of their own silo? Wouldn't your profession integrate teams, putting analysts and technology experts and sales people in front of customers at the same time? Wouldn't your industry practice what it preaches?

Vic: Oh, you don't want to put geeks in front of clients. That's a train wreck just waiting to happen.

Kevin: So you are telling "brands" that they have to tear down silos in order to offer a better customer experience, but vendors and research organizations should keep silos because the process of tearing down silos would result in an unpleasant experience for customers?

Vic: It can be unpleasant for any client to spend time with geeky math people. For instance, look at what I'm dealing with right now by talking with you?

Kevin: I think we've covered enough ground for today.

Vic: In closing, I'd like to say that truly agile brands have a genuine opportunity to capitalize on the mobile mindshift by transferring control of marketing to the consumer. I mean, everything has changed. Everything! Digital is now table stakes. By putting the customer in charge, social channels can be used to amplify the marketing message, growing the viral coefficient to levels that lead to increases in consumer mind share. At that point, the empowered brand tears down silos, offering a consistent, relevant, timely, and engaging content strategy across devices, because we all know that the average customer uses 3.8 devices between purchases. Coupled with tempting discounts and promotions (which are also table stakes in this highly competitive environment), the empowered customer purchases merchandise in-store, online, via apps, or on social platforms. Savvy brands can reap the rewards of an integrated strategy, but only if brands follow best practices while simultaneously breaking all the rules. These challenging economic times require bold thought leadership appealing to a savvy consumer. Grow or die!

Kevin: You failed to mention selling merchandise and generating profit. But we learned a lot about earning mind share. Interesting. I'm sure my audience enjoyed our discussion.

Vic: Let's do this again, ok?

Kevin: Alright.