Introducing the Chief Digital Officer
A help-wanted ad for a Chief Digital Officer doesn’t announce digital’s arrival at the top of the corporate agenda. It’s the other way around. The internet’s been sitting in the boardroom for years – not properly addressed or heard, but it’s been sitting there nonetheless, the subject of furtive glances and anxiety. The need for CDOs is reactive. The corporate agenda changed first, and accountability and delegation follows.
Not long ago, digital roles were several layers removed from the C-suite. Now, they’re reporting to the CEO because adoption of social and mobile have created massive revenue opportunities – opportunities to tie together all the devices, media channels and technologies of their brand to create a ‘locked’ and very lucrative relationship with customers.
The rationale is universally accepted, but the narrative around this new role isn’t just of an upwards shift. More accurately, CDOs bring the digital priority to the middle of an organization. It’s not the peak of a triangle – it’s a circle’s center. When digital is planted at that vantage point, it can see, interact with, and affect every aspect of business – certainly to all the cross-departmental places where your brand connects to your customers.
In its CMO Imperatives For 2012 report, Forrester analysts declare the media and channel fragmentation of 2011 as the final upturning of marketing’s traditional, linear approach to customer interaction.
“In 2012, we will see more organizations adopt the (new) customer lifecycle, as at Caterpillar and Procter & Gamble, where marketers reorganized their key processes around the customer by cutting across silos.”
Consultants, analysts and gurus of various stripes have been preaching the gospel of the customer-led organization for years. The concept is simple: the experience you create for your consumer determines their perceptions of your brand. A holistically designed customer experience that delivers value instead of monologue provides a powerful strategic advantage. An executive-worthy advantage.
In the digital design world, this mindset has a catchphrase: your interface is your brand. In recent years, as brands have scrambled to create apps, tools, and digital services, the challenge has been organizational silos. Without a cohesive approach, it’s difficult to harmonize all the digital noise a modern brand creates into a catchy song that will make consumers want to dance.
That’s the task at hand for the CDO – and for the teams, agencies, and collaborators at his or her disposal. To pull it together and make music.April 18, 2013
SXSW by the numbers
Now that another SXSW Interactive has been put to bed, here’s a quick recap of the who’s and the what’s of SXSW – the why’s will unfold over time.
Who goes? Mostly Americans – primarily from Texas, New York and California. This makes sense due to proximity, population and/or industry relevance, but all other states were represented – except South Dakota.
Outside of Americans, nationalities best represented are Canadians, Brits, Australians and the Dutch.
The demographics are young, affluent decision makers, primarily 25-34. That they’re considered decision makers in their companies reflects that these attendees are from traditionally younger companies – start ups, tech and agencies.
As for the content, Elon Musk was the most tweeted panelist – indicating attendees care about the cerebral. Grumpy Cat was the second – showing people care about the ridiculous.
The people make up the content. 1/10 attendee was also a panelist. While the average panelist had 3000 Twitter followers and 1000 Facebook friends, the average attendee wasn’t far behind with 1200 followers and 600 Friends.
The trends that stood out worked along a few themes –
- A move towards connecting the physical with the digital – the “make stuff” generation is growing.
- The rise of collaboration and open sourced content.
- The importance of big data.
- Space. The final frontier.
While only time will reveal the impact of these trends, it’s interesting to note the shift from the highly personal location-driven trends of the last year to something more communal. Maybe, as people like Don Tapscott, have suggested, the age of the Internet has enabled a new ethos of global networks. Just think of all the things the attendees profiled here could accomplish.March 13, 2013
Slow User Experiences
Not all experiences need to be short, fast, and efficient. In fact, many very profitable companies focus on the slow experience more so than the fast experience. In Whoa Nelli. Content Strategy for Slow Experiences, Margot Bloomstein explains how content strategy which focuses on slow experience can improve the user experience, resulting in stronger customer relationships and greater long term ROI.
Margot explains that the rise of the Internet has caused brands to focus on convenience and short term interactions. Making things easier and faster for users is a tactic for short term ROI. For big brands, this is not always the best method of execution. Rushing customers to purchase and not giving them enough information makes them less likely to advocate the brand and more likely to return items. This increases overhead and negatively impacts the customer experience. With this said, if long term ROI is your company¹s goal, then validating the need to buy, and ensuring the customer is well educated is much better.
To demonstrate this, Margot showcased a Ford car show event line up. For those who attend such events, lineups are not uncommon. They can be painfully long and force customers into an experience that they don¹t want to have. Unfortunately the individuals in line will associate that feeling with the brand. They¹ll remember how painful the line was. Margot explains that this does not need to be the case.
To ensure customers are happier, Ford decided to share rich and engaging content through interactive touchscreen points, and digital games. This information ensures that customers are engaged the whole way through, and are remembering the event for being cool, not for being long, and frustrating.
In short, online visitors are not always looking for the most efficient experience with your brand. They may be looking for a lot more, and if things take longer than expected it¹s alright so long as the content and user experience keeps them engaged and saying “that was cool”.March 13, 2013
Nature vs. Data
A common theme to many of the talks at this year’s SXSW has been the growing impact of big data. Amongst the more common discussion points of privacy and targeting has been a wider sociological question as to what this means for our sense of identity. Not the fear of having it stolen but the unease of having it shaped.
In the talk “The New Nature vs. Nature” scientists from Columbia and Wisconsin University discussed the publicized example of the “Target Baby” to introduce the concept of algorithmed lives.
The case describes data-mining work carried out by retail brand Target in which they tracked customers who were pregnant. Via studying the shopping behavior and trends amongst this group, Target could deduce – to the week – how far along their pregnancy each woman was. On the surface this is simply an audience targeting exercise to reach prospective parents, but reframed what’s really happening is these unborn children are being tracked and given an identity before they leave the womb.
Viewing the baby as the subject in this practice affects the moral argument. Each child enters a world where they will almost immediately be presented with a series of carefully crafted messages based on gender, location, parents’ behavior and numerous other variables. All of which starts to shape the person they become.
It’s a significant shift in perspective from big data being a life record we give, to it being a force that defines who we are. Or if you prefer: we no longer control the data, the data controls us.
There are many opportunities to use this for positive change – health, crime, environment – but it also raises uneasy questions about self-awareness and diversity.
If we are all in a constant feedback loop and living lives dictated by broad data trends then does is start to flatten out the differences that make us unique? If everything is carefully crafted and based on rational statistics then do we lose the fun of surprises?
The speakers referenced House of Cards, the Netflix drama that was designed and commissioned based on trends in user data. It achieved broad popularity and ongoing success but didn’t generate the kind of fervent fan-base of other hit shows. They hypothesized that this was because the interests that broadly unite us are not the ones about which we are most passionate. Chasing wide appeal dictates a kind of blandness.
To reinforce this point the scientists drew an analogy with Cheetos – a snack specifically designed to hit the pleasure sensors in the brain but also light enough to ensure users keep eating. Both the show and the snack are material that you keep consuming yet never feel fully satisfied.
For brands the key will be identifying commonalities amongst user interests and then unearthing the things about which the target is truly passionate. Alternatively it might just be a case of embracing surprise. In a landscape of increasingly tailored experiences maybe serendipity will be what truly stands out.March 12, 2013
In “Behavior Change as Value Proposition” Chris Ridson from Adaptive Path explains that technologies have allowed products and services to have a more pervasive (and persuasive) role in people’s lives. The question becomes how marketers can capitalize on these advances in technology to provide more value to consumers and thereby develop more brand loyalty.
His analogy of how the times have changed is in disaster relief – when the tsunami hit in 2004, people were motivated to act – but by the time they got home and logged onto their computers, motivation had slipped away. Compare this to Haiti in 2010 – when people were motivated to act they were able to quickly and immediately respond. The motivation was the same but the barrier to participation was removed. Because of new technologies, causes are able to capitalize on these opportune moments – and so can brands.
So how do we capitalize on these opportunities? Behavior design. We’ve already come a long way in terms of behavior design – but so far it’s been primarily ‘dumb behavior design’ where everyone gets the same feedback loop (ie a bitter nail polish to stop people from biting their nails. These haven’t yet been personalized enough to be truly effective, they’ve just become good defaults.
To change behavior, products services need to offer a clear value proposition – and one that’s dependent on specific behavioral-based outcomes.
Effective behavior-driven products like Ready for Zero and apps from Weight Watchers reward outcomes based on persistent behavior. They’re defined by data collection (and measurable behavior), depend on prescriptive and constrained self-determination, and offer recommendations and guidance. Behavior is influenced because people recognize that “I’m not using it successfully unless I’m using it the way they tell me.”
So we’re getting there. We have the good defaults and we’re starting to reward persistent behavior, but influence can still be grown. The fuel for behavior design that will grow influence are sensors & data; feedback & feedforward and framing & profiling which will combine to offer more personalized behavior design.
Sensors and data are perhaps the most obvious area of rapid growth. Some products include microchips today, and more and more will. Data is collected and synced to all your devices, and you’re informed about your behavior. Eventually every product will offer this data collection and syncing.
Unlike sensors, feedback loops have always existed. In the 60′s, Weight Watcher groups provided feedback with weekly weigh ins, but these were slow and not customized. Today dieters can be connected to WiFi scales. We now have the ability to create an immediate feedback loop. Feedforward is the next area of opportunity, where services can provide guidance for your next interaction at the point of decision. While consumers have constant access to data, they don’t have anything using it to guide and influence them.
Framing and profiling is another opportunity for improvement. Thus far, products and services intended to change behavior are generalized – but people need different things when they’re seeking guidance. Some people need a cheerleader, and some people need a bootcamp instructor. Good behavior design will be able to give it to them.
In short, we’ve come a long way in behavior design but we’ve got a long way to go. When products and services have the ability to guide and inform consumers at opportune moments in a personalized way, people will have increased value in their pockets – and brands will have new opportunities to increase customer loyalty.March 11, 2013