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When Dinosaurs Evolve Obviously, the biggest news in digital marketing this week was Microsoft’s purchase of LinkedIn for $26 billion in cash. Snarky internet commentators have suggested this is akin to a mating dance between two dinosaurs. But Microsoft has become a smarter, more cloud-focused company under CEO Satya Nadella and LinkedIn has uniquely valuable data – the social graph of business. Application to Marketing: You know what’s cool? Beer marketing is cool. Nike is cool. Apple is cool. But that’s not really where the margins are or where the rigorous marketing is being done. If you want to see big data applied to marketing and cutting edge digital tools, B2B marketing is where to look. Specifically, the best and most rigorous marketing I have seen in the past year has been through partnerships with LinkedIn. And any which way I look at this deal, I see a B2B powerhouse. With a deal of this size, Microsoft is shifting its gravity towards B2B, which has always been a more natural fit for their technology than the consumer market. Even at $26 billion, I think this deal will pay for itself many times over. Next Steps: Microsoft says that LinkedIn will continue to operate independently. Maybe. For now. Read More The net is neutral and you should care The Federal Appeals Court of Washington, DC upheld the FCC’s Open Internet Order by a 2 to 1 margin. This is a victory for the FCC over a trade association representing cable companies and cell service providers. The original order prevents internet service providers from establishing a “fast lane” for internet service. This would have allowed those companies to charge websites and content providers fees to have their sites served through the fast lane, websites that declined to pay those fees would have be served slower. The preservation of net neutrality is central to the internet as we use it today. But we should not assume that these internet service providers will go quietly. Application to Marketing: There isn’t a lot of buzz around net neutrality in marketing circles. But imagine what would happen if net neutrality went away. First, clients would naturally insist that their ads only appear on websites that had paid for the “fast lane.” This would increase the price for those placements. This would create a new media landscape in which the value and traffic would be concentrated to a few websites. That might sound good. But Facebook and Google already have internal agencies that produce advertising for clients to run on their sites. Why would they allow agencies to take that business and money away from them, particularly if they were being squeezed by fees from the ISP’s. Far from signalling a return to the mad men era of advertising, I suspect the end of net neutrality would end up crushing the advertising industry. The idea of agencies distinct from media companies could become a quaint memory from a bygone era, like the village blacksmith. Next Steps: In general, if the cable companies and the cell service providers are in favor of something, it’s bad for consumers. Act accordingly. Read More Attribution Makes Us Creepy Facebook’s new ads will please advertisers and creep out everyone else. Facebook advertisers will be able to upload a list of physical stores where their products can be purchased. Then Facebook will use the location services on a user’s phone to confirm that they actually visited the store. Finally, Facebook is working with companies like Square and IBM to match purchases to those visits. Isn’t that great? Now advertisers can know for certain which of their Facebook ads was successful in driving purchase! Application to Marketing: I understand why advertisers would want to know for certain when an ad is effective. Marketing is expensive and marketers are under pressure to produce demonstrable results. But people already resent advertising. Imagine how they are going to feel when the ads are actually stalking them? I keep hearing that millennials are less concerned with privacy than previous generations. So maybe this will work out for Facebook. Or maybe this is one of those times when Facebook proves it is tone-deaf about actual human behavior and emotions. It’s happened before. Next Steps: Resist the temptation to do this. If you feel you must, do a limited test to confirm the general effectiveness of your advertising messages. Don’t track everyone. Don’t be a creep. Read More Apple Learns its Lessons Well In 2014, Apple got a black eye when hackers found a way into the iCloud and made off with numerous private photos from celebrity accounts. Apple seems determined not to make the same mistake twice. They announced that they were rolling out the same type of image recognition technology based on deep learning that Facebook and Google have also announced. Image recognition will automatically create categories for photographs, tagging them by individuals or subject. So all of your photos of a certain friend would be automatically tagged and grouped. However, while Facebook and Google host this image recognition on their cloud servers, Apple confines it to the user’s phone. This means that someone who hacked into your iCloud account would not be able to take advantage of these features. Application to Marketing: Consider the difference between this and the previous article about Facebook. Apple has been burned by privacy failures and it has made them sensitive to these issues. Facebook blithely imagines that no possible ill could come of tracking a user and their purchases. Marketers always talk about wanting to be like Apple, but then they act like Facebook. Do not violate your customer’s privacy. They are purchasing your product, not agreeing to be stalked. This type of behavior encourages ad blocking not as a protection from annoyance, but as a protection from a serious invasion of privacy. Next Steps: Ask yourself how you can do more to protect your customer’s privacy. Companies that do this well will have a serious competitive advantage when inevitable massive data leaks happen. Read More

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