I'm a partner in the advanced analytics group at Bain & Company, the global management consulting firm. My primary focus is on marketing analytics (bio). I've been writing here (views my own) about marketing, technology, e-business, and analytics since 2003 (blog name explained).

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15 posts categorized "Trip Reports"

July 22, 2009

MITX "What's Next": Mid-Year Digital Marketing Zeitgest Check (#MITXDT)

This morning I went to MITX's "The Current Digital Market and the Outlook for What's Next" event at Microsoft in Cambridge. The event was well-attended.  Before the  panel discussion, I enjoyed talking with Allen & Gerritsen CEO Andrew Graff, who helped us at ArsDigita, and iProspect CEO (and ex-Bain colleague) Rob Murray.  Andrew reported that business was surprisingly strong, and Rob validated trends toward multi-channel attribution analysis and optimization.  I also had the chance to meet Forrester's Shar van Boskirk briefly; the 5-year interactive marketing forecast of spend across display, search, email, mobile, and social she / they released yesterday, projecting digital to grow to 20% of an otherwise flat market, with social growing by a factor of five, sparked a spirited conversation on Josh Bernoff's Ad Age article about it yesterday.

Shar moderated a panel that included Dace Venture's Jon Chait, Fidelity Labs' (and Razorfish alum) Hadley Stern, and Razorfish Client Partner Kristin Marlow.  Jon's got a $75M debut fund focused on consumer marketing solutions; Hadley's job is to develop things for Fidelity customers that will be ready for prime-time in 12-18 months, and Kristin runs the Razorfish relationship with T. Rowe Price.

Shar's summary / synthesis of the panelists' themes:
  • the marketing organization's function has been transformed into one of "conversation stewardship"; marketers need to take their efforts to plant and nurture conversations to where audiences are (e.g., syndicate, Hadley's main point), and be prepared to have it be a real 2-way communication (Jon's primary point). (FWIW, maybe "2-way" should be "n-way").
  • There's a tight focus on performance right now; investments in data management / integration are taking precedence over investments in new media
Panelist comments I noted:
  • Kristin: Interactive marketing budgets are on the sideline, waiting for performance to come back; what is getting spent is very close to conversion, and is very closely watched and analyzed
  • Kristin: Quantcast is hot, people like the idea of being able to buy cookies  
  • Kristin: Attribution analysis for display v search spending optimization is a growth area 
  • Kristin: There's also lots of attention to the "on-domain experience" 
  • Kristin: Lots of focus on social, because people think it will be largely free, but it's not
  • Hadley: "97% of Fidelity's business is done online" [stunning stat, I'd be very interested to better understand how that's bounded / qualified] 
  • Hadley: Given that, his big theme is syndication -- "Fidelity Everywhere" -- building applications for the desktop, iGoogle, iPhones, etc. that allow Fidelity customers to do what they need in the places they are most comfortable, which doesn't always mean coming to the website 
  • Hadley: Fluid times -- "Feels like every six months we're trying to make big decisions without much information."
  • Jon: Trend is toward 2-way marketing , most cost effective ways to maximize engagement with the right people. Seeing 5-14% CTR on display ads in these media
  • Jon: The trend is real -- his portfolio companies serving these needs have had their strongets revenue growth ever since Q4 of last year 
  • Jon and Kristin: establishing credible social presence takes commitment -- can't dabble.  
  • Jon -- entry price for credible social media effort = $250k-350k/year, sustained effort will be seven figures / year
  • Kristin: There's a tradeoff between engagement and scale [Note: my presentation at IBM Research on Monday was partly about how you reconcile the two]
  • Shar: there isn't and won't be any fully integrated platform for marketing analytics and execution -- the key is to work with vendors who play nice with each other, through adherence to "open data"  
Questions I wished I'd asked:
  • How much of decision-making by clients right now is based on modelling versus testing?
  • Given the decline in unit prices for media, as well as lower creative costs, the cost of analytics and tracking for any given campaign are getting bigger -- to what degree are marketers factoring these into campaign ROI? [I'm not seeing that yet, but I suspect it will begin to become an issue in the next 12-24 months.  If in the past the medium was the message, the measure may well be the message in the future -- meaning what each target consumer experiences will be personalized based on complex algorithms drawing conclusions about him or her.]  
What did I miss? 

May 28, 2008

Recap: Carlson On Metrics

Last week I attended and gave a talk at "Carlson On Metrics", organized by Professor Rajesh Chandy  and the staff at the Institute for Research in Marketing at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management.

Prof. Chandy on the "Why?" for the conference:

  • "Many options, few certainties"
  • "Lots of data, little information"

Here are some notes on the talks (comments very welcome!):

Continue reading "Recap: Carlson On Metrics" »

April 17, 2008

500 Mirrors: Channeling Light Into The Business of Virtual Worlds

I connected recently in NYC with my ex ArsDigita colleague and good friend Kevin Kelly.  Kevin is (among other roles) the CEO of 500 Mirrors, an enterprise-class virtual world platform provider, and was in town for the annual VirtualWorlds Conference at the Javits Center.

For the virtual worlds crowds, these are dark days, not unlike what things were like for the web generally in 2002.  After flying high in 2006 -- including making the cover of Business Week -- Linden Labs' Second Life, the poster child for the category, has hit rough patches on several fronts, including usability and, security, and scalability.  Electric Sheep, the leading interactive agency helping corporations build and pimp out their VW experiments, recently cut back its staff significantly.  And as most of us have seen, even mighty IBM, the corporate pied piper of the VW movement, has been advertising against its own efforts.  The remaining bright spots in the "classic" rich-client VW world these days seem to be in applications for kids:  Webkinz, Club Penguin, Habbo Hotel -- virtual babysitters for kids that parents are willing to pay for, perhaps partly as diversions to keep them away from first-person shooters,  MMORPGs, or perhaps as training for earning the big bucks playing WoW.  Though 1300 people registered for the conference, things seemed quiet even for the cavernous Javits, with few attendees from big-name companies/ brands in evidence.

My overwhelming impression remains that this is an industry whose technological reach and ambition greatly exceed its grasp of imaginative use cases for which this medium is uniquely suited.  Kevin and 500 Mirrors' CTO and founder Bob Flesch get this in spades.  Kevin tells a story of a recent conference in SL that illustrates the state of things:

  • with a limited number of avatars each island (server instance) can support, the conference inevitably had an empty feeling;
  • lots of power and flexibility for moving around means too much power for newbies and the less experienced;
  • P-bombings have been an unfortunate reality;
  • functionally, the experience's complexity exceeds its theoretical information and communication advantages -- for example, it's hard to read expressions when an avatar -- if human -- is programmed by default to look ironic and bored, if hip.

500 Mirrors' name reflects an approach to scalability it has developed that has effectively solved population limits for any practical enterprise and even consumer scenario.  (Proof comes from production instances that unfortunately Kevin can't disclose without unpleasant consequences.)  On the usability front, Kevin and Bob are focused on providing more by enabling less -- pre-scripting movement sequences to get someone into the right place in the right space, for example, or by turning off flying, or by simply making it impossible to get trapped in a corner.  Finally, since each instance they set up for a client is isolated (whether hosted by 500 Mirrors or installed behind a client's firewall), attendees can't jump out to inappropriate places, and intruders find it harder to get in.

But the biggest insight comes from conceiving of use cases that make sense, and Kevin's got a separate business going that's nailed one of these.  More about this in an upcoming post...

December 05, 2006

Notes From Zurich

I recently gave two talks in Zurich at the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institut's 56th Annual Retail Conference and 7th European Foodservice Conference.  GDI, led by David Bosshart, is an old, established, and well-funded think tank that has a very loyal, pan-European following among very senior executives.  Both were wonderfully intimate affairs where there were plenty of opportunities for interaction, in lovely settings with terrific food. 

Here are the notes from the retail conference that GDI published:


Here are some photos from the Foodservice conference (these folks know how to have a good time):


June 17, 2005

OPA Breakfast Meeting: User Experience and Engagement

Opa_3_1On Wednesday, Jeffrey Rayport and I attended an Online Publisher's Association breakfast in Boston.  On the agenda:  presentation and panel discussion of really interesting new research from the Northwestern University Media Management Center on the links between user experience and consequent engagement with web sites.

Continue reading "OPA Breakfast Meeting: User Experience and Engagement" »