The latest analyses, insights and strategies that inspire CMOs and marketers everywhere.
Hey, Santa, Check Out Our Marketing “Naughty & Nice” List For 2015
Wherein we help the Old Guy figure out who deserves a candy cane or a lump of coal in the worlds of marketing, advertising and search.
Sure, Santa’s route list for his single night of deliveries is targeted, automated, geo-located and Google-mapped to precision these days. And NORAD continues to clear the skies so his old bucket can make the rounds without interference.
But it’s not all sugar plums and fairy dust for the old guy. Like anyone in the tough business of figuring out what people want, he still can’t get enough good data.
To help out, we offer some pans and praises in marketing, advertising and search that stood out to us during this rapidly fading year:
The Naughty List
Time To Forget “The Right To Be Forgotten”
The consequences of the “Right To Be Forgotten” decision in Europe continue to grow more absurd.
France wants Google to somehow ID French citizens anywhere in the world and censor their search results — wherever they are — according to the RTBF rules.
And Russia is getting into the act. A new law requires that search engines must delete links to info about Russians if the material violates laws, is false or has become outdated. But search engines must determine what info is genuinely false or out of date, and they must find the links to that info.
Didn’t 1984 already come and go?
Purify-ing The News
The Purify ad blocker wants you to understand that this story, or any other, is not worth the several pennies in data charges that the accompanying ads might end up costing users.
Any news organization wants feedback on its reporting, and most sites are sensitive to their page-loading times. But the idea that an ad blocker is worthwhile because it helps you save a penny or two on data charges when you’re otherwise getting free and original content seems to us to be pushing it.
Before he left office, US Senator Jay Rockefeller described the new .sucks domain as “little more than a predatory shakedown scheme.”
The company that is operating this generic top-level domain seems committed to backing up his characterization. It is charging as much as $2,500 for any brand that wants to keep a brand.sucks domain out of circulation.
LinkedIn Changes Its Groups & Our Community Manager Sees Red
In October, professional networking site LinkedIn decided it would make some changes to its Groups in order to improve the quality of conversation.
As our Community Manager, Lauren Donovan, explained in detail, those changes made her life more difficult and the Groups less attractive to participants.
Twitter Drops Share Counts From Tweet Buttons; World Shares Fewer Tweets
In November, Twitter stopped showing the number of shares on its tweet buttons. The declared reason: better for its platform, plus the count wasn’t always accurate. But the display of sharing counts can drive more sharing, since people want to share something that others are sharing.
By December, one social plugin reported that relative sharing through the Twitter button — compared to sharing on other social networks — had dropped more than 11 percent.
You would think Twitter, eager to increase engagement, would want its share count to be visible to all.
TrustRadius: Trust Us
Software review site TrustRadius has taken additional steps recently to reduce the positive tilt of product reviews obtained by vendors, compared to reviews obtained by other means.
The site acknowledges it is sometimes paid by vendors to get more reviews, for which it tries to get “a fair customer sample” of users and objective assessments. But, it turns out, it doesn’t consider these to be vendor-generated reviews, and it doesn’t let its readers know that it is being paid by the vendors to get these reviews.
Facebook: Trust Us
Facebook says it is working on a solution to accusations that videos shown on its site are being ripped off from copyright owners, most notably ones on YouTube.
But at least one video creator, Ethan of YouTube creators Ethan and Hila, called out the social networking giant recently for its non-response to his complaint. Facebook still has a ways to go on this.
The Nice List
Google And Bing Take Up Arms Against Revenge Porn
In a blow against hacker-extortionists and scoundrel ex-lovers, first Google, and then Bing, announced in 2015 that users could file requests to remove from search results the “revenge porn” of themselves that had been posted online.
The posts, often private photos of women, can do more than simply cause embarrassment. They can lead, for instance, to online or offline harassment of the victims, or they can have an impact on their employment. New laws are helping combat the practice, but taking them out of search results without legal costs can help take them out of circulation.
Adobe: We Heart HTML5
It would not take much imagination to envision that Adobe could have dug in its heels on its Flash technology, in an effort to slow the advent of HTML5 alternatives.
Flash still has an enormous installed base, dedicated fans, and, arguably, greater versatility at the moment than HTML5. But instead, the technology giant has signaled it is phasing out Flash, while it works to become a HTML5 leader.
It might be bending to the inevitable, but it feels like a class act.
Lenovo: Letting Go Is Good Business
Computer maker Lenovo is perhaps best known for its button-down ThinkPad business laptops.
But rather than try to stay atop that line and other fading hardware products, the company has decided to reinvent itself — in part, by “giving up control,” as it did recently with the crowdsourcing of a new video game. Other facets include a new emphasis on user-generated content and influencer partnerships.
The jury is still out on whether this is anything more than just New Age marketing-speak or whether the company is defining a new corporate model. But kudos to Lenovo for taking initial steps toward what could be a bold play.
Mark Zuckerberg Grows Up Some More
Like Bill Gates’s Microsoft, Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook has encountered tons of user pushback and hostility to its power and decisions. But, like an older Gates, Zuckerberg has now decided — shortly after becoming a father — that the world has better use for his enormous wealth.
He and his wife, Priscilla Chan, recently announced they would donate within their lifetimes 99 percent of their Facebook shares, worth about $45 billion, to efforts for “personalized learning, curing disease, connecting people and building strong communities.”
We don’t know yet where all that money will go, but if Zuckerberg bursts with such generosity on the birth of his first child, we can’t wait until his new daughter has a sibling.
Bing Ads Gives Birth To A Mac Desktop Editor
“Here’s a sentence I was beginning to think I’d never write: ‘Bing Ads Editor for Mac is coming soon. It has been built and is ready for beta testing.’”
So wrote our own Ginny Marvin, in her story last month on Bing Ads’ announcement and demo.
Agencies and other Mac lovers will join her in rejoicing that they no longer have to use a backup PC just to conduct campaigns using Bing ads, instead of resorting to the less-useful web tool.
The true moment of joy — that is, the release version — is not expected until summer of next year, but in the meantime, Microsoft has brightened some lives.
REI’s Anti-Black Friday
Black Friday — the day after Thanksgiving — supposedly acquired that name because it’s the day when retailers go into the black or break even, after which they churn out profit.
But it could also refer to the most predatory, desperate and dark sides of bargain shopping, when crowds compete for — and even sometimes fight over — sale items.
Instead of succumbing to this trend, outdoor products retailer REI joined a small but growing group of companies that close their doors on Black Friday. For that day, it encouraged its employees and customers to spend the time outdoors with their friends and families.
The Thanksgiving weekend sales crush is so strong that when companies like Staples decides to close on Thanksgiving itself, it attracts attention. REI has upped the ante.
It would be a most appropriate irony if consumers were led back to discovering their holiday family time by none other than conscientious retailers.
Homage To WKRP
Speaking of Thanksgiving…
In the annals of great TV comedic moments lives the episode of the 70s–80s classic “WKRP IN Cincinnati” series where, in a Thanksgiving-themed promotion, the radio station drops live turkeys from a helicopter onto a shopping center parking lot.
“Oh, the humanity,” a shocked Les Nessman broadcasts in the episode when it becomes obvious those birds don’t fly.
To honor that television moment without smashing too many windshields and to promote a new sandwich, White Castle dropped turkey sliders from a drone onto a Thanksgiving-themed target table. Participants, selected via social media, called the drops as they watched a Periscope video stream of the drone’s-eye view.
Sometimes, life improves on art.
Marketers Give Thanks For Customer Match
Google’s AdWords gave a big present to marketers this year in the form of Customer Match, which allows a customer email list to be uploaded for ad targeting in Search, Gmail and YouTube. The email addresses are matched with users who have registered on Google’s services.
This was the first time the tech giant allowed advertisers to target AdWords against their own first-party customer data, and the capability compares to Facebook’s Custom Audiences and Twitter’s Tailored Audiences.
Burger King Gives Peace A Chance
We applaud any effort to lower tensions on the planet, even when it’s between one burger chain and another.
Burger King, ranked third in its category, earlier this year conducted a #SettleTheBeef campaign in honor of the United Nations’ Peace Day by inviting number-one-ranked McDonald’s to jointly create a McWhopper.
McDonald’s didn’t jump at the chance to merge the two chains’ signature sandwiches, so Burger King won the promotional effort by default.
For now, the world must patiently await the next move to turbocharge the burger’s evolution.
Facebook’s Safety Check And The Paris Attacks
The social giant has a feature that allows users to quickly find and connect with friends in an area after an emergency. It uses geo-location to find users in a disaster area, sends them a notification to ask about their safety and encourages them to check in with friends.
It was inspired by the 2011 earthquake/tsunami in Japan and then was employed for natural disasters in Nepal, Chile and Pakistan.
Last month, it was used for the first time in a non-natural disaster as the Paris terror attacks unfolded. More than four million people marked themselves as “safe.”
After Paris, though, the company was criticized for not employing this people-finder during other violent attacks, such as in Lebanon. In a post, CEO Mark Zuckerberg agreed and said the policy has changed to include human disasters.
On a related front, Facebook said last January it added AMBER Alerts — notifications to find missing children — to users’ news feeds in targeted areas.
Many thanks to Matt McGee, Danny Sullivan, Ginny Marvin, Martin Beck and Pamela Parker for their “Naughty & Nice” nominations and feedback.