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5 Major Digital Marketing Trends for 2014


This article by Gordon Plutsky orginally appeared on

Click here to read more marketing predictions for 2014

Marketing, by its very nature, is in a constant state of change. As much as we try to control the unknown and plan ahead, the fact is that marketing is inherently a reactive practice. Being in front of the right audiences on the right channels with the right message is completely dependent on the current trends in consumer behavior, technology and even cultural movements. These variables keep the job interesting to say the least, and while nothing is certain in this world, I want to discuss five major trends that marketers should keep their eyes on over the next year.

Content, content, content

Content marketing certainly isn't a new concept. By now most companies know they need to create content to engage customers and prospects. Now that everyone is executing on this tactic, the question for 2014 is how to do it effectively. Just writing up some keyword rich blog posts and articles don't cut it anymore. You have to say something meaningful and insightful to your customer while hopefully entertaining them at the same time.

Brands must have a unique and relevant message that is different than what everyone else is saying. Simply curating or repackaging from other competitors and media outlets is not enough. On top of being compelling your content needs to do two things. One, create an emotional connection with your brand, and two, drive customers to an action. This could manifest into something as small as a tweet or Facebook post and eventually lead directly to revenue. Content on your site or social channels that does not move people to action or create a bond is, at best, an inefficient use of valuable brand real estate. By understanding the motivations of your customers and utilizing storytelling techniques while getting away from the transactional relationship will help create that emotional bond. 

Mobile first

We don't need the research to tell us that just about everyone from eight to eighty will soon have a smartphone and/or a tablet in their hands. The era for consuming content primarily on a desktop is quickly coming to a close. Half of all social interaction, email opens, and YouTube views now happen on a mobile platform. What this means for brands and marketers is that all of your communication -- email, web assets, and social content -- must be created with a mobile-first perspective. 

Of course, websites are still very important as the main brand hub or as an e-commerce/conversion tool. But mobile is quickly becoming the first line of engagement at the big end of the sales funnel. Responsive design is no longer a luxury, but rather a basic requirement, and it's important to tailor each piece of content to the device or channel where it will most likely be viewed by the consumer. Mobile technology has already, and most likely will replace radios/stereos, TVs/movie theaters, GPS hardware/software, credit and debit cards, game consoles, newspapers, magazines, cameras, photo editing software, music creation equipment, watches, landline phones, calculators, cash registers and surely more that I'm forgetting. If your company hasn't realized the importance of this technology it's time to catch up.

Streaming, cord cutting and real time marketing

As traditional media -- CDs, newspapers, TV networks, magazines, etc. -- further declines, it's becoming clear that these tangible, analog manifestations of content are no longer needed in a world where everything is streaming and on demand. It is rewiring the way consumers think and process information. We are getting used to having everything customized and delivered instantly, when and where we want it. It's now all about us, the ubiquitous consumer WiFi and 4G communications has revolutionized content delivery and consumption. This new world has to be top of mind when planning customer communications. 

Brands can also take advantage of real-time engagement platforms like never before -- especially with Twitter. Ironically, live tweeting has turned the once solitary act of watching television into a community-based and shared activity. Smart marketers will take advantage of customer's desires to be heard during shows they love. ABC's Shark Tank, for example, has become a hit in part due to the participatory nature of Twitter. Several brands have begun promoting tweets during the show, engaging and influencing the captive audience.

Data is everything

The other overused term from 2013 is big data, however, with the entire world of marketing and media during digital, it is a critical piece of the future of marketing and understanding consumer behavior. Your analytics teams should have a seat at the table for every decision and planning session your business has in 2014. The key is not merely measuring what happened, but trying to predict future outcomes. Anyone can look at a stack of sales reports and tell you what happened. The real talent understands why and how it will play out in the future. Your analytics has to go from passive to active.

The rise of the digital CMO 

In our new tech-heavy industry having a digitally savvy CMO becomes the most important person in the executive suite after the CEO/COO. Everything that touches customers is now digitally enabled, from supply chain logistics to customer service. The first waves of CMOs were drawn from the ranks of people who came from the world of branding, advertising, or creative teams. Those skills still apply, but brands can't sell or spin digital success that is now determined by the end user. The CMO of the future has to be an expert in digital channels, customer service, marketing automation platforms, content marketing/storytelling, and analytics -- no one trick ponies. And, they have to really understand technology, from web development platforms to the cloud and even data management systems. It all falls under the purview of today's CMO.

There you have it, 2014 promises to be another exciting year for marketers with many possibilities and unknowns. And the most important thing to remember is it's all about the customer, they are in charge.

2014 Marketing and Media Predictions and Outlook, Part 1

Part I: Predictions
Part II Larger trends for marketers

Everything is connected: 2014 will see a lot of buzz and progress in the connection of non-computer devices to the Internet.  Sometimes called the Internet of Things, driving this are improvements in underlying technologies (such as wireless networking, communications protocols, shrinking silicon chips, etc.) and falling costs, which allows more objects to become easily embedded with sensors, gaining the ability to communicate over the same IP as the internet.  Apple’s iBeacon and new products such as wearable tech (watches, glasses), appliances and cars will take advantage of these improvements.  Addionally, there will be an uptick in mobile payments and m-commerce.  Mobile is becoming the dominant platform for customer interaction and content consumption.

Native advertising is advertising posing as relevant content.  The hottest trend in advertising is really an old idea going back decades to the advertorial.  Seeing it in a digital platform blurs the lines between ads and editorial even more than it did in days of magazine special sections.  More brands will move traditional ad dollars to this tactic in a big way resulting in possible ad clutter.  Just what they were trying to avoid in the first place.

We have just seen the beginning of provocative headlines promising a life changing emotional moment though a viral video that you just have to click on right now.  The battle for clicks and referrals from social networks will rage through 2014.  More here on how it works.   

The Twitter/TV connection will get stronger as broadcasters have found a way to make watching on their schedule relevant once again in the age of on-demand content.  It works best when it happens organically among viewers allowing brands to message to them in context.  It does not work well when forced or when TV hosts read selected tweets on live TV, which can be painful to watch.  The mighty, yet humble #Hashtag will grow in cultural significance.

The buzz around content marketing will continue to grow as brands (big and small) build content engagement strategies. They will need to decide how they are going to the fill the tremendous need for brand content for their web sites and social channels.  There will be vendors to fill the void offering inexpensive and automated content solutions.  This may not be the best way to engage customers in meaningful conversation by adding insight and driving customers to action.  The key to successful content marketing will be the ability to get customers to share it with friends and family.  Brand content of low quality or duplicative with other ubiquitous web content will fail.  Changes in the way Google treats keywords puts even more demand on the need to have quality content.  

Distribution strategies will become more important to content marketers.  Creating content that no one sees is not helpful.  Smart strategies to amplify owned media with paid, earned and share will be a major theme in 2014.

In the first ever cold weather Super Bowl, there will be plenty of empty seats in cold MetLife Stadium by the 4th quarter as either the Seattle Seahawks or SF 49ers will put a serious beat down on the AFC participant –likely the Broncos, Colts or Patriots.  Several brands will try their hand at real time social media marketing during the Super Bowl and one will fail big and be mocked.

A big political year – the GOP will easily hold the House, but will only come close to taking the Senate, keeping control in Democratic hands.  President Obama will stay below 50% approval all year as the conversation shifts to the 2016 election.  The end of 2014 will see Hillary Clinton and Chris Christie seen as clear frontrunners.   The Dow Jones Index will end 2014 above 18,000 and unemployment will only slightly scrape under 7% due to Boomers leaving the labor force.  

The subscription/on demand model for media will grow even faster as Netflix, Pandora, Amazon and iTunes become the dominant sources for content when and how you want it.  The long-term trend will continue away from network TV viewing, while cable subscriptions and music sales will continue to decline.  PC sales downturns will accelerate in a tablet-first world.  Mobile shakeout will begin, as there is not enough room for the Windows or BlackBerry platforms among developers and customers.  

Facebook matures in two ways – young people continue to turn away to other alternatives and have no interest hanging out with their parents and grandparents.  Facebook also goes “all in” with pay to play – don’t count on anyone seeing your brand’s content post if you don’t run an ad campaign.  Free ride is over.

Part II tomorrow on big trends for marketers.

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New Book on Multichannel Marketing Best Practices


A new book, Multichannel Marketing Ecosystems, has been published with a variety of leading authors contributing chapters including King Fish’s CEO Cam Brown.  Cam’s piece is about using the tried and true technique of storytelling and content marketing to drive sales for your brand. 

Click here to read Cam's contribution.

Below is a description of the book.  Click here to buy it on Amazon.

Multichannel Marketing Ecosystems examines a fundamental game changer for the entire marketing industry - the seismic shift from a single TV-centric path to a multichannel interactive ecosystem, which puts digital technology at the heart of every campaign. With separate chapters on the remaking of marketing, the rise of the digital brand, conversion optimization, m-commerce, searchability in a multichannel world and predictive marketing, this book shows how marketers and brand managers can react positively to changes in consumer behavior, building customer responses and loyalty via the full spectrum of digital media.  This book features 32 contributors from leading marketing companies across the globe and published by Kogan Page.

Should Retailers Open On Thanksgiving?


More and more retailers are opening on Thanksgiving with some notable exceptions like Nordstrom and BJs.  This has wide ranging implication for brands and their perceived image and relationship with customers.  In the social era you share your brand with customers and people have become media; they can be your biggest advocates or detractors.  On Nov. 26, King Fish CEO Cam Brown went on FOX 25 in Boston to discuss the implications for both retailers and consumers.

Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston




Content Strategy Roundup - August 9, 2013


A collection of articles from around the web to help content strategies and digital marketers


Be a Content Powerhouse: 4 Steps to Ensuring Content Is a Strategic Asset

With search holding steady as one of the largest traffic drivers, developing search engine-optimized content that will drive audience and social engagement is critical for success. But beyond keyword targeting and on-page optimization, a strong content strategy goes deep into understanding users, their brand maturity level, and devices, transforming content from a production task to a marketing differentiator.

19 Content Tools to Boost Your Search Performance

While this list is not comprehensive by any means, since there are literally hundreds of SEO-focused content tools, plug-ins, bookmarklets, software solutions, and services on the market, it is simply meant to serve as a starting point for your efforts to improve your content’s search potential.

Mobile Users Losing Patience With Un-Optimized Email

Get with the program, users are telling marketers and publishers. We are reading these emails on devices now -- or at least we are trying to. The price paid by the un-optimized provider may be higher than expected, while the benefit to the mobile-ready could come in surprising ways.
The most obvious trend in digital marketing, that the all-important email channel is migrating quickly to device, just keeps, well, trending. According to provider Email Outbound Networks and its annual survey of over 2,000 U.S. consumers, 43% now say they read their email most often on mobile device -- a number up 8% since last year.

How Brands Use Facebook Content: Hashtags, Content Types, and User Engagement

Key findings from a study, which examined how the Interbrand Top 100 Brands used Facebook from May 1 to June 30, 2013.

The Most (and Least) Effective Keywords in Email Subject Lines

Email subject line keyword performance broken out by B2B, B2C and commerce. For complete results and analysis check out the full study, The 2013 Adestra Subject Line Analysis Report, which was based on a review of over 2 billion global emails.

3 Ways to Boost Video Shares Online

It's one of the most important rules of digital marketing: content can't thrive online unless it's shared. Regardless of how excellent and culturally relevant your visual or informational content might be, it's dead in the water unless it manages to get some traction through social shares.

The good news is that consumers are predisposed to share. Better still - particularly in this age of Vine and Instagram Video - is the knowledge that they're particularly willing to share content that comes in video form.

Why video creators need to think mobile

As of late,  the greatest untapped potential -- and greatest missed opportunities for creative -- in mobile. Consider how much time you spend on your mobile devices, whether tablet or smartphone. You're not the exception, but rather the new rule. Mobile use is exploding at 14 times the rate of desktop. More than half of U.S. consumers own a smartphone.

Turning Point for Media: Digital tops TV


A major threshold has been reached in the evolution of U.S. media.  Adults now spend more time with digital media than TV according to eMarketer’s latest estimate of media consumption.  Stats and tables are here and here.

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Not surprisingly, mobile devices – smartphones and tablets, drive this upsurge.  The average time spent with digital has increased by two hours per day since 2010, while TV and Radio has remained flat to down.  Print usage continues to decline to a combined 30 minutes per day.  Overall, US adults are spending nearly 12 hours a day connected or consuming some sort of media, a good portion of waking hours.  Keep in mind, there is overlap in the numbers.  If someone spends an hour on Twitter during a one-hour TV show, it counts as two hours.  

It stands to reason that younger American’s who have a completely different relationship with media and marketing than the Boomer generation is driving much of this change.  The vast majority of them will never subscribe to a print newspaper or magazine.  They are much more likely to stream their music and watch video on demand via digital channels.

Clearly, the implications for marketers are immense as they try to deal with a world where are consumers are in control.  A recent WSJ article highlights how P&G, a classic and huge TV advertiser is quickly moving budget to digital away from TV.  Once word gets out others will quickly follow suit.  

The big advantage of digital marketing is obviously the specific targeting and the ability to measure a direct ROI.  For a brand to be successful in digital platforms they need to engage customers and prospects in a conversation and excel in two-way communication.  The move from TV to digital is not just one of a platform, but also a change in mode of communication.  Older media – TV, Radio, Newspapers, and Magazines – are passive, lean back, one-way mediums. 

One of the reasons consumers are moving to digital and mobile platforms is for the interactivity, engagement and conversation.  Social media and video are driving mobile usage.  People want to be able to do something and interact with their content, not just sit back and watch, listen and read.  They clearly enjoy being part of the conversation; in fact people have become the media as sharing becomes a bigger part of the marketing mix.

This sea change is directly responsible for the rise and importance of content marketing and engagement marketing.  The days of consumers as passive recipients of ad messages is ending.  In a digital dominant world, if you don’t engage a prospect, you are out of the conversation.   Next year Mad Men ends its run and so does television as the primary way Americans consume media.  


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Free Download – Get our New eBook: 

Content Marketing for Customer Engagement:
 Four Steps to Success

King Fish Media has developed a unique framework designed to help marketers add more structure to their content marketing efforts. As marketers shift more of their budgets to content marketing, these four steps will help to ensure a better return on those investments.

Click here to get it now

Content Strategy Roundup - August 1, 2013


Here are some insightful articles from the past few weeks.  We hope you find them useful. Click on the headlines to link to the articles.

Three Priorities for the Digital CMO – Harvard Business Review

"As chief storyteller, you have more opportunities to develop compelling and relevant brand identities by including your customers in the narrative creation process right from the start. And consumers have shown time and time again that they trust brands that trust them. And while sometimes scary, that can't be a bad thing."

8 More Cold Hard Content Marketing Stats – Business2Business Community

Nice recap of the latest studies about content marketing's effectiveness from a variety of sources.

How Shared Media Fits into the Marketing Mix – iMedia Connection

“Shared media is a subset of earned media and a form of amplification. Earned media generally tends have a point of view or an editorial bend. Examples might be a blog post or an article around a topic, a video of a product unboxing, or commentary. Shared media, on the other hand, tends to be a forward, a retweet, a pin, or (on Facebook) a literal "share." Perhaps a word or comment is injected, but essentially it's a pass-along of an essentially unaltered element of content”

10 Trends in B2B and B2C Content Marketing – Connote Magazine

“These content marketing trends, in no particular order, will impact how businesses grow their brand footprint in the coming months and years. New trends will undoubtedly emerge as time goes on, but we feel that this list is a great starting point for any brand.”  Two that resonate are video engagement and using content across multiple platforms.

How Story Platforms Help Global Brands Go Local – Harvard Business Review

“The power of a brand's Story Platform is that it is singular (there is never more than one), unchanging over long periods of time, differentiating (focused on what makes the brand unique for its audiences) and contains the authentic truth of the brand. It also defines what subject areas a brand can credibly create content around — the brand's "authority to publish." Using a Story Platform properly, brands and their agencies can build a huge variety of brand stories over a long period of time and every story will ladder up to the brand's core proposition.”

Free Download – Get our New eBook

Content Marketing for Customer Engagement:
Four Steps to Success

King Fish Media has developed a unique framework designed to help marketers add more structure to their content marketing efforts. As marketers shift more of their budgets to content marketing, these four steps will help to ensure a better return on those investments.

Click here to get it now

content marketing1 resized 600

New Free eBook: Content Marketing for Customer Engagement


Please download our newest eBook: Content Marketing for Customer Engagement: Four Steps to Success

King Fish Media has developed a unique framework designed to help marketers add more structure to their content marketing efforts. As marketers shift more of their budgets to content marketing, these four steps will help to ensure a better return on those investments.

Download this eBook to learn:

* How to create a six part strategic framework to guide your entire content marketing plan

* How to create content that inspires, engages and drives action by building trust.

* Eight rules for creating remarkable content for your brand

* Best practices for distributing your content through your own media channel – don’t rent through advertising when you can own the environment

* How to use different levels of metrics and demonstrate positive ROI against your strategic objective

Start building long term customer relationships today and download this eBook.

The Apple Lifestyle vs. The Samsung Device: Tale of the Tape


The battle between Apple and Samsung is heating up for both smartphones and tablets.  Apple has a lot riding on the release of iOS7 and the new iPhones and iPads that will follow.  Samsung has a more varied product line and leads with the Galaxy 4.  Both product families are excellent and it often comes down to personal preference or your carrier.  The contrasts between their marketing/advertising approaches are as different as the phones.  It is a case study in how you create and leverage a brand.

Samsung’s history as a maker of devices and products is evident in their marketing – they advertise the “thing”.  And, they do like to spend.  They have always tried to bludgeon the competition with huge media buys across several products categories. Their ads focus on the features and the cool stuff you can do with the Galaxy such as the larger screen or the ability to wave your hand for a command.  This clearly appeals to people who watch a lot of video and play games, and don’t really think of it as a telephone.  The devices are stand alone in that they don’t really tie to any other Samsung offering, but rather the Apps offered in the Android store.  

The ads have another obvious theme – they are not Apple and it’s not an iPhone.  This plays on two factors, first, a blowback against the popularity of Apple and their famously devoted fans.  Secondly, they are trying to create a movement that they are the “next cool thing” and preferred by the young and hip, by contrast, Apple is for boring middle age people who drive a Camry and have 401Ks.  

Here is a long form ad that is a combination of cool gadgets and young people befuddleing their elders with their magic machine

I am not a fan of this as a long-term strategy because hinging on being the new cool thing has a short shelf life.  By definition something can only be new and leading edge for a short amount of time – ask Vine.  Also, you may be writing off or insulting a large segment of consumers.  There are not a lot of people 40+ who aspire to be a 25-year-old hipster, but they do have a lot more disposable income.

Apple’s approach is clearly illustrated by their new commercial you can see below.

When asking the famous question “what business are you in?”  Apple would never answer with anything to do with devices, phones, computer etc. Those are just the means to the end.  Apple is in the experience business – they enhance your life with information and entertainment and empower you at work.  Their have created an entire interconnected ecosystem that works together seamlessly in the cloud.  Apple is the ultimate lifestyle brand with a strong emotional connection between company and customer.  This sometimes borders on irrational (i.e. waiting online overnight for a phone that will be available everywhere within weeks), but that is what emotions are all about.  

Watch this Apple ad on how they bring you Music

This ad shows the photo experience

Everything from games, music, TV/movies, Apps, pictures are integrated and can be consumed over numerous form factors.  Apple’s ads are about empowerment, almost on a spiritual basis.  They are not so much what you can do with your Apple product but how it makes your life better.   Contrast that with the Samsung ads that often zero in on one particular feature and it is presented sometimes with an air of smugness while the vibe at Apple is one of wonder and inspiration.  And, catch the tag at the end of the newest ads – “Designed in California” Is that a jibe at Korean owned Samsung, or to make us forget about their Chinese factories?

The battle is fascinating to watch and should heat up in Q4 for the holiday season.  For now, having the integrated platform gives Apple a leg up to leverage new innovations such as wearable technology.  I’ll continue to enjoy my Apple ecosystem of media and Apps, often viewed through my AppleTV, which is connected to my Samsung LED TV.  It’s a great TV, but it offers the least amount of value throughout the chain and is the most easily replaced – that’s often the case with devices.  In contrast, experiences are hard to duplicate.


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How the Tablet Will Change Content Marketing


You may have heard the news of Pew’s new research on tablet ownership in the U.S. and the results are eye opening.  33% of all adults own a tablet (defined as iPad, Samsung Galaxy Tab, Google Nexus, or Kindle Fire)—almost twice as many as the 18% who owned a tablet a year ago.  And, up from zero three years ago when Apple’s introduced the disruptive iPad.  (Go here to download the report)

The ownership numbers rise to 50% for key demographics such as:

* Ages 35-44
* People with College degrees
* Households over 75K per year
* Parents who have a child in the house

Not surprisingly, this rapid adoption has fostered a decrease in PC sales.  Tablet ownership should spike again this fall when the iOS7 powered new iPad rolls out along with competitive products from Samsung, Amazon, and Google

The vast majority of these tablets are not being used as “mobile devices”, but rather content consumption machines for text, images, video, music and social media.  And, they are being used to buy lots of stuff from e-retailers.  It is important to keep the use cases in mind – the PC is still the best device for creating content and working on complex problem solving – for now.  However, the tablet is superior for the classic “lean back” content emersion experience.  The clean and simple interface has contributed to the fast adaption.  Almost anyone from a toddler to the elderly can pick it up and figure it out within minutes.  Perhaps this will be Steve Job’s lasting legacy.

Clearly, the implications for brands and content marketers are immense as the “brand as media channel” revolution is in full swing and a CMO priority.  Content needs to be device agnostic and flow naturally to all possible devices and form factors.

Karen McGrane the author of Content Strategy for Mobile, recently wrote on the Harvard Business Review blog about how it is time to shift away from a paper/page paradigm for digital content.  Since the beginning of the web in the mid 90’s people have viewed it with the printed page in mind, hence the term web page.  The first websites were offshoots of printed material so it was natural to post print composed pages on the web.  McGrane suggests that is time to move past this thinking and it is hard to argue with the logic.  She says:

Publishing content to a variety of devices and platforms is fundamentally different from print. This wave of new connected devices means it's time we accept that the web isn't just a glorified print document. The way we think about content needs to change.

She suggests a new way to view content through the lens of the user experience.

"The page" as a container is so fundamental to how we think about reading; it's hard to break away from thinking about our content that way. On the web, we've repurposed that model, treating all of our content (text, but also graphics, videos, and other interactive elements) as through they "live" on a particular page. You don't have to spend too much time thinking about all these new form factors and device types to realize that the very notion of a page doesn't hold up. Content will "live" on many different screens and presentations. 

The future of connected devices is content in "chunks," not pages. Smaller, discrete content objects can be dynamically targeted to specific platforms and assembled into new containers on the fly. Which content and how much content appears on a given screen or interface will be defined by a set of rules, informed by metadata. Content will break free of the page and "live" in lots of different places.”

The tablet is just the first step, as we could be looking at wearable technology (Google Glasses, iWatch) very soon, and voice commands will enable content integration within cars.

While we are on the topic of moving away from old ideas, Rebecca Lieb an analyst for Altimeter Group writes about banner ads on iMedia Connection.  The banner ad comes from the same previous paradigm, it was merely a print ad transported to the web by ad sales people.  A recent study from comScore as reported by the Wall Street Journal shows some shocking results:

“54 percent of online display ads shown in “thousands” of campaigns measured by comScore Inc. between May of 2012 and February of this year weren’t seen by anyone, according to a study completed last month. Don’t confuse “weren’t seen” with “ignored.” These ads simply weren’t seen, the result of technical glitches, user habits and fraud.”   A mind-blowing amount of precious marketing budget is heading right into the shredder.

Yet, as Lieb points out, the demand and revenue for these outdated marketing tactics continues to grow while producing fewer results for marketers and less revenue for publishers as CPMs plummet.  Clearly, it’s time for a change when billions are wasted each year.

The takeaway for content marketers is to think differently when it comes to customer content engagement strategies.  The same old ideas and tired tactics won’t work as your customer’s readership habits evolve and interruptive marketing no longer works.  Time and technology only move forward, and today it happens fast.  

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