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Good afternoon to new subscribers from Kentucky, Sydney, Shanghai, Paris, Adelaide, Toronto and London!
This is the first Sunday edition of the TMW newsletter. I hope you’re having a great weekend and that your week ahead is shaping up to be a good one.
It has been a big, long week. I know I say that every week, but it’s so big in fact I could not fit everything into this newsletter. So I made a special overflow email, with links to Taboola’s IPO, Facebook’s newsletter product, a teardown of Parler’s insidious growth strategy, and the best deep fake video I’ve ever seen. If you’d like to get it, just reply to this email and I’ll personally send it to you.
👇 Let’s get right to it. Here’s everything you’ve missed in marketing and tech this week.
🏦 The global state of digital transformation - It’s not pretty. Digital transformations come in many shapes and sizes, but one thing over 70% of them have in common is they are increasingly ineffective in creating value for brands. That’s the perspective of the Boston Consulting Group, who presented a report at the World Economic Forum last week. The research came from a survey of over 78 leading companies and 800 + executives on the approaches and mindsets on digital transformation. While only 30% of brands derive real value out of their technology investments, the adoption of transformative projects is still accelerating. Are brands investing in transformation because everyone else is? Or is there real purpose and an understanding of value that motivates company leaders to transform?
The notion of a transformation is itself a misnomer. Brands are always transforming, and the concept really is shorthand for “responding to disruption with tech investment, and a whole lot of consultants.” Today, every company is a technology company - and the 80% who are not seeing value are yet to grapple with this concept. BCG talks about six areas where brands can improve, but I only want to talk about two of them. First, the fact that 50% of surveyed companies really struggled with a lack of flexibility in their technology and data platforms is telling. Most brands that have not invested in technology early are hard up against a wall of old school, siloed systems which can be a significant time, resource and funding suck out of their business. The second point also reinforces the first, which is the recommendation that agile governance should be able to broaden the adoption of technology, which points squarely in the direction of most brands trying to implement technology, but not thinking or working like technologists.
There have been quite a few high-profile transformation failures in the past couple of years particularly when it comes to larger consulting organizations coming into the picture. Recently the US digital platform to manage the COVID-19 vaccine has come under intense scrutiny, as $44 million dollars later, the platform is still not working as it was intended and has been abandoned by some US states. This was a joint project with a large US consultancy, which highlights that true software implementations should not be outsourced but enhanced by expert consultants. This is just another example of organizations not rising to the challenge of building world-class software. Tech companies are organized in specific ways so they can focus on building technology, when brands can see they have a software business living inside them and organize themselves and their investments accordingly, the better. BCG Report. WEC Release.
📦 Amazon’s legacy - Imagination and consistency. You’ve probably heard that Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is passing the baton to the AWS chief Andy Jassy. This has triggered countless reflection pieces about the success of Jeff Bezos’ leadership and his singular focus on harnessing technology which has propelled his personal wealth and the market cap of Amazon to astronomical proportions. I did a little digging myself and found this curious little quote from 1997, Jeff’s first shareholder letter:
"But this is Day 1 for the Internet and, if we execute well, for Amazon.com. Today, online commerce saves customers money and precious time. Tomorrow, through personalization, online commerce will accelerate the very process of discovery. Amazon.com uses the Internet to create real value for its customers and, by doing so, hopes to create an enduring franchise, even in established and large markets."
Now what’s striking here is Jeff’s big bet on personalisation and the imagination to see that internet commerce will indeed be the market they could dominate. But also his “day 1” mantra, which, if you talk to any Amazon employee will probably give you a spiel. It’s this partnership between seeing the things that customers would want one day, and the solidarity, consistency and focus of the vision to actually pull those things off that has led to Amazon’s success. While some suggest Amazon’s success comes from the focus on the customer (and I agree that’s true) it also can be deceptive. Customer obsession is often interpreted as focusing on data to understand customers and act on their needs, but what Amazon really pioneered was the ability to see through and beyond the data to deploy technology in ways that no one saw coming. While it’s true Amazon knows their customers today, they are also really good at knowing their customer tomorrow or a decade from now. Link. Shareholder letters.
🤷♂️ What is social capital? Here are a few thoughts on a new blockchain-powered way for micro brands and influencers to generate revenue online. If you’re aware of the Gartner hype cycle, being a social media influencer is heading directly into the trough of disillusionment. A few factors are at play here:
Big tech controls audiences, not the creators
Saturation of most social platforms (it’s harder to get reach)
The fear of being canceled is real
Monetization comes with an internet tax (ahem, Stripe)
The unshakable consumer expectation that content should always be free
Now entering stage left is a novel new concept, called user-generated capital. The concept is to enable creators to build their own communities on the blockchain, without the constraints of big tech or payment providers. Now this concept samples heavily from the crypto community, but it could just be the next big wave of commerce on the internet. The idea is to move from user-generated content to user-generated capital using things like social money where content can be instantly paid for on a distributed social media network. There’s still a lot of gaps in this nascent concept, but the idea is strong. The biggest problem that lies with this kind of platform is how consumers actually find it. It will take decades for the global population to come off the platforms that exist today, and players like Facebook won’t let it happen. A lot to think about in this space. Link
📈 Chart of The Week
Did online shopping become harder during the pandemic? Some great research to come out of WARC on Gen Z (born 1997 onwards) and how they fared with online shopping during the pandemic. What’s interesting is that in most of the technologically savvy countries in the EU and the United States, Gen Z actually reported that they experienced more friction. My sneaking suspicion is that this is due to many traditional, retail brands having to sell online for the first time, which resulted in a lot of amateurs. The only thing I’m not surprised about is China, they were eCommerce ready years ago. Link (sign up needed)
📰 Latest Developments
Google launches News Showcase. This is part of Google’s strategy in Australia to offer an alternative solution to the news media bargaining code. The solution is to ask publications to host their content on the Google platform as a form of monetization. They might as well ask for news publications for the shirts off their backs too. Link
Hubspot buys The Hustle for $28 million. This is like pancakes and maple syrup. Both companies have a very aligned market, strong content marketing function and the ability to scale other startups. A nice story of market alignment between both brands. Link
The CDP Unicorn. Tealium, a leader in CDP and tag management solutions has just raised their series G, valuing the business at $1.2 Billion. Aside from innovating in the data space, a lot of this has to do with the company’s unique focus on training and upskilling the companies they sell to, compounding customer satisfaction and boosting the brand ahead of competitors. Link
Another Data Unicorn. Another company, Data Bricks has raised $1 Billion of funding ahead of an upcoming IPO. Amazon, Google, Microsoft are all backing the company. Coincidentally this came about from a series G round. Link
Tim Cook targets Facebook’s advertising model at WEF. Tim Cook gave a keynote address to the World Economic Forum’s Davos Agenda. The topic? How Facebook and Google’s data harvesting is ruining customer experience. This is the biggest rejection of these tech players by Apple to date. Link
Natural language processing - the next best analytics opportunity. A great piece on the advances of natural language processing driven by the latest increases in compute power. This is something to watch as CX professionals are likely to rely more on NLP to manage customer service interactions at scale. Link
Why hasn’t Twitter grown in 10 years? The company’s share price has only grown 1.9% year on year for 10 years. The social media company’s tomorrow at some point should come today. Some interesting thinking on where the platform could go. There’s certainly going to be subscription products involved. Link
Data creepiness and brand risk. The concept of consumers being a little unnerved by the data a brand may know about them used to belong on the fringes of customer experience. But now, thanks to social media it’s become a big issue for many brands and is a serious reputational risk. Link
Moving away from subscription pricing. The last decade’s focus on monetization was cloud-based, subscription-based business models. Here’s a rationalization on why that’s changing to pay per use and other models. I still think $10/month for Netflix is a pretty sweet deal. Link
Rethinking B2B marketing. Some perspectives on how B2B marketing is changing away from corporate strategies to infusing culture and the “people” aspect into the marketing mix. B2B and B2C have one thing in common - you’re still talking to people. Link
🔢 Data & Insights
National data breach report. An Australian government study into data breaches across industries and business profiles. Healthcare ranks the highest in data security issues, mostly because it’s one of the least sophisticated industries when it comes to digital technology. I smell opportunity. Link
Gartner magic quadrant for DXP. DXP stands for “digital experience platform” which is platform technology combining data analytics, execution, and optimization features. Adobe comes out on top and Episerver (Optimizely) is making fast progress. Link
The 50 most visited websites in the world. Some surprises in her and sites I’ve never heard of. Link
An MBA for SEO. This is a wide spectrum discipline and one where the inferior SEOs tarnish the reputations of the respectable and accomplished. I course on SEO that should set people in the practice apart. Link
Data visualization for strategists. A really nice guide on creating data visualization from a strategist's perspective. Link
Amazon Go 2.0. A grocery cart that acts like your eCommerce cart. The next phase in the meshing between physical and digital. Some people call it “phygital” but remember, it didn’t come from me. Link
An app to prevent internet trolling. Filter out the haters and abuse on Twitter. It’s interesting that someone is building a product business on features that should exist on Twitter. Link
✨ Weird and Wonderful
Listen to your favorite forest. Someone thoughtful decided to create an entire library of forest recordings from around the world. Perfect for a post-campaign wind down. Link
Regulating influencers? Surely most people know now that influencer posts are just advertising for their own brand or someone else's. Apparently not. Link
Spinach is disrupting marketing automation. In a very funny article that went viral this week, scientists have discovered a way for Spinach to send emails. It’s actually quite a novel innovation. Link
Big tech from the perspective of a hairdresser. Salon owners weigh in on the big tech fist fight over the news media bargaining code in Australia. How it impacts their business and what they envisage the future will be. Link
Today, in creepy ways tech companies use your data. Spotify is working on an invention to monitor your emotional state through ambient speech recording. The aim is to more finely tune your playlists and recommendations based on your mood. Link
👋 TMW things you might be interested in
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💼 Career Opportunities
Come work with me at The Lumery! There’s a number of strategy and marketing automation roles going. We’re growing like crazy and just got a fresh delivery of some new merch. It’s a good time to join the Australian team 🦘 Link
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