Users want privacy, but privacy, it appears, makes better marketing difficult. In this episode of Marketing Made Difficult, we discuss whether this is a fundamental conflict between users and marketers.

Justin: It’s kind of forced transparency for consumers. The way that you target relevant advertising to them, the only way to do that, is to collect more data on them.

We also talk about:

The future of advertising

Vincent: The point I’m trying to make is maybe what we’re going toward in terms of advertising, is that advertising is more a feature of a product. It’s more integrated with the product itself. It’s some extra thing rather than being like a little blob that has a bunch of words or an image.

“Data literacy” for marketers

Vincent: I think kind of coming full circle on this, which is back to the idea of you know you have someone who’s creating great content, but there’s this data literacy issue. I think that burden is on the marketer. I think it’s also a great opportunity, because you can add a lot of value to organization when you’re starting to track onsite behavior, and pull in those data sources.

We love getting feedback and comments. Leave them here, or find us on Twitter @vincentbarr and @jwyattd.

Full Transcript

Vincent Barr:

We’re here to talk about how to future proof your career in marketing. First we would actually like to talk about why we haven’t promoted the first podcast that we recorded. Justin, why didn’t we promote that one?

Justin Dunham:

That’s a great question. We were just talking about it before we started, and sat down to record this episode. Promoting things is hard. It’s hard when you want to be thoughtful and it’s also hard when you want things to perform well. I think that is a real actual downside to, not to this podcast, but to some of the things that we will talk about on this podcast. When we say, it’s about marketing made difficult, I think we’re going to work hard to make sure everyone else still wants to do it, even though we are talking about some of the different ways to think about things, and the ways that things can go wrong, and ways to actually procrastinate in really promoting yourself versus just getting something out there.

Vincent Barr:

I think those are good points. I think getting something out there, it’s sort of the balance between I know what the right way to do it is. Which I haven’t done because maybe it requires some amount of time or effort. Then there’s the is this just good enough to get it out there? Just put it out into the world in some way. I think the last episode, we opted for okay, we’ll do this for some point in time. I think we were talking about, well first we should post the podcast, the transcript to our blog, and then post a link to our websites and so on, rather than directing it right to Soundcloud. Not only was there the message issue, but it’s the placement issue of where should we go, and how should we distribute it, where does it live? If we want to see analytics, all of these are just coming to mind.

Justin Dunham:

All the problems that everybody’s facing, yeah. We can talk about it more, but we probably won’t talk about it too much more. What I did do, is I tweeted directly before this episode. I said, “I’m not waiting anymore. I’m just going to put it out there.” Vince and I want to propose a cardinal rule of marketing. Tell me what you think because it’s always better to put something out there, than to sit in a room and ponder it.

Vincent Barr:

Agreed, I reluctantly agree, unless you’re in sales. That’s a different story. I’m just kidding. If sales has access to the Twitter account, different story.

Justin Dunham:

Most times yeah.

Vincent Barr:

I think there’s some exceptions but when you introduce any exceptions to that rule, I think you make anything an exception. I think as a result, I’m now going to be forced to post a tweet after the podcast. If I don’t, that’s just going to be kind of sad. I would do it now but listeners, you would hear me typing, and that would be kind of annoying.

Justin Dunham:

Well that’s that part. That’s a quick window into some more thinking than you probably wanted to hear on this podcast. Now we’re going to get into the main topic, which is how to future proof your career in marketing, as Vincent said. I think there’s this big question that we start out with, which is you’re going to future proof your career in marketing. What is the future in marketing?

Vincent Barr:

That is a good question. We touched on it a little bit in the last episode about how marketing touches a lot of data now, engineering, design. It’s becoming more cross functional, as you think about the full customer journey. I think the future of marketing will be more transparent, for a few reasons that we can get into in a moment. I think that there will be some need for higher integrity, then, for marketing as well. You’re balancing quick wins that may be unethical or customer hostile with what’s going to lead to long term growth. There’s going to be an emphasis on cross channel and more personalized experience, and being able to manage your cross functional team. You may see design, or product, or UX, rolling up into marketing.

Justin Dunham:

Let’s step back for a second and talk about each one of those things. Maybe when we go through, I can kind of articulate my perspective on it. You know, you started out by talking about transparency and integrity.

Vincent Barr:

One example is Facebook, which is widely adopted now. They’re doing really well in the social space, especially compared to Twitter. They’ve just begun optimizing their feed for usability and engagement among friends and family, as opposed to maximizing revenue and sponsored posts, and deals with publishing partners, and so forth. I think that’s been largely in reaction to people moving away to platforms like Snapchat, which is arguably a different form of communication. It also stems from people going to their Facebook news feed and having no idea what they’re even seeing, which is kind of my feeling and my sense of it now. How that actually manifests, I’m not sure. As I’m talking about this, I’m realizing that transparency I think, is largely reactive. It’s not proactive. It sort of requires some punitive measurement or some punitive action before someone really says, okay we’re going to be transparent, or we’re going to do this the right way. It’s kind of like Airbnb got their ad read just by spamming Craigslist forums, and other things that we might have questioned the ethics of in the beginning, but now we’re happy that they’re a widely used service.

Second example, and then I’d love to hear the rebuttal. Amazon recently dropped their list prices or their MSP from their website. Just to recap, a list price is there is like a standardization for any commerce company, or anyone that’s selling goods, to have this fixed price. The way that marketers use it is they use it as an anchor point to price their product in between the list price and then the minimum advertisement price. They recently decided that, they’re actually going to drop list price from their site all together.

Justin Dunham:

I don’t disagree with you actually. I think when we were talking about this before, and you initially said, “Oh, transparency and integrity.” What I think about is they’re doing it out of the goodness of their hearts. They’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. We have maybe an interest in doing things that are ethical or that whatever. The fact of the matter is, when you look at the motivation behind some of these transparency and integrity things, it is going to be because they own the platform and they own the experience. They have to make sure that it’s good. It’s actually a symptom of the way that Google has taken over the web, that way that Facebook has taken over social. That they own these platforms that take up a huge percentage of people’s time. They have a strong interest in keeping those platforms high quality. You look at the app stores, another really good example of this. There’s much less of a mentality where a marketer can go out and do whatever they want.

Google, the reason they’re promoting accelerated mobile pages, which as you know, let’s you pull up an article, a news article on your phone instantly, rather than having to wait for it to load, is that they own the web. They want people to continue to search for things through Google.com and to read news articles that are sourced there. The fewer people that go to Facebook and do that the better. Whoever can offer the fastest experience on either one of those platforms, is going to be the destination for people. I think it’s really interesting, because you mentioned transparency and integrity. As I say, I always think that’s oh yes, they’re behaving ethically. Part of it is as a marketer, one of the things you should be aware of in the future, is you are going to be forced to use these platforms. In using those platforms, you kind of have to learn to play by their rules.

Vincent Barr:

Maybe there’s this convergence of ethics and revenue. I don’t know that there was always that intention there. Maybe that’s due to competition, maybe it’s due to lifestyle and behavioral changes, just in people that are being advertised to. Which I think is the next point we could go on into, which is sort of a new thing, which is adblocking.

Justin Dunham:

I mean adblocking is not a platform that’s owned by anybody. It’s a cross platform problem. Most advertising is terrible. It’s not something that always does a good job of communicating what you’re buying. It’s not something where you come away, and you say, “Okay, now I really understand what that product is.” Some of it can be very good for branding. All of the sudden, all of these not really super well thought out advertisements are running into a generation of people, who have never had to sit through an advertisement on television. We have much shorter attention spans and can easily switch to another screen. Adblocking is a really good honestly, technological solution to this problem. It’s not just this platform issue, but it’s also that consumers have much more power than they have before. It could be related to the platform thing. I mean nobody’s going to use IOS, if the iPhone requires you to accept all push notifications from any app that you install. It’s also related to people getting out there and being able to write software that just does this for you.

It’s a really tough problem. I think it’s also a tough problem because, if you are a marketer, sometimes you look at these things much more critically than other people would. For example, I know that when I run AdWords ads for the eCommerce product of the company that I work at, there’s a value to generating an awareness, at the very least. An AdWords ad is not super intrusive. I think if I were doing something like, I had a TV show and a consumer brand, and I were running the same ad eighty times or something like that. I don’t know, it’s a very interesting question. I think there’s a kind of embedded question there of what is really good advertising, and how do you know if it’s really useful to other people? How do you know if it’s fulfilling this idea of integrity or transparency and stuff like that. I think that’s a very tough question to answer.

Vincent Barr:

Yeah, I agree. As you were talking about AdWords, I think initially for some reason, and I’ve worked on more platforms than just display. I was thinking about display ads, and billboards, and things that you see on the subway, and walking down the streets, and things that aren’t harvesting any demand. I didn’t ask for them to be there. They’re not in response to some intention or query. Which is why I think AdWords still has a lot of value. At the same time, I couldn’t tell you the last time, I don’t know that I’ve ever clicked on an AdWords ad to be honest, other than like for QA reasons or research.

Justin Dunham:

Totally, absolutely.

Vincent Barr:

I think you mentioned this. What would good advertising be and high integrity advertising? I think both of us would never be able to take off that marketer lens to think about this from a consumer’s view. We would have to rely on data to really understand how something’s working or why it’s working. Me, personally I don’t look at ads as selling me products. I look at the copy or the creative. I’m like, “Oh, they made a grammatical error,” or something like this. I’m not looking at it in the same way consumers do. At the same time, there’s also just the effect of being exposed to something repetition over time, and that increases your propensity to use the brand, or something like this.

Justin Dunham:

I think there’s another piece to it too. I totally agree with you. I think there’s another piece to it too, which is intent. If your advertising is matching an identifiable an intent, I think maybe that makes it better, that makes it more interesting. That probably makes it much more effective. Maybe that’s if we want to talk about transparency and integrity, maybe we’re also talking about the evolution tools that help infer intent, and infer a person’s need today, and match ads to those a lot better.

Vincent Barr:

Yes. I think that’s a really interesting point. I think the way that you get better at targeting intent is by collecting more information about people across devices, their location, their usage. I mean one really interesting thing is that Nike owns myfitnesspal.com, which is a website where you answer all of the food, it’s basically like a diet and nutrition tracker. You might enter your goals, whether you want to gain weight, build muscle … Or gain weight, lose weight, build muscle, and you enter your recipes and record what you’re consuming. Then they have that data. If you have a Nike Plus or some sort of fitness monitoring device, they start to record when you’re exercising, where your exercising, your lat longs. They could be recording where you’re traveling, all sorts of things. You can start to merge these different data sources to do interesting things. It raises the question of privacy and anonymity, people are also becoming a bit more keen to. Going to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the reason that they let you see how much information is being collected about you, because they think it’s a bit of sort an invasion of privacy. It can also be used for malicious intent.

Justin Dunham:

Right. You’re saying almost that the transparency and integrity thing, it kind of requires everybody to be transparent. It’s kind of forced transparency for consumers. The way that you target relevant advertising to them, the only way to do that is to collect more data on them. There’s two sides to that. Facebook wants you to put ads on their platform that are reasonably high quality, or whatever we’re going to say. The flip side of that though, is in order for them to offer you something, where the effort you put into that is going to be rewarded, and people are going to want to see your ad, that’s where they are sharing the information you are collecting.

Vincent Barr:

I think that this is sort of an interesting balance, because there’s a big community of people that are complaining that online advertising is … We were just talking about a lot of it is frivolous or why am I seeing this and so forth. Then there’s also a huge community of people of like also, I don’t want any data collected on me. Then there’s also a huge community of people, kind of like this diagram who don’t want to pay for any content to read. They don’t want to pay. I remembering reading one of your blog posts about you would pay for Twitter. No one wants to pay for any of these services. I remember the day where you would go into a store and I would buy a Windows 95 CD, or Windows 98 CD, or the Sims. It like came in a box.

Justin Dunham:

Right.

Vincent Barr:

Maybe there were like shareware versions of certain software online, but the only really software that I can remember, you had Napster, simple different things like this.

Justin Dunham:

Sure, sure. You don’t have to admit to using those on the podcast.

Vincent Barr:

Yeah. I think it goes back to the idea that people don’t want to pay for the things too now. I think if you removed advertising, would people as an alternative say, I mean A you’d have to really curate your media diet, because you just couldn’t endlessly browse the web.

Justin Dunham:

Right. Of course you can, yeah.

Vincent Barr:

One question I have though, how do you feel about this topic of dark patterns, which goes to a little bit more to the UX side? Just to give two examples. There are these, like motto Windows. I think the Nielsen Norman Group calls them “please don’t go pop ups”. Starting with those, how do you feel about that sort of those marketing tactics?

Justin Dunham:

Well, now I just don’t know. Before we started talking about this, I would have said, some of those make sense to me. Company email address validation, that to me is you can use that or not. I don’t think there’s anything unethical about that. I think there’s a question about whether it’s a good idea or not, that has to be answered with data. Which is something that we haven’t talked about yet. I’ll answer your question in a second, but before I’ll do that, I’ll say, I think a huge part of the future of marketing is accountability and burden of proof for everybody in data. Just to explain what this is, you go to a company’s website. You want to download some really cool white paper. You see a cool white paper. Only a marketer would say that.

You see a form, it asks for your first name, last name, email, company, and the email will actually not let you submit if you put in a Gmail account. If I put in a Citigroup, or Merrill Lynch, or Carrier Air Conditioners, or whatever, and it’s a business, then they’ll let you submit it. To me that’s an easy one, because I think it’s fine to do that from a UX perspective. I mean that’s kind of the trade that we’re making to you, for producing this white paper. We are just going to get your information. We need that transparency from you in order to justify producing the content, and also in order to target it.

Vincent Barr:

Are you discriminating against the unemployed?

Justin Dunham:

Well the flip side of that question is, couldn’t an unemployed person just stick in a fake non Gmail address?

Vincent Barr:

They could, but if you required like a double opt in or something like this, then it could be a challenge. They could just use it, I think it depends on how sophisticated that the company validation email address is. You have lots of throwaway email account providers, but I’m not sure. I mean freelancers might use a Gmail address. I know there was a period of time, well no, an ongoing period of time, where I would use Gmail for a lot of stuff.

Justin Dunham:

Well let me definitely not answer your question, by saying that this is why I come back to the data piece. If that’s true, then we should be able to look at the sales opportunities that get created out of Gmail addresses and see that those are an equally good source as some other things. I think people often choose to make that decision without having any of the data behind it. That to me, is part of the future of marketing. That’s that one. As to the question of whether it’s sort of unfair or unethical, which we talked about a few times, so far in related to marketing. I think that’s a great question. I don’t know the answer to that. If I produce a product and it’s let’s say an Enterprise Software Product, and you want to learn about it. We do technically offer the information for free, are we required or do we have an ethical obligation to provide it to anyone who wants to read it? Great question, I don’t know. You know, maybe we have someone else out there at the bottom of the form that says, hey if you want to read this without giving us your email address, send us an email here and we’ll send it to you, or something like that. Then we can make a decision. I don’t know. That’s that one.

Some of the other stuff, like unclosable sign up windows, are actually to me another good example of a dark US pattern that I find difficulty in imagining that it’s actually effective over the long term. I still use an iPhone 5S. I will go to a lot of newspaper websites and you can tell that they don’t test their forms on the iPhone 5, because you cannot close the window that comes up, and says hey give us your email address, because of the way it’s formatted on the page.

Vincent Barr:

I think it’s because people try to get more clever on their ways of capturing email addresses especially. There are online marketing that they’re putting kind of the short term revenue before the experience. I don’t remember some of these ways in which websites were breaking. I was like, “what is going on right now?”

Justin Dunham:

Right.

Vincent Barr:

Imgur comes to mind. There was this cat paw, that basically like takes over your screen. It’s really weird. You try to close it. It’s just wild.

Justin Dunham:

Let me ask you about kind of a related, not completely related topic. The question of advertising channels. The one thing that we’re talking about now is I think this idea of well, you know you want to collect email addresses for a newsletter. You kind of have to do that to keep your company afloat, because you’re a media company, and you need as many eyeballs as possible, whatever. Have you seen examples of of advertising that you think are really interesting, like they would be motivating? I’ll give you two that I actually kind of like. You asked me earlier in the episode. One is Snapchat filters. I haven’t really used the, but it seems pretty fun. A way that somebody can produce what is essentially a product that also acts as advertising. The other thing that I have way more experience with is the one off of Emojis, that Twitter now sells. Where you have a hashtag and you can buy from Twitter, maybe they don’t offer it for sale yet, but for example if you go and look for DNC in Philadelphia, you’ll see a little emoticon of a donkey after that, after that hashtag, whenever it shows up. I believe that companies are able to buy those now. Which is a really interesting advertising channel. I actually like that. It’s super unobtrusive. It’s kind of fun. What about something like that?

Vincent Barr:

Yeah. I think that’s really neat, actually. It’s sort of like a product currency in a way. Like you’re buying some feature that’s unique to this specific platform. I think it considers the audience and what they’re doing on it. An emoji on Twitter makes sense. I actually have tried. I’ve installed and uninstalled Snapchat at least four times. I recently installed it again. My friend, actually this week showed me. I don’t get it, just the navigating and navigating the screens, I don’t really get it.

Justin Dunham:

Right.

Vincent Barr:

I sort of get it now, but he was showing me the filters. I thought that was really interesting too. There’s accessible to anyone. You could essentially, I think just cord off some area on a map, and I could say I’m going to promote my apartment. Why? I would never do that. I’m sure there are lots of other reasons for like Geo-local advertising and promotion. I think that could be really interesting.

Justin Dunham:

I like those ideas but maybe there’s a question here about maybe it’s a channel issue. I mean we’re coming back to this transparency and integrity point. Maybe, some of the things that we’re talking about, whether TV ads are any good, or video ads, or AdWords ads, or whatever. Maybe there’s some channel issues that need to get resolved there. I guess I don’t know exactly what I mean. The point I’m trying to make is maybe what we’re going toward in terms of advertising, is that advertising is more a feature of a product. It’s more integrated with the product itself. It’s some extra thing rather than being like a little blob that has a bunch of words or an image.

Vincent Barr:

I agree. It’s funny, I’m having an easier time thinking of… The two examples you gave were great. I’m having an easier time thinking about the examples I don’t like. Native advertising for example, I have to like now if I see like recommended articles, I would double check to make sure they’re not sponsored. Usually those are just really local.

Justin Dunham:

Exactly, yeah. We covered that. We kind of talked about this transparency and integrity point. I think that’s really good. We talked a little bit about data. We only have a couple minutes left. We could probably cover some of this stuff in later episodes. Let’s talk a little bit more about this point about higher burden of proof on marketers. My point there is again, you can do so much more measurement, than you could do five, ten, fifteen, twenty years ago. The more you have as a marketer have an understanding of what those measurements mean, I mean I’ve worked with people who write for the web, and don’t know how to use Google Analytics, and I get it. I totally get it. Google Analytics is not intuitive. As a marketer, I think there’s a huge amount of value in whatever area you’re working on, to just have basic data literacy, and some familiarity with the tools.

Vincent Barr:

Agreed. I actually think this is a place where a marketer can add a lot of value. If you have authors who are focused on conducting really interesting interviews, doing investigative journalism, or producing great content, or product marketing, yeah I mean, they’re probably not going to want to dig around in Google Analytics and maybe consider all the caveats that your particular set up may have. I think a good marketer could say, okay we have all these authors, what scheme then do we use on the website, that we can then pour over to Google Analytics, so that we can see performance by author, and performance by post, and kind of synthesize and service the right insight, so it’s not overwhelming, and people aren’t digging for it themselves. This is sort of like an inside burden of proof. I think one thing I’ve seen certain marketers do that was unimpressive is everyone is regularly going through and digging through these really messy reports, and copying and pasting from a thousand different platforms.

Justin Dunham:

Right, totally.

Vincent Barr:

Anyone coming into the organization requires like a two hour prompt just on why they can’t actually use this data for anything because of whatever it may be.

Justin Dunham:

Absolutely. Exactly.

Vincent Barr:

I think that’s where certain platforms like Looker, add a lot of value. I think kind of coming full circle on this, which is back to the idea of you know you have someone who’s creating great content, but there’s this data literacy issue. I think that burden is on the marketer. I think it’s also a great opportunity, because you can add a lot of value to organization when you’re starting to track onsite behavior, and pull in those data sources. Speaking on measurement, what are some technologies that you would recommend or that you think are useful to know?

Justin Dunham:

There are so many. I think first of all there’s kind of a base layer if you can get it, of just understanding that there is traffic to your website, that it is measurable. I think you’d be surprised of how many people don’t even think about that. Then I think a lot of the stuff is real basics. It’s Google Analytics, nobody’s going to be surprised to hear me say that. I think we really like Kissmetrics, but hesitate to recommend it, in some ways, because you do have to have a kind of sophisticated understanding of what it means to have a funnel. You might have to know what a cohort is, and a lot of other stuff. I’m trying to think of what other things there are. I always just also just say Excel is kind of my … I think I might have even said this last episode. It’s a really tough question to answer.

Vincent Barr:

Is Excel sponsored?

Justin Dunham:

I should have a better answer.

Vincent Barr:

By Microsoft?

Justin Dunham:

No, but they should be. This is the future of advertising. We should actually get Excel, Microsoft to sponsor this podcast.

Vincent Barr:

We should. We should just invoice them actually for this. We’ll just send them a link to our Soundcloud page. Actually that will be my tweet at the end of this podcast.

Justin Dunham:

Okay. That’s good. I’m glad you had a chance to make it complicated.

Vincent Barr:

Yeah, I agree with those three platforms. There’s nothing else that immediately comes to mind, other than Google, the Google Suite basically. Webmaster Tools is neat. Tag Manager is neat. Those might not fall into marketing, it’s kind of on the edge. I think those are both pretty cool. I think continuing the conversation on the higher burden of proof. I think platforms and ad networks are also responding to this demand as well. There’s a lot of pressure coming from marketers. For example, I know Facebook offers a tool, when you spend over a certain threshold in advertising. I think they’ve opened it up to everyone. They offer hold out tests, which this also kind of goes to the integrity point. It sort of like, if I have lots of customers and I’m selling them a product that doesn’t work. Do I potentially want to offer them a tool that could potentially prove that my product doesn’t work.

I think that’s kind of a bold move on their part. It also was a response to the pressure from advertisers, but also because Facebook is a walled garden. You can actually track impressions on Facebook across platforms. They don’t share that data. Whereas every other network online, all except Facebook and Instagram, they don’t allow third party impression tracking. That has a big effect with you’re thinking about attribution. Back to the hold out test. They offer this idea called hold out test, where you expose fifty percent of the people to the advertising you’re running. You hold out the other fifty percent and then you see just how many people would have just converted anyways. You can determine the incremental contribution of sort of each advertising dollar. You may find that it’s completely useless.

Justin Dunham:

It’s zero.

Vincent Barr:

Yeah.

Justin Dunham:

Right, yeah. You have to be damn confident in your product to offer that.

Vincent Barr:

Yeah.

Justin Dunham:

Yeah, that’s really interesting. If you do offer that, you can actually charge higher prices because there’s much less uncertainty about whether it works.

Vincent Barr:

Yes, absolutely. You could raise the price floor.

Justin Dunham:

That’s interesting.

Vincent Barr:

Absolutely.

Justin Dunham:

Yeah. Cool. We didn’t as usual, we covered about a third of what we wanted to. This was a really great conversation. Thanks Vincent. Did you have any other sort of parting words you wanted to mention?

Vincent Barr:

That’s my only parting word. If you’d like to see the tweet that I’m about to draft in two minutes, to Soundcloud, you can check that out at my Twitter page, which is Vincent Barr with two R’s.

Justin Dunham:

Two R’s. I’m Justin Dunham, Twitter.com/jwayttd with two T’s and then the letter D, jwyattd. Follow us, check out our Soundcloud page. Send us comments and any input you have, we would love it. We definitely want to talk about what everyone is thinking about. Thanks a lot for listening, and we’ll see you next time.