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The Back Deck

Our view on navigating today’s marketing landscape

17 Apr

From Funnels to Breadcrumbs: Why Shortcut to Sales Mentality Misleads Many Marketers

I bought a pair of shoes yesterday―admittedly, not earth-shattering news.

But it brought to mind the discussion many brands are having these days about “driving to end of funnel.” Maybe you’ve heard this term. It reflects the desire to shortcut the typical awareness, consideration and purchase process, and go straight to sales.

Wouldn’t that be nice? If only you could actually get consumers to stop all that pondering and buy already! Just imagine all the money we’d save on marketing.

Which brings me back to my shoe purchase. While poking around Facebook, I spotted an ad for Zappos for 40% off on boots. Being a boot fanatic, this caught my eye. But rather than shopping right then, I logged off, poured a cup of coffee and decided to go back and browse Pinterest to see if any styles were trending. As I had to catch a plane that morning, I packed up and headed to the airport. A Zappos ad on the security bins reminded me of the deal, so while waiting to board, I went directly to, found the boots I was looking for and the rest, as they say, is shoe history.

Facebook probably doesn’t much appreciate what I did. Nor does Pinterest. And likewise, it’s a bummer for the internal marketing team who, without a much deeper set of behavior analytics to give them the ability to track my ping pong-like behavior, most likely credited my “conversion” to the Web team. The poor social ad buy team was left to justify their spend on Facebook with only those suspect impression numbers to arm them, since I took no action originating from there.

The real story is that Facebook was the inspiration for my purchase. Pinterest was another breadcrumb on the trail. Airport advertising gave me a nudge in the right direction. The Zappos site simply hosted the transaction.

Too often, marketers think of the purchase journey as a narrow funnel, where consumers slide down the slippery slope of an ironclad chute we’ve built for them, reinforced by data, until they are blindly force-fed a purchase after they hit bottom. They tend to put less priority at the top and want to focus all on the bottom, where they believe that transactional goodness takes place. Yet, even with big data insights and better abilities to track behavior, we intuitively know it doesn’t quite work that way.

I prefer to think of successful marketing efforts not as a funnel, but as tempting morels of inspiration, education and motivation―breadcrumbs that entice consumers to discover and find many paths to purchase that reflects how most people actually buy. In the quest for how to create the best sales journey, the idea of how a conversion takes place has to take into account for when a mindset decision is made (which can happen at any point), as well as where action takes place.

So my theory is that marketers need to stop looking for the shortcuts, and instead combine the knowledge that numbers give them with an understanding of human behavior, recognizing every step is important.  And speaking of steps, holler if you know of any other great shoe sales going on out there―I’m self-identifying as a qualified lead.

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11 Apr

Building the Agency of the Future

Illustration by David Lemke, CMD

Guest Post by Kevin Murphy, CMD’s Director of Digital Strategy

Flying cars, jet packs, ads that sense your mood, universal translators that work, virtual account managers . . .

Unfortunately, Jules Verne didn’t write about the agency of the future, but many Verne-like concepts that were marketing science fiction a few years ago are just around the corner.

Tomorrow’s brands won’t care about demographics, impressions or reach. They’ll care about behavior, and affinity. Content, offers and messages will be defined on the fly, based on things like audience behavior and personal context. Marketing and customer experience will become inseparable, with customer advocacy as important as lead generation. Already, we are seeing marketing triage centers that enable creative to react to opportunities within minutes.

Last month, the Harvard Business Review Blog Network posted an article outlining what marketing agencies will do differently in the future.  In the article, the author asks, “So, now what? How do agencies ensure their future by being able to help brands sell more and build stronger loyalty in such a disrupted and disintermediated world, where every individual is consuming so much media from so many different channels?”

To answer the how in the above question, the agency of the future will not only care about behavior, but also about the environment the content is consumed in. It will measure impact and behavior in real time and adjust campaigns dynamically. The future agency will build tools and campaigns that are responsive to the context of the customer need and dynamically modify creative, offers and experiences. The barriers between social media, PR, advertising, out-of-home, and digital will vanish as campaigns focus on end-to-end integrated experiences.

Traditional competencies like storytelling, creative, strategy and messaging don’t go away.  But instead of agencies being fully focused on pushing brand messages, they will selectively match brands to customers. With the growing amount of noise in a consumer’s day, agencies that can offer utility to customers—not just brands, will be the most successful.

How is CMD embracing this future?

We’re rethinking content . . . We’re developing content that’s designed to be useful and measuring its usage in real time.  We understand that there is not a single path to purchase and that customers consume information from many sources. Our goal is to deliver content that resonates wherever the customer is in their decision making, from evaluation to advocacy. We know that content with value gets shared. We’re designing contextual experiences with responsive design. Our goal is to increasingly deliver tailored content and experience based on the optimal moment of need and impact.

The barriers between marketing functions are falling. The consumer experience is seamless, and that drives seamless integration on our end. We tell stories across channels that can stand on their own, or be stitched together to form a master narrative that follow the customer from corporate website to Facebook, to Instagram, to TV.

We measure everything. CMD continues to grow its investment in analytics and data visualization. Great reporting is a huge value-add, and also enables our teams to see results in real time (or close to it) and adjust campaigns on the fly.

We might not drive flying cars to meetings. Only a few members of our account staff have started growing tentacles—they help with multi-tasking.  And, despite the lack of jetpacks around the agency, the age of behavior-driven marketing is here.  We’re happy about it.

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25 Mar

CMD Ad of the Day: A Game of Touch featuring Phil Jackson and the ASUS TAICHI

Guest post written by John O’Connell, Associate Creative Director.

ASUS came to CMD to help them promote their groundbreaking new dual-screen laptop, the ASUS TAICHI, to run as online advertising during the NCAA March Madness tournament. The goal of the ad was to create an emotional, engaging introduction to the ASUS TAICHI and to increase ASUS brand awareness with basketball fans. The ad focuses on the nuances of touch in basketball and ties that into the TAICHI’s unique touch capabilities. This spot was shot over 3 days in Portland and Los Angeles and is narrated by (and features) legendary NBA coach, Phil Jackson.

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8 Mar

What We’re Reading Now

From Twitter demographics to SXSW 2013 tips, here are a few of our favorite things we’re reading this week at CMD!

Picks from Darcie Meihoff

Picks from Anita Marks:

  • Twitter’s demographics and how this impacts streams. Read more on CNN.
  • Offline reading (what a concept): Guy Kawasaki’s tome, “What the Plus!” Find it on Amazon.

Picks from Brandon Wick:

  • “HP the first brand to gain 1 million LinkedIn followers” on PR Daily
  • “How net promoter can revolutionize your digital marketing” on Social Media Explorer

Picks from Jenna Forstrom (She’s off to SXSW!):

Picks from Julie Yamamoto:

What are you reading now?

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26 Feb

What Marketers Need to Know about Facebook Graph Search: Q&A with Seth Mills-Cannon

A key technical lead at CMD, Seth Mills-Cannon has been giving Facebook Graph Search a workout in the last couple of weeks. We wanted to get his take on it as an individual user, and also learn what marketers should be focusing on for this new feature of Facebook.

JULIE: What are some of the features of Facebook Graph Search that first caught your attention when you tried out the beta?

SETH: I found the real-time interactive behavior of the search to be both fascinating and distracting. As you type, the search shows results based on what you’ve entered (similar to Google Live Search), but since the results are usually directly relevant to your experience on Facebook (your friends, your Likes, etc.), I found myself drawn in much more than with Google Live Search, because I could immediately see the connections between what I was intending to search for and what was being shown as a result within Facebook. This prompted me to explore much more than I would have with a normal “enter search term, click Submit, browse results” style of search. In the process, I saw names of Facebook friends who I haven’t talked to in a while as well as Facebook Pages that I’ve liked at some point in the past but haven’t revisited since. I followed some of these unexpected pathways through the results and found a few Pages which had updated significantly.

JULIE: Was it difficult to adjust to the behavior of the search bar?
SETH: I found that the search bar behavior became less distracting and more intriguing the more I used it. After awhile, I started evaluating why some of the results were appearing as I typed, which encouraged me to try combining different search terms to see if I could get the same results by rewording the query, or if I would get distinct results when I changed only a few words.

One frustration that I encountered was confusing “forward/back” behavior while searching. Unlike Google Search, with Graph Search, I wasn’t able to explore a particular path of results, then back up to my original search term, and choose a different path to follow. Instead, the current Facebook page changed every time I clicked the Back button in the browser, and I had to retype my search term and start over. This leads me to think that Facebook intends or expects their users to find the most relevant result the first time they click through. This could certainly be a valid philosophy, since Facebook’s pool of data is deep but nowhere near as deep as Google’s; expecting users to get the “right” result on the first try is more feasible when they have a personal connection to the data to begin with and the volume of potential results isn’t as enormous as Googles would be.

JULIE: There are lots of ways to customize search, such as timeframe or hometown. What do you think is most important for users to focus on?

SETH: In terms of particular filters to refine a search, I don’t think there’s going to be a single filter or even a set of filters that apply to every search. Most users will probably use a combination of:

  • Guesses about the demographics and volume of their personal pool of data (How many people/pages do I think will match my search?)
  • A sense of how much time they want to spend browsing/evaluating results (Will I get overwhelmed by reading through all these results?)
  • Adapting their expectations to match the results that are returned as they try different filters to determine which filters to try.  (Do I need to change what I’m searching for to get more results?)  More than anything, though, I think users will use the filters in Graph Search as part of a more interactive, exploration-based process.

Based on the depth of information available through Graph Search, I suspect that most users should start with a general query, to get an idea of the results their search will generate, then refine using the sidebar.

JULIE: What do you think is the most important thing for marketers to focus on?

SETH: As with most new features from Facebook, the algorithms behind Graph Search will likely change over the next few weeks and months, so I don’t think there’s a single approach for marketers that will work across all users and brands, but here are some recommendations based on what I’ve seen so far:

  • Make sure your brand has a Page on Facebook for each physical location, and promote awareness of the relevant local Page to customers who interact with your brand. For example, if you have a chain of restaurants, don’t focus on increasing views to your corporate page; encourage your staff and customers to Like the local Page relevant to where they work or buy from your company. This strengthens the person-to-person connections between your customers, their Facebook friends, and your local Page.
  • Establish a consistent way to name all the Pages for your brand. For example, if you have a chain of restaurants, consider something like:
    “McHanson’s Bar & Grill: Oregon” (one location in the USA)
    “McHanson’s Bar & Grill: Portland, OR” (one location in Oregon)
    “McHanson’s Bar & Grill: NW 123rd Street, Portland, OR” (multiple locations in Portland)
    Be only as specific as needed to help your customers distinguish between multiple locations and remember to consider how your customers interact with your physical locations. Communicate this naming convention to everyone in your organization who manages Pages for your brand. Being consistent across your company except for a single page named “The BEST McHanson’s Bar & Grill” could be confusing and dilute your efforts to connect customers with physical locations.
  • Graph Search treats photos as a separate category of data with its own degree of importance. Encourage your customers to share photos of themselves, tagged with the local Page (ideally the physical location connected to this Page is where the photos were taken) and their Facebook friends. This intersection of “a Page I like,” and “people I know and trust” will create the greatest relevance within Graph Search and therefore, the best rankings within the results.

JULIE: What about the big question anytime Facebook makes changes, Privacy?

SETH: Facebook’s attention to privacy has definitely had its ups and downs. With Graph Search, Facebook maintains that individual user settings for Privacy will be respected; bear in mind that some users are not fully aware of the steps needed to make their content private, so they may be surprised or concerned when unexpected connections appear in Graph Search results. At least one blogger discovered that searching for combinations of factors which reflect negatively on the resulting Facebook users (e.g., people who work for a particular company and have Liked the Facebook page for Racism) will return a surprisingly large group of people who probably wouldn’t like to have their unsavory Likes publicized. However, this cuts both ways, as it will likely prompt Facebook users to take a more active role in evaluating and maintaining their Likes and public information, generating more accurate results via Graph Search.

What are your experiences with Facebook Graph Search so far? 

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6 Feb

ASUS and CMD. Incredible Together.


It’s no secret that when executed properly, integrated marketing campaigns can be a highly effective way to reach an audience. Using different campaign touch points that work together to illustrate a common message can influence and make an impact. However, sometimes creative teams are put to the test with a need to combine different creative concepts together. This is always a risk when presenting multiple ideas and creates a chance of diluting the goal of the initial campaign promise, especially when working across agency and in-house marketing teams. However, occasionally a project comes along where the client and the agency become true partners in realizing the campaign to its full potential. This was the case in our recent campaign launch for ASUS.

Our assignment was to create a campaign theme and logo, a fully responsive website, a TV spot to run on-line and in movie theaters and banner ads driving traffic to the website and an earned media effort that included a Facebook sweepstakes and a custom, download-able music track created by a YouTube influencer. The goals were to raise awareness of ASUS products being released with Windows 8 and drive sales from the point of entry to select retailer sites. Lastly, we needed to incorporate an existing ASUS brand message – Incredible- into the messaging.

We presented four ideas, with the client ultimately taking bits and pieces from three of them to combine one idea; ASUS and You. Incredible Together. A tag line from one idea, a video idea from another, and a social campaign from yet another. Yes, we were concerned. But the collaboration between internal teams and ASUS worked well and ultimately made it a stronger campaign.

During development of Incredible Together, we began sharing assets with ASUS; photography, logos, messaging and other assets that they then used to create other campaign components. They took our visual direction and the marketing elements we created and executed them into POS materials, a huge monitor display in Times Square and print ads, all of which helped to round out the campaign and make a larger impression.

Working together, sharing ideas and assets and creating a strong creative platform allowed us, and ASUS, to be incredible together. Check out the website and video at

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4 Feb

Meta-Monday: Post-Super Bowl Marketing Stories We Like

During this year’s Super Bowl, the plays that made headlines weren’t limited to the gridiron. Oreo is dominating the Monday-morning quarterbacking for its on-the-spot play during The Great Blackout. Here’s a selection of articles we’re sharing around the water cooler today at CMD:

What was your favorite Super Bowl marketing play?

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30 Jan

What Content Marketers Need to Know about Google Penguin

Back in April, Google’s Penguin and Panda updates caused a stir in the search marketing world as many search pros saw their page ranks drop. Things have settled down, and we’re now at the place where reactionary panic is replaced by cool decision making. Content marketers and search pros are starting to realize that a quality content strategy is more important than over-tweaking a site for optimization, as well as for the larger endgame of building thought leadership in one’s focus area.

Penguin and Panda were updates to Google’s primary search algorithms and ranking factors. The Panda update was designed to remove or lower the page rank of poor-content sites and pages – often these pages and sites were built specifically for SEO activities. The Penguin update is similar in nature, but targets more blatant Web Spam tactics like keyword stuffing, link schemes, cloaking, sneaky redirects or doorway pages, and purposeful duplicate content.

For the average searcher, the impact of these updates is less variety, but better quality in the sites showing up in first-page results. For the content creator, it means good content and highly relevant links have become increasingly important, and large efforts designed to tweak search results are less important.

SEO is still incredibly important to content marketing. Approximately 70 percent of browser sessions start with search, and with mobile the number is even higher. To make sure their content is discoverable, content strategists should focus on the following:

  • Creating great content with thoughtful copy
  • Generating lots of inbound links from other sites including partners, PR wins, social posts and personal and company profiles
  • Building expertise and credibility across multiple properties

The last item above is fairly new to the mix. It’s widely believed that authority (Author Rank) will greatly impact page rank in the near future. Authority is a combination of linking, relevancy and expertise. For example, if you are credited with content across multiple sites and platforms, then the search algorithms interpret that as evidence that you are a trusted expert. If your name or other identifier only shows up on a single corporate site and nowhere else, your content will have a lower Author Rank.

In order to keep manipulation to a minimum, changes to search algorithms and page rank factors change frequently. Even though Panda was released more than two years ago, we know there have been at least 12 major updates since then. As an organization, you can track each of these updates and tweak your site and content daily, but for many organizations sticking to best practices and staying abreast of the changes and adapting for them every few months is sufficient.

CMD’s favorite SEO resources for staying informed are:

Search Engine Land
Google Webmaster Blog
Bing Search Blog
SEOMoz Blog

What do you read to stay up-to-date on search trends?

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28 Jan

Using Pinterest for Collaborative Projects

If you work in a creative industry, whether it’s advertising, filmmaking or fashion design, you eventually learn the value of a mood board. This collection of images (and sometimes swatches like Pantone color chips) helps convey the look and feel of a creative concept at its earliest stages. Now these physical boards are becoming digital, and new tools are helping teams to be more collaborative and productive in conveying their visions.

One of these tools turns out to be Pinterest.

This past fall, I used Pinterest to pitch two theme ideas to CMD’s holiday party committee. I researched images, recipes and DIY décor and crafts, pinned them and sent the committee links to each theme board. But it was when the committee chose one of these themes that the real fun began.

Art Director Elissa Kevrekian and I were given the task of creating the party invitations and related materials, and together we started a new Pinterest board that we could use to collaborate. Our board, Planks, Blades and Flakes, became our way of virtually bouncing ideas off each other and exploring different ways we could represent theme ideas visually.

A collaborative pinning experience makes establishing a mood board more democratic. Usually only one member of a creative team is responsible for shaping a board. Yet with Pinterest, anyone who has an account, fairly good searching skills and access to a shared board can participate in shaping an idea.

As Elissa and I worked on our board, patterns emerged. Discovering patterns during the brainstorming process wasn’t new, but seeing them emerge visually was. The pins we individually added revealed that we were both drawn to similar visual concepts. Elissa then transformed these concepts into sample invitations, representing the ideas we wanted the committee to consider.

While mood boards, whether physical or digital, generally only hint at the final direction a project will take for various reasons (e.g., we didn’t really have the budget to recreate the living room of Aerin Lauder’s ski chalet), a Pinterest mood board can help actualize details. I discovered this once the committee had chosen a conceptual direction and Planks, Blades and Flakes took on a new purpose. Elissa and I began gathering more pins related to culinary and décor possibilities, which we shared with CMD’s Director of Events Laura Day. Pinning details could also work well beyond event planning. For instance, video production teams could use pinboards to collaborate on locations, talent, wardrobe and props.

One of Pinterest’s newest features, which wasn’t available when Planks, Blades and Flakes was created, is the ability to have secret boards. Obviously this is ideal for brainstorming ideas you don’t want competitors to discover, or when you just want to keep your ideas a surprise. I think this capability should increase Pinterest’s relevance for collaborative pinning.

I look forward to trying it out with my teammates the next chance we get.

*Photo credit: Elissa Kevrekian


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17 Jan

Four Tips for Social Media Success During Trade Show Season

You won’t see it on any calendar, but we all know what time of year it is: it’s trade show season.

Not long after 2013 hit, the personal holiday season was put aside and trade show season kicked into full gear. Team CMD is, and already has been, planning for events that will set the tone for many of our clients’ marketing campaigns for the year.

What does it take to succeed at a trade show when it comes to social media? Here are four tips I’ve learned that can help push you over the top and make your tradeshow investment worthwhile:

Start early: Get a jump on activities and start engaging with the audience ahead of the event. Start a month early with a pre-show blog, use the show hashtag in content, and post a video telling the audience what they can expect at your booth. Starting early will help with search results and with your show-specific content metrics.

Find partners: It’s noisy out there in the social media universe. Find partners to help amplify your content to their audiences, and do the same for them. A collective effort helps everyone rise above the noise and increase the odds for success.

Support goals: Tie your social content into supporting your overall show goals. What do you really want to achieve from the investment you make to attend the show? Determine that first and then produce content to support your mission and goals.

Measure: How do you know if you’ve succeeded with your trade show social media effort? Measure against your key goals, established at the outset. At a recent event, CMD was tasked with driving attendance. By planning how we were going to track our specific efforts, we were able to gauge exactly how successful we were in generating booth traffic.  We surpassed one million social media impressions for a client’s show and could track exactly how we got there. Measuring is the only way you will know if your social media activity at a show worked, whether your goal is impressions, engagement or attendance.

Good luck during trade show season 2013! And remember to wash your hands frequently. It’s also flu season.

What strategies are you using to ensure success for clients at trade shows and events?

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