What we can learn from the world’s greatest marketer.

I think #DonaldTrump is the greatest #marketer that has ever lived.

And I bet this isn’t the first time you’ve heard of his marketing prowess.

To be clear, this case study is not about Donald Trump, the Politician; this is about Donald Trump, the Marketing Genius. So, forget your politics; put your marketer’s hat on and think about this objectively.

Trump may not be a self-made man, but he is a self-made #brand. Whatever our politics may be, that much is true.

Humour me.

He is a human brand. Unlike entertainment and sports celebrities whose talent and conscious lifestyle fuel their image, Trump’s brand is entirely cultivated.


Branding is his superpower.

Donald J. Trump understands branding like Obi-Wan Kenobi knew lightsaber skills.

He studied economics and finance at Wharton, not marketing. He didn’t need to; he was born with this marketing superpower. To his credit, he didn’t take this gift for granted. He practiced branding skills, experimenting and optimizing in real-time with direct feedback from his followers, fans, detractors and media.

Not only can he brand himself, but he can also brand his opponents. Once he brands you, it sticks—”Sleepy Joe,” “Mini Mike”, “Low Energy Jeb.”[i]  I could go on, but you get the point.

He brands his fans too. They’re all “great people.”

Base your message on a grain of truth; keep it short; keep it catchy.

A fundamental rule of branding.

What was North Korea’s comeback to “Rocket Man”? They called  Trump a “dotard,” [ii]which means ‘an old person, exhibiting a decline in mental faculties.

Not so sticky, eh? Taking on  Trump in a branding battle is like bringing at a toy knife to a gunfight.

Once he has given you a moniker, he will repeat it along with his key messages frequently, whether an opportunity presents itself or not. “Crooked Hillary,” “Perfect letter,” “Fake News.” [iii]

What are the three laws of branding? Consistency, reach, and frequency.

D.J.T. is the Michael Jordan of marketing.


Why pay for media when you can control it?

Trump does not have to pay for media, he can get it for free whenever or wherever he wants. POTUS is the master of Newsjacking.

You’d say, “of course, he can get free media. He’s is the President of the United States!”

Sure, that helps, but he could control the media even before he formally declared his candidacy for President. Remember the Obama birth certificate year-long news cycle?

That’s how it’s done.

Throw the media a bone by saying something provocative or outrageous.

Let the competition defend itself. Watch the media frenzy.

POTUS is the Wayne Gretzky of newscasting.


Any publicity is good publicity.

Oscar Wilde once remarked that “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about.” You cannot help but talk about Trump, from the lunchroom to cocktail parties, to Christmas dinners.

How much free publicity has Trump managed to accumulate?

The New York Times estimates Trump rode to the White House on $2 billion worth of free media.[iv] Some estimates are higher. For context, Apple, one of the world’s biggest electronics brands, spent $1.8 billion in advertising globally, not just in the U.S. [v]

Since becoming President, his reach and frequency have amplified and multiplied many folds. He has monopolized every medium in every country that has internet.

No further proof is required to prove Trump’s media dominance, but I did a Google search for fun to compare the 45th and 44th President. Unsurprisingly,  Trump wins hands down over  Obama by a factor of 3.

These raw search results are a mix of reliable and unreliable sources. While they are not an accurate measure of notability, they are indicative.

“Obama” 472,000,000 results. “Trump” 1,280,000,000 results.

“Donald Trump” 844,000,000” “Barak Obama” 144,000,000”


Trump beats  Obama by over a billion more search results. He also beats his holiness’ Pope Francis and the Dalai Lama, as well as superstar influencer Opera Winfrey and celebrities like Lady Gaga, Beyoncé, and Taylor Swift combined.

Only Queen Elizabeth comes close, but she has reigned for over 68 years and has subjects across the commonwealth. To be fair, Trump is still in his first term and “rules” just one country.


Measure and brag

Like any good marketer,  Trump keeps a keen eye on his poll numbers, approval ratings, and the competition. He never fails to point out his poll numbers, the size of his rallies and tv ratings on camera as an endorsement of his popularity and “greatness.”

Marketers use a tactical variation of this same “bragging” strategy to create the aura of demand—”sold out,” “offer open till stocks last,” and “back by popular demand.” Watching shoppers queuing up the night before to be the first to buy a new Apple product is a similar “bragging” strategy to amplify demand.

Takeaway: Perception of success fuels success. Your brand’s perception can create demand, but the brand must deliver on its promise.

And the brand delivered on his promises. Trump has  “kept many more promises than he has made.” [vi]

Trump has no equal in deploying the “bragging” strategy. Trump is better at this than Roger Federer is at tennis.


How did  Trump become a brand?

He followed his father into the real estate world, building and acquiring skyscrapers, casinos, hotels and golf courses.

From early on, Trump has remained focused on building the TRUMP brand as an icon of corporate success, wealth, and an opulent lifestyle.

TRUMP is the brand of his luxury properties, products and services from resorts and casinos to wineries, steaks and, infamously, a university. His brand supports his properties, and his lavish properties support his brand.

He has authored over 10 books like: “The Art of the Deal,” “Think Big and Kick Ass in Business and Life,” “Think Like a Billionaire,” “‘Surviving at the Top,” “Think Like a Champion,” “Trump 101: The Way to Success”, to name just a few.



Notice the book titles, they clearly support his carefully crafted ‘savvy, self-made billionaire businessman’ image. Even his reality T.V. show “The Apprentice” cultivated the same image, and the ‘Miss Universe’ pageant adds some glitz and glamour to his brand.

Trump is a hard-working marketer, always shinning his brand.

As a young man, he would call radio stations pretending to be his own publicist.

During the pandemic, he got Treasury to print his name on stimulus checks. Those checks are his brand’s touchpoints in American homes!

Trump will not miss a photo opportunity or a chance to create one. A recent example was the one outside St. John’s Church[vii]

He is a prolific content publisher and social media guru. Trump is continuously engaging his audience, even at night, with a tweet or two or a storm.

Every marketer and thought leader should learn from this.


Everything  Trump does is in support of his brand.

Trump’s net worth is estimated to be around US$3 billion despite six bankruptcies. He is not what his billionaire peers would call a superstar businessman.

However, his genius shines “bigly” in branding and licensing. Which is why there are more buildings around the world branded TRUMP than he owns.

He pegs the TRUMP brand’s value at $4 billion.[viii] Whatever the real TRUMP brand value is, it is easily worth more than the sum of his tangible assets, like in the case of Coke, Apple and Louis Vuitton.

His brand value was more than enough to let him slide down a golden escalator and declare his candidacy for the American presidency.

That the power of branding.

How did he get there? His share of voice (SOV) has always exceeded his market share.

A proven strategy. According to a study by Les Binet and Peter Field, for the I.P.A. Effectiveness Awards, brands that invest in ‘excess share of voice’ (ESOV), defined as SOV above the business’s market share, are likely to see long-term base sales growth.[ix]


Licensing Maestro

Companies spend millions of their marketing dollars to put their name on iconic buildings, arenas, hospitals, and education and research institutions. The price tag can range from a few hundred thousand for a library a year to about forty million for a sports arena. MetLife paid about $625 for the MetLife field.[x] Canada’s Scotiabank paid USD 638 million for a 20-year deal to brand the home of the Raptors and the Leafs.[xi]

On the other hand,  Trump gets paid a million or more for the use of his name on luxurious and iconic buildings that he does not own.

Here’s the brand mastery, these opulent sky-high TRUMP branded billboards not only pay  Trump but also promote his image for free.

That’s the Art of The Deal. Genius eh? Trump is better at branding than Bruce Lee was at Kungfu.

As per Forbes,  Trump is the 275th richest person in America,[xii] yet he is better known in the global mainstream than at least 270 of his wealthier peers. Ask a citizen of an obscure country like Kiribati if they have heard of  Trump, and you’d be surprised by the awareness and recall.


Crazy loyal customers

The loyalty of his base is unshakeable. “He could shoot someone on New York’s Fifth Avenue, and still not lose voters.” [xiii]

A marketer would give their left arm for this kind of brand loyalty.

So how does  Trump command this Rockstar like adulation? By staying true to his brand promise

Trump is no different as a president than he was as a candidate on the campaign trail. With Trump, it is WYSIWYG. His voters like his straight talk. They voted for him in to shake things up, and he has done just that and more.

Like any good marketer, Trump built his campaign promises on an intimate understanding of a sizable segment’s frustrations.

Enter Cambridge Analytica. Exit Hillary Clinton.

He used “big data” to find a population segment that was missing a voice in federal politics. Non-college educated, low income, conservative, older, white males.

Trump heard and addressed their frustrations. Immigration (“build a wall”), Terrorism (“Muslim ban”), Tax Cuts, Job losses to China, trade and climate deals.[xiv]



Trump is exclusively focused on his audience, and he knows which buttons to press and when. He is talking to his audience, even when he is talking to others. Some call this a “dog whistle”. Marketers call it targeting.

He can get his message across to his audience in the language they understand. Unlike his scholarly and “elitist” predecessor,  Trump speaks like everybody else. He uses simple words like “great,” “big,” “nice,” and “stupid” in bite-sized headlines with no unique words or difficult concepts. His Flesch-Kincaid score is the highest of any American president; at best, you only need a fifth-grade level of education to understand him. [xv]

To build a brand, you need a relevant and consistent message that you frequently echo in front of as many members of your audience as possible.

Trump applies these messaging, reach and frequency principles like the Yoda of Marketing.

Staying true to the brand

While I was doing research for this article, two Whitehouse staff tested positive for COVID-19; those not in self-quarantine were to wear masks.  Trump did not wear a mask, although the fatality rate for someone in their 70s is 28 times that of someone in their 40s.[xvi]

Wearing a mask would dilute his message and project fear, a trait not in sync with Trump’s brand personality. He even took on the medical establishment by advocating for Hydroxychloroquine against their advice, and because he did, he backed it up by taking it. End of argument.

Like Trump, a brand must be belief-driven. A study by @Edelman shows that the majority of consumers buy on beliefs. They expect brands to reveal where they stand on social, ethical or political issues and back it up with meaningful action. 64% of consumers will buy or boycott a brand solely based on its position or political issues.[xvii]

Trump knows his:

#marketingfunnel and #touchpoints – What to say, where, when and how through the customer journey.

#messaging – Catchy zingers #SleepyJoe and a core message like Make. America Great Again (#MAGA), A complete message in four simple words. It identifies the problem and presents the solution.

#Segmentation and #profiling – Mexicans, Muslims and Immigrants

#Bigdata – Two words, Cambridge Analytica.

#Media — #FakeNews, #TheFailingNewYorkTimes.

#Social Media – His tweets at an average of over 28 tweets a day.[xviii] Check out Trump’s tweeting stats at [xix]

#Provocative marketing — #BuildTheWall, #LockHerUp.

#Earnedmedia – see Newsjacking.

#Newsjacking – CNN alone gave 430% more airtime to Trump’s campaign compared to Obama’s.

#Spin – Remember the “sarcastic” disinfectant and light prescription?

#Crisiscommunication — Deflect blame. “I barely know the guy,” “the W.H.O.’s fault,” “Perfect letter,” “Russia Hoax.” “No Collusion”

#Guerrillamarketing – COVID press briefings.

#Experientialmarketing, we’ve seen clips of his rallies, they are scary good!

#Reciprocalmarketing – If you promote  Trump, he endorses you, “Great people,” “Terrific job.” If you don’t, you are branded as “Doing a poor job,” “Never Trumper,” or “FakeNews.”

#Geotargeting, focusing where there is the best chance to win, “Wisconsin,” “Michigan.”

#Omnichannel – He is everywhere. I don’t remember a day in the last four years without contact with the TRUMP brand, do you?

Here is the ultimate proof of his marketing genius.

Trump can do what even advertising legends like #davidogilvy #billbernbach and #leoburnett may have found challenging.

Unlike them, Trump can sell an obviously flawed product: himself.

The only thing  Trump is guilty of, from a marketing perspective, is overselling his product and perhaps embellishing the truth. But then, who can cast the first stone?

Here are some of Trump’s proven marketing strategies.

  1. Invest in your brand. It is not an expense; it is an investment that grows and pays back by supporting sales over the long term.
  2. Know your audience. Utilize both operational and experience data to identify the best customer segment for your brand and develop robust data-driven profiles.
  3. Stay focused on your segment and message, even at the risk of alienating others.
  4. Keep it simple; simple messages and tactics are stickier than complex.
  5. Be unexpected – It is easier to stand out by being different, and it also helps earn media impressions.
  6. Tap into emotions. In an increasing parity landscape, personalize your message at scale.
  7. Do more inbound marketing; it is less expensive than outbound marketing.
  8. Use repetition – Be consistent with your message and repeat it frequently every chance you get.
  9. Omnichannel works better than multichannel. Customers expect their journey to be seamless across your touchpoints and channels.
  10. Superlatives claims are useful if you can back them up believably.

The problem with a human brand is that, when the human fails, the brand fails.

Since becoming President, his politics, leadership style, and accusations of being a sexist and racist have negatively impacted his brand. Some landlords have taken down the TRUMP name from their buildings for “security” reasons.

Trump was a brand before he became President, and he is President because of it. Whether he wins a second term or not, his marketing genius is beyond doubt.

This essay is a work in progress, and I need your help to build this into a more robust case study for future marketers to learn from.






















Are your marketing touchpoints delivering the desired customer experience?

A touchpoint is any contact or interaction that a customer has with your product or service that might change how they feel about it.

These critical interactions within the customer journey can positively or negatively change the way customers perceive a brand, product, business, or service. They can create interest, inform, educate, impress, persuade, invite, help, delight or annoy the prospect or the customer.


Touchpoints are any physical or virtual component of your brand and its marketing that a customer may encounter before, during or after the purchase.

Every touchpoint in the customer journey is an opportunity to deliver positive experiences that encourage prospects to become customers, and customers to become loyal brand advocates.

Touchpoints include advertising, communication, a web page, blog posts, app, customer ratings, product reviews, word of mouth, FAQs, the physical store, point of sale, packaging, instructions, customer service, return policy or the warranty process. This is not a comprehensive list, but you get the idea.

Touchpoints are sometimes confused as channels, but they are two different things. A touchpoint is a customer interaction with your brand, a channel is where the interaction happens, like on TV, on your website or in the store.

Touchpoints provide the brand experience

Brand experience can create loyalty or defection. A salesforce study titled “State of the Connected Customer” found that 80% of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services, and 57% of the customers stopped buying from a company because a competitor provided a better experience[i]

Grouping all the touchpoints chronologically presents a complete picture of the experience an average customer has with your business.

Individually, touchpoints nudge the customer down the funnel toward the path to purchase, collectively they tell your brand’s story, and provide the desired brand experience.

Each touchpoint has a role to play individually and collectively, just like the individual pieces of a symphony. When all the instruments are in sync, hitting the right cords at the right time, the collective experience is as desired by the composer.

Brand experience in a non-linear customer journey.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the average customer typically used two touch-points when buying an item, today over half of all customers regularly use more than four touchpoints.[ii]

A Google and IPSOS study revealed that customers who bought laptops on an average used 3.4 touchpoints.  Adding to the challenge of providing a coordinated customer experience across the customer journey, is that a typical customer journey is less likely to be a straight line. It is non-linear and involves a complex network of touchpoints, both online and offline across multiple channels. Customers can go straight from awareness to purchase, skipping the in-between stages of the funnel or they can go online, offline and back again.  On average, only about 11% of consumers can be treated strictly as online customers,12% as exclusively offline customers and the balance as both online and offline customers. [iii]

This mix of digital and physical interactions make it important and more difficult to deliver a synchronized and relevant brand experience across touchpoint, channels and devices that customers want.

Customers seek a tailored brand experience

The same Salesforce study mentioned earlier  (Salesforce, 2018) found that customers are looking for contextualized and connected interactions at every turn. 59% of customers would choose companies that provide tailored engagement based on past interaction, from product recommendations to proactive service.[iv]

Company’s don’t have much control over touchpoints like word of mouth and reviews, but most are in their power. Yet marketers can often annoy customers with disconnected and irrelevant communications touchpoints and channels.

To provide a synchronized customer experience, it is vital to discover all your online and offline touchpoints, understand their individual and collective impact on customer experience and identify points at which customers are most open to influence.

Doing a touchpoint analysis requires data.  However, most marketers only have access to data at some touchpoints because not all physical and digital touchpoints are easily measurable.  Further, the available data may reside in disparate data silos, making it difficult to combine and analyze.

In the absence of available data, here’s how to identify, understanding and prioritizing your touchpoints.

Step1: Audit your existing touchpoints

List and categorize your known touchpoints according to when they occur, before purchase, during purchase and after purchase.

Marketing Touchpoints - Salt Strategy

Step 2: Walk the customer journey

Adopt a customer mindset and walk in your customer’s shoes through the customer journey (link). Work with your marketing, sales and customer service people and answer the following questions.

  1. How your customers seek solutions to a problem that your product/service category can solve.
  2. How they go about identifying available solutions to their problem?
  3. How do they evaluate the solutions?
  4. How they make a purchase decision?
  5. How they encounter the business after the purchase?

Walking through the customer’s journey step-by-step will help identify gaps in your existing touchpoints.

Step 3: Ask your customers

Have your customer, and that of your competition, walk you through their customer journey. Qualitative research techniques like individual or group interviews with your target audience work well in identifying the touchpoints on the path to purchase.

Step 4: Map and plot your customer journeys

Compare the three lists of touchpoints generated in the first three steps to help identify any missing and redundant touchpoints in your customer journey before, during and after purchase.

Recurring patterns indicate the relative importance of each touchpoint in the customer journey. These findings can be further validated using quantitative surveys to better understand and confirm the points where customers are most open to influence and how you can interact with them at those points.

Turning insight into action

Knowing your touchpoints and understanding their influence allows you to prioritize your touchpoints and allocate resources and spending, but that is not enough. The end goal is to optimize the customer experience at every point to ensure that the customer journey as a whole delivers the desired customer experience.

To optimize touchpoints requires measuring customer satisfaction at every interaction. This can be done by running customer feedback surveys at each critical touchpoint or by deploying customer experience management software.  With this information, you can measure results and make improvements to enable a better customer experience across every touchpoint to boost customer satisfaction.

Understanding the influence of each touchpoint in moving the potential customer further down the funnel helps marketers realign strategy and resources to where they have the most impact, thereby improving marketing effectiveness.

[i] “State of the Connected Customer Report Outlines Changing Standards for Customer Engagement.”, Salesforce Research, 2019,

[ii] Marketing Week. “Omnichannel Stats You Don’t Want To Miss.” Knexus, Marketing Week, 20 Aug. 2018,

[iii] Google CEE & IPSOS. “Study Reveals the Complexity of Modern Consumer Paths to Purchase and How Brands Can Make Inroads.” Google, Google, 2019,

[iv] “State of the Connected Customer Report Outlines Changing Standards for Customer Engagement.”, Salesforce Research, 2019,


Eight golden rules for improving Marketing Effectiveness.

Effectiveness in marketing is simply the ability to prove that marketing has delivered on its stated objectives. Different brands respond differently to the same strategy or tactic, but there are some golden rules-of-thumb in marketing that are almost universal.

One: According to a study by Les Binet and Peter Field, for the IPA Effectiveness Awards, “Brand share of voice must exceed its share of the market if it is to grow.” Brands that invest in excess share of voice (ESOV), defined as SOV above the business’s market share, are likely to see long-term base sales growth. Therefore, invest sufficiently relative to your market share to see long-term sales growth and improved marketing effectiveness. [I]

Two: Big brands drive higher marketing return on investment (MROI). The size of the brand and the size of the market is the largest determining factor of MROI. Why? Because big brands are better known. They have higher mental (awareness) and physical (distribution) availability, which drives results more efficiently.  Therefore, base your marketing objectives realistically on the brand size and size of the market.

Three: Spend more on long-term brand building than on short-term sales growth. The ‘Profit Ability’ report suggests that over half of marketing’s profit impact happens over the long term (delayed effect) and that immediate short-term effects decay quickly.[ii] Therefore,  numerous landmark studies by the IPA suggest that the best split of marketing investment is 60% for long-term brand building and 40% for short terms sales activation. [iii] The ratio can vary by sector and situation, but significant brand-building investment is needed to deliver a strong brand over the long term.  Brand building advertising will still drive financial performance in the short term.

Four: Work with absolute numbers, not ratios. An objective of maximizing MROI signals prioritization of marketing efficiency over marketing effectiveness, which can be achieved by simply cutting the budget. However, this focus on efficiency erodes brand equity in the long run. Instead, Marketers should focus on goals in the absolute terms, like the quantum of sales instead of MROI ratios.

Five: Creativity makes a difference. There is wide-spread evidence that creativity drives marketing effectiveness. A study by Data2Decsions found that after brand and market size, creativity is the biggest determinant of marketing profitability and more potent than other controllable marketing levers. Creative that has emotional appeal drives long-term effectiveness.[iv]  Neuroscience suggests that emotional intensity is connected to memory encoding, which is crucial for long-term brand building. A  P&G analysis of 300 TV ads, 85 online videos, 100 Facebook posts and 50 in-store displays showed that creative eliciting an emotional response was 8x more likely to be successful than work eliciting indifference.[v]

Six: Media reach strongly correlated with media effectiveness. Analysis of the IPA database found that campaigns that use of high reach media like TV, Outdoor and Radio were much more likely to generate significant business effects than those that did not.[vi]  The 2018 Profit Ability report suggests that  TV enjoys the benefits of scale, which enables it to deliver efficient, profitable returns at higher spend volume than other media before diminishing returns take effect.  Online video and radio also provided profitable returns.[vii]

Seven: Integration drives better results. Multi-channel integrated campaigns deliver significantly higher ROI than single-channel campaigns, particularly when they work together to increase reach. Just going from one platform to two increases marketing ROI by 19%, TV supported by digital improves media effectiveness by 61%.[viii] A study by Kantar showed that cross-platform campaigns efficiently add reach and deliver a ‘synergy effect’ which makes them 31% more effective at building brands. For example, digital video and TV working together can generate an additional 25% of ROI.[ix]  In another study by Kantar Millward Brown shows that TV is also an excellent platform for digital and other media; it helps improve the effectiveness of other media by a factor of 3x.

Eight: Easily recognizable brands that leverage distinctive brand assets have an advantage. Brand assets like colour, logo, symbol, font, character, slogan, jingle, or a signature tune like ‘intel inside’ can trigger easy brand recognition and related memories. A study by Kantar showed that brands with the strongest assets are, on average, 52% more likely to come to mind when consumers are shopping within the category.[x]

[i] Binet, Les, and Peter Field. “Binet and Field Outline Key Formulas for Brand Building in Context.” IPA,

[ii] Profit Ability: the Business Case for Advertising.” Thinkbox, Ebiquity, Gain Theory and Thinkbox, 2018,

[iii] Binet, Les, and Peter Field. “Binet and Field Outline Key Formulas for Brand Building in Context.” IPA,

[iv] Dyson, Paul, and Karl Weaver. “The Top 10 Drivers of Profitable Advertising.” Data2Decisions, 25 May 2016,

[v] Whiteside, Stephen. “Emotional Ads Pay off for P&G.” WARC, Events Reports, South by Southwest, Mar. 2015,

[vi] Binet, Les, and Peter Field. “Binet and Field Outline Key Formulas for Brand Building in Context.” IPA,

[vii] Profit Ability: the Business Case for Advertising.” Thinkbox, Ebiquity, Gain Theory and Thinkbox, 2018,

[viii] Goodbuzz Inc. “White Paper: Anatomy Of Effectiveness.” LinkedIn SlideShare, WARC, 18 June 2019,

[ix] AdReaction: The Art of Integration.” Kantar, Kantar Millward Brown, Nov. 2017,

[x] WARC from Home: Distinctive Brand Assets – What They Are and Why They Matter.” WARC, 2018,–what-they-are-and-why-they-matter/3484.



Are your marketing decisions accurately informed by your marketing attribution model?

John Wanamaker, a 19th century American Merchant and political figure once famously said: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is, I don’t know which half.”  Marketing attribution was a problem even then.

Now fast forward to the 21st century, and we see that marketing is so much more sophisticated, and most marketing decisions are data-driven. Given the access to mountains of aggregate and customer-level data, it would be reasonable to assume that we have solved the problem of attribution. Not really, attribution is more difficult today than during Wanamaker’s era, which was dominated by a few marketing channels, namely print, out of home and radio.

Today brands are marketed across a vast number of channels and platforms, both analog (offline) and digital (online), generating data exposing almost every aspect of consumer behaviour. However, organizing this data and making sense of consumers increasingly non-linear paths to purchase is extremely complicated.

Despite the improvements in the “science” of marketing attribution, there continues to be confusion around the best way to quantify the impact of omnichannel marketing activities on financial outcomes. CMO’s struggle to provide an accurate demonstration of marketing ROI.

It would be great if marketers could drill down into insights from attribution tools in multiple ways. Some work with web analytics, third party analytics platforms; some develop proprietary attribution models, and some focus on a hand full of metrics. However, the holy grail of attribution would be the ability to accurately track the customer’s journey at all touchpoints through the entire marketing funnel from brand awareness down to conversions.

Three different approaches common today are A/B Testing, Market-Mix Models (MMM) and Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA).

Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM)

 The IAB defines Marketing Mix Modeling (MMM) as a statistical analysis of aggregate sales, marketing, and business driver data that quantifies the impact of different marketing channels and tactics (the marketing mix) on financial outcomes over time.  [i]

Marketing-mix models typically rely on market-level data and perform better with at least three years of marketing data (input) and sales data (output). Input data include measures of economic vitality and competitive activity, price promotions, distribution media channels and impressions and other on and offline tactics. Output data consists of the sales volume and value. 

The resulting insights can be used to optimize marketing by reallocating spends to more productive channels and tactics and also predict future outcomes.

MMM attempts to answer critical questions like, what was the marketing ROI from a specific channel, and what would be the impact on sales if the spend was reallocated. 

Multi-Touch Attribution (MTA)

In today’s omnichannel marketing era, customers interact with multiple touchpoints of the same brand on their path towards purchase. Attribution models let marketers decide how much credit each digital touchpoint gets for a conversion. Multi-touch Attribution models (MTA) provide a better understanding of how your ads perform and can help you optimize across conversion journeys. 

The objective of the Multi-Touch Attribution model is to measure the impact of marketing activities on the metric associated with conversion and generate insights to guide decisions about future marketing spend allocation by tactic at an individual granular level. 

The critical question MTA seeks to answer is, what is the expected incremental change in propensity to convert as the result of an impression of a specific touchpoint in the customer journey.

There are several attribution models, but not models are multi-touch. For example, first and last touch models are forms of single-touch attribution. Single-touch attribution models only factor in the first or last touchpoint encountered before a conversion, while multi-touch models evaluate the impact of several touchpoints. 

  • The Linear attribution model credits each touchpoint equally across the customer journey. 
  • The U-shaped Model attributes most of the credit to the first and last touchpoint the least to the touchpoints encountered in between.
  • Time Decay Model provides higher credits to touchpoints closer to the conversion. 
  • W-shaped Model credits the first touch lead conversion and opportunity creation with 30% of the credit each and the balance among the remaining touchpoints. 
  • The full Path Model is like a W-shaped model but includes an additional touchpoint—the customer close touchpoint. 22.5% of the credit is allocated to each of the key touchpoints: first touch, lead creation, opportunity creation, and close, with 10% going to any additional touchpoints.
  • Custom Models are tailored by companies that have a unique path to purchase.
  • Multi-Channel attribution weighs attribution credit by channel (social, paid, organic), and unlike Multi-touch Attribution, it does not factor in the granularity of specific touchpoints, messaging, or sequence.  

Which model should you use, MMA or MTA?

Neither technique may be a complete solution in every case; there will be some blind spots. Both the advanced statistical methods provide value, their value may differ by the sector in which the brand operates and the channels the marketers deploy.

MMM works with historical market-level data and guides significant strategic decisions like spend allocation across the marketing mix. Whereas MTA primarily evaluates digital touchpoints, but at an individual level and in real-time.

For all the benefits, the MMM and MTA do no adequately measure the impact of the exogenous micro and macro environment factors, nor segmentation, brand and messaging strategy.

Omnichannel marketers with substantial investments across many channels and tactics may try the hybrid approach and develop a Unified Measurement Model (UMM) or Unified Marketing Measurement (UMM) as it is also known. 

UMM integrates more than just MMM and MTA. It does this by assigning a business value to each strategic and tactical factor that influences marketing performance across all analogue and digital customer touchpoints, including messaging at the individual level. UMM is still new, and its complexity is better suited to the marketer with more significant resources.

How do you know your marketing is working for you?

[i] IAB. (2019). The Essential Guide to Marketing Mix Modeling and Multi-Touch Attribution. IAB. Retrieved from



How to improve Marketing Effectiveness with a Marketing Audit

A CEO walks into a CMO’s office.

CEO: Is our marketing working?

CMO: What?! Yes, business is good, we are growing, and all the KPIs are positive. You’ve seen the data, why do you ask?

CEO: True. All indicators are positive, it is a good year, but is our marketing effective?

CMO: What do you mean by is our marketing effective? You’ve seen the results.

CEO: Yes, but how do we know that it’s the marketing that’s driving this growth and not market conditions? Our product/service quality beats the competition, our service reviews are high, our price is right, and even the market environment is favourable. What about marketing communications? 

Marketing leaders have heard this question often, even when business is growing. A study by The Fournaise Group found that of the 1200 CEOs interviewed, 80 did not trust the ability of their marketing to deliver growth, whereas 91% trust the value and opinion of their CFOs and CIOs.[i]

Translation. Here’s what the CEO really wants to know:

  1. What is marketing’s contribution to sales, share and profit?
  2. How effective is our marketing? This means, is marketing’s contribution optimal, are we getting the most out of our marketing?
  3. How can we improve marketing ROI?
  4. Do we know which marketing activity is working and is there any wasted spend that we can redirect?
  5. Is our investment in marketing adequate?

The fact is there are only three revenue scenarios that exist in three market conditions. Your business situation could fall into one of these nine scenarios. Either your revenue is growing, is flat or declining in either a growing, flat or declining market conditions, complicating our understanding of our marketing’s contribution and effectiveness.

Business Scenario Matrix

Demonstrating your marketing’s contribution is relatively easier if your business is growing in a flat or declining market, but it is difficult in the other six scenarios. It is even harder to identify which variable from the marketing mix and media (promotional) mix is working and the contribution of specific marketing activities.


Markets are much more dynamic today than any other time in history; every marketing activity works differently in different conditions. Just because a marketing activity delivered excellent results in the past, it does not guarantee the same results in the future even if marketing conditions remain the same.  In a 2018 State of Inbound study by HubSpot discovered that at 46%, proving the ROI of marketing (MROI) remains the second most significant challenge facing marketers, second only to generating traffic and leads, which came in at 64%.[ii]

Multiplications in marketing channels/ Marketing channels and data sources have multiplied. 

According to a report from IBM Marketing Cloud, 90% of the data in the world today was created in the last two months. As technology continues to fuel the rapid growth of data sources and marketing channels, the job of marketers has grown broader, become more complex and even more accountable.

Data silos 

The “State of the Customer Journey 2019 report published by Arm Treasure Data showed that 47% of marketers believe their information is siloed and difficult to access, which was hurting their ability to leverage the data.[iii] The explosion in Operational (O-data) and Experience data (X-data) has led to the silo-fication of data. These data silos are rigidly compartmentalized; they don’t join up with other parts of the information system, which further compounds the task of proving Marketing ROI and informing decision making.

Marketing ROI comes in various sizes

Proving the exact marketing contribution and relative effectiveness of the marketing to its potential is also challenging because Marketing ROI comes in different sizes. A marketing ROI of 2.5x would be enough reason to invest more in marketing but the question remains, is this a good ROI? Should marketing be yielding an ROI of 5x or 8x or more? What is the reasonable potential, the ceiling?

Imperfect Marketing Attribution

Despite the availability of mountains of data, Marketing attribution remains a problem, especially at the granular level. Which marketing variables are driving growth, which ones are not contributing continues to challenge marketers. A collaborative 2018 survey 370 marketing professionals by Clikz and Fospha indicated that only 33% of brands believe that their current solutions perform accurate attribution of all media and data.[iv]

If marketers cannot identify how well each marketing variable like strategy, creative, marketing mix and media (promotional) mix is working, they cannot improve effectiveness. It’s simple; you can’t treat something that you have not diagnosed first.

Marketing Effectiveness Audits help diagnose the strengths and weakness of your marketing, proves marketing ROI and provides recommendations to improve the effectiveness of your marketing.


Marketing Audit is also known as Marketing Effectiveness Audit, Marketing Review, Marketing Analysis, Marketing Diagnostics or a Marketing Value Audit.

A Marketing Effectiveness Audit is a comprehensive, systematic and independent examination of a company’s macro and micro marketing environment, objectives, strategies, and promotional activities to identify problem areas and opportunities and recommends a plan of action to improve the company’s marketing performance.

A Marketing Effectiveness Audit is not a new idea nor a unique methodology. Originating in the early 1950s, it became mainstream during the turbulent 1970s. Today, with the incredible growth and access we have to Operational and Experience data, marketing audits have reached a high degree of methodological sophistication, but attribution challenges persist. Marketing Audits include qualitative (non-numerical) and quantitative data from a variety of sources, like secondary data, customer data, market research, competitive intelligence, sales, transactions, interactions, testimonials, customer ratings, digital analytics, and marketing metrics.

The definition of a Marketing Effectiveness Audit in this paper is comprehensive (Horizontal); it covers the entire extent of a company’s marketing, not just its promotional mix (marketing communications). It is a review of the macro and micro marketing environment, objectives, strategies, creative and content, marketing mix, analogue and digital media/channel mix, and promotional and retention tactics.

In contrast, a vertical audit is conducted when management wants to deep dive into a specific marketing function, like Sales, Product, Pricing, Distribution, or Marketing Communications (promotion). A vertical Marketing Communications Audit would include a review of the Brand, Messaging, Creative and Content, Digital and Traditional media mix. A comprehensive Marketing Audit evaluates all vertical components of marketing.


Marketing leaders can do a self-audit using a template or have their marketing services provider like a media, digital or creative agency do the audit. However, most experts agree that a self-audit or an audit done by their marketing service provider would likely lack objectivity and independence. To improve the effectiveness and quality of the diagnosis, marketers are better off using independent marketing auditors. Using independent experts ensures objectivity and enhances the quality and efficiency of the audit because an independent and specialized marketing auditor will apply a systematic and orderly sequence of diagnostic steps.

Every marketing auditor will apply their proprietary evaluation and analytical processes and achieve an approximately similar outcome, but they must be an independent third party to avoid bias. It is also vital that their process incorporates an orderly sequence of diagnostic steps.


Marketing Audit findings and outcomes help the top line by improving marketing performance and, in some cases, also the bottom line through marketing efficiencies.

Primary benefit

The primary reason for doing a Marketing Audit is to evaluate marketing effectiveness and further improve it. To that end, a marketing audit will identify problems that are unfavourable to marketing effectiveness, and opportunities that are favourable. Implementing the recommendations from a Marketing Audit should improve marketing effectiveness and marketing contribution (MROI).

Other benefits

Apart from the most critical use of proving and improving marketing effectiveness, marketing audits provide many other significant benefits to marketers by helping them:

  • Spend marketing dollars wisely by channelling resources from less productive to more productive areas, thereby reducing pressure on finite marketing resources.
  • Gain a fresh perspective and an independent second opinion on marketing.
  • Support critical decision-making and to build consensus in the c-suite.
  • Align marketing strategy with business strategy and help set realistic goals.
  • Tune the marketing strategy to the dynamic environment to stay relevant, and identity and defend against disruptive threats.
  • Recalibrate marketing touchpoints in the customer journey to improve customer experience.
  • Inform strategic planning and marketing planning.
  • Build a benchmark for future performance tracking.



Vertical level functional reviews like digital, media or brand audits are typically done annually as a precursor to marketing planning. However, the horizontal level, comprehensive, Marketing Effectiveness Audits, as defined in this paper, are best done every few years as discovered by our own research to realign the marketing to business goals and the environment.

In addition to scheduling a Marketing Audit every few years, there are a few specific occasions when a Marketing Audit provides additional value.

During a change in leadership

New leaders arrive with a new vision, new goals, and allocation of monetary and other resources. Marketing audits help onboard senior executives, like CEOs, CMOs and even CFOs, by providing a comprehensive and diagnostic view of a firm’s marketing effort, new knowledge, and a fresh perspective to reshape the firm’s marketing.

Before making significant strategic changes

Marketing Audits are necessary at any point when making major marketing decisions. Decisions like rebranding, repositioning, targeting a new segment, drastically changing the marketing mix or promotional mix, and when reviewing external marketing service providers like your creative, digital, media or experiential marketing agencies.

When competition is heating up

After a new competitive entry, or when existing competition becomes more aggressive, a Marketing Environment Audit can help marketers understand competitive strategies, find defensive and offensive solutions.

If your business has been declining or flat for some time

If your business is trending downwards or has been flat for several years, it is time for a comprehensive diagnosis of the marketing. A Marketing Audit can identify potential problems and find tangible solutions to improve its effectiveness.

Even when business is growing

Sales can grow for many reasons. It could be a result of good marketing or some change in the marketing environment or both. Understanding which variable of the marketing is working can be pivotal in improving marketing effectiveness.


Marketing has become relatively more scientific and predictable today, but it is still mostly art. Every marketer’s situation is unique, and countless variables influence the impact of marketing, some in our control and some outside our control.

Today advanced and automated tools help marketers monitor and analyze the marketing effort more efficiently than any other time in history, but there are gaps, overlaps and variations in data. Not every touchpoint is measurable or measured, attribution is imperfect, and data silos make it difficult to get a comprehensive view of marketing. Without a complete diagnosis of marketing from the environment to execution, it is challenging to improve marketing effectiveness. A Marketing Audit is a solution.

[i] “Marketing Effectiveness News & Releases.” Fournaise, 10 July 2012,

[ii] Kolowich, Lindsay. “8 Of the Top Marketing Challenges Marketers Continuously Face [New Data].” HubSpot Blog, 2018,

[iii] “The State of the Customer Journey in 2019.” Treasure Data, 2019,

[iv] “The State of Marketing Measurement, Attribution & Data Management.” ClickZ, 2018,


The New Marketing Funnel.

In 1898, E. St. Elmo Lewis, the American advertising and sales pioneer, developed a model using the latest scientific management insights. Commonly referred to as the AIDA-model, it was a theoretical map of the customer journey from the time a brand attracted consumer attention to the point of action or purchase. The AIDA acronym stands for Awareness, Interest, Desire, and Action.
We take it for granted now, but this method of defining the customer experience and segmenting sales and marketing efforts was radical for its time and is still well-known to this day. It remains the foundation of the present-day marketing funnel.

What is a marketing funnel:
A marketing funnel is a way of breaking down the customer journey from when they first learn about your business to when they’re ready to buy your product or service, and even after purchase. A marketing funnel is a tool for mapping and understanding the customer’s journey to better serve customers.
Funnels have several stages, where typically a large number of potential customers start as leads at the top of the funnel (ToFu), some drop off as they move through the middle stages, and a few become customers at the bottom of the funnel (BoFu). The core objective of marketing is to fill the funnel and move as many leads down the funnel towards a purchase. The marketing funnel is a model of a system designed to attract and convert leads to customers or clients of your business.

Are Marketing funnel and Customer Journey the same thing?
Marketing funnels and customer journeys are both important frameworks that provide actionable insight into where and how to focus your resources for the highest marketing ROI. They are similar concepts, but not interchangeable. They mean different things.

So what’s the difference?
According to Salesforce, a marketing funnel, a.k.a sales funnel, is a model of your marketing and sales process from your company’s point of view. It maps the stages of the buying process that your company leads your customers through on their way to purchase, and the touchpoints (link) you have with customers and potential customers.

A customer journey is a map of the customer’s path to purchase and it includes all the steps and interactions the potential customer has before, during, and after buying and experiencing the product or service. These interactions are called touchpoints.

What is a touchpoint? A customer touchpoint is any physical or digital interaction between your business and a customer before, during, or after purchase. These can be your brand’s ad, web page, point of sale display, an email, a call from customer service or a customer review.

Even though they aren’t the same thing, your marketing funnel and your customer journey maps should tell the same story. The marketing funnel and customer journey complement each other to provide a better and more holistic view of the customer, and they help identify, design and refine touchpoints. Now that we understand the relationship between a marketing funnel, a customer journey and touchpoints let’s understand the new marketing funnel and its stages.

Reshaping of the Marketing Funnel
The traditional funnel followed a straight line customer journey, from awareness to interest, to desire, ending with action. There was only one entrance (awareness) and one exit (conversion), and that was the end of it.
Enabled by technology, customer journeys of the post-boomer generations have become non-linear and as unique as each customer. Google looked at thousands of users’ clickstream data as part of an opt-in panel and discovered that no two customer journeys are exactly the same, even in the same category.[i] They can be meandering, longer or shorter, depending on the individual customer and the sales cycle.

Today customers may enter the funnel at any point in the buyer’s journey, tightening and expanding their consideration set in unique and unpredictable moments. They may buy from a company they were not familiar with because of positive customer feedback and reviews. Subscribe to a newsletter because of an incentive or purchase because of a new customer discount. They may travel backward, from buying to comparison or go from the online store to the physical store.

Customers turn to their mobile devices to get immediate answers, and in doing so, they are expressing intent and reshaping the traditional marketing funnel. This is especially true of the post-boomer generations starting at Gen X. and more prolific among younger Millennials (Gen Y) and Gen Z.

This has reshaped the marketing funnel adding more stages to it, including post-purchase stages, like retention, expansion and advocacy.

Understanding your marketing funnel
At any given time, a business has customers in various stages of their customer journey. Understanding the marketing funnel helps marketers categorize leads and customers based on where the customers are in their journey in relationship with your business.
Tracking the position of leads in the funnel helps marketers deploy pre-planned tactics to keep their interest, answer questions and address their concerns to push them down the funnel towards a purchase.

Irrespective of the kind of purchase or the budget, customers start at the need recognition stage, their need can range from easily solved problems to issues without clear solutions. They may enter at different stages of the funnel, even skip stages or vacillate between stages before making a purchase, but they follow a somewhat similar path.

No two funnels are alike even within the same category and B2B and B2C funnels have different stages and touchpoints. However, customers in the same stage of their journey don’t necessarily encounter the same touchpoints, which is why a marketing funnel is a generalized and simplified model out of necessity.

Here are the typical stages of a four-stage marketing funnel.


Top of the Funnel (TOFU)
Stage 1: Awareness
In the awareness stage at the top of the funnel, a buyer typically has a need or problem and is seeking a solution. At this point, their value as a lead is low, and the probability of buying is uncertain, but they are open to receiving brand messages.

The objective of this stage is to generate awareness for the brand and start collecting leads from your target segment. The content should be attention-grabbing, but informative, interesting, fun and memorable. Channels and touchpoints used at this stage create broad awareness. Here are the typical channels and touchpoints to help you build brand awareness:

  • Branded advertising offline and online
  • PR and Social media
  • Online Video
  • Blogs and podcasts
  • Infographics
  • Ebooks


Middle of the Funnel (MOFU)
Stage 2: Consideration
Once a lead has identified their need and has become aware of your brand, they enter the consideration stage to evaluate the best solution. The value of a lead in the consideration stage is higher as they are interested and actively researching and evaluating the available solutions. While they have a higher probability of making a purchase, they are not ready yet, and they may have questions or concerns.

The marketer’s objective at this stage is to build a relationship with your new lead, understand their needs and provide relevant information that enables them to determine that your product or service is the best solution to their problem.
As the leads start to become more familiar with what your offer and how you can help solve their problem, they’ll begin to develop a greater interest in certain products or services.

Here are some typical channels and touchpoints to help you build brand awareness:

  • Product demo videos
  • Useful and Educational resources (blogs and downloads)
  • FAQs
  • Quiz/Surveys
  • Discount/offers/loyalty club
  • Email campaigns
  • Social media
  • Free trials
  • Retargeting campaigns
  • Live chat
  • Webinar
  • Testimonials and reviews
  • Sponsorship


Bottom of the Funnel (BOFU)
Stage 3: Action
Up until the Action stage, your leads have been moving through the funnel, taking smaller actions, like signing up for offers, newsletters or eBooks, which are referred to as micro conversions.
In the action stage, the leads are deep into their customer journey. They have shortlisted the brands they are ready to buy, but may not have made their final choice yet. At this point, they are looking for reviews, prices, warranties, offers and more information to make their final decision. They may also be ready to speak to a salesperson.

The marketer’s ultimate objective at this stage is to persuade your leads to convert and makes a purchase. To achieve this, you must build a relationship with the new lead, understand their needs and provide relevant information that enables and persuades them to conclude that your brand is the best solution to their problem. A significant churn at this stage would indicate that your lead nurturing tactics need improvement.

Here are a few kinds of content to include at the action stage of the sales funnel:

  • Testimonials and reviews
  • Comparative sheets
  • Pricing pages
  • Case studies
  • Discounts
  • Insider or customer success tips
  • Special offers
  • Product implementation or training webinars
  • Bundled packages
  • Follow-up email campaigns
  • Live demos
  • Webinars


Step 4: Re-engagement

In the traditional funnel, the Action stage was the endpoint, but the cotemporary funnel continues even after purchase to build retention, expansion and advocacy. This is because acquiring a new customer can cost five times more than retaining an existing customer. A study by Bain & Company and the Harvard Business School found that a 5% increase in customer retention can increase profit by 25 to 95%. This is because the cost of acquiring a new customer can be five times more than retaining an existing customer and the probability of selling to an existing customer is higher than 60% and less than 20% for new customers. Keeping customers loyal and engaged helps re-selling, but also helps cross-selling and up-selling (expansion).
However, the benefits of re-engagement don’t end here. A happy and loyal customer is a gift that keeps on giving because not only do they buy more, but they also talk about your brand and endorse it within their circle of influence. That’s not all, it gets better, customers that are referred usually convert at a much higher rate than brand new customers.[ii]

Here are some ideas to re-engage customers:

  • Referral programs.
  • Upsell campaigns.
  • Loyalty program.
  • Customer Satisfaction Surveys.
  • Re-engagement email campaigns.
  • Product-specific webinars and tutorials for customer success.
  • Live demonstrations on how to get the best out of the product/service.


Wrapping Up

Marketing funnels and customer journey maps inform each other, and while they are different, they both tell the same story. Tracking customer journeys helps understand your leads and their buying process:

  • How are they finding your brand?
  • How are they researching your brand?
  • What are the critical moment where they are most open to influence?
  • What challenges do they run into along the way?

Answers to these questions, along with the data collected at the touchpoints in the customer journey, help design an efficient lead nurturing process. A well-built marketing funnel targets customers with relevant messages at different stages, and create a frictionless path to purchase and provides a better customer experience

[i] “Search Behavior Has Changed the Path to Purchase – Think with Google.” Google, Google,

[ii] Gallo, Amy. “The Value of Keeping the Right Customers.” Harvard Business Review, 5 Nov. 2014,



Omnipresent brands can benefit from customized marketing too.

If you thought that only niche, high-value, big-ticket or premium brands could provide customized and personalized experiences, you would be wrong. In fact, during the summer of 2013 and 2014, Coca-Cola, the world’s largest beverage company, rolled out  ‘Share a Coke,’ a customized marketing campaign in 70 countries, including the USA and Canada. Who would have thought that a ubiquitous brand such as Coke could customize their marketing?

Well, quite simply, Coke replaced their usual branding with a few hundred of the most famous names in each respective country. Popular names like John, Ashley, Wong and  Ryan so that at least 40% a country’s population could find their own name or that of someone they knew on a Coke. This is why the campaign sentiment was on ‘sharing’ to broaden the appeal. Let’s face it, thirsty or not, if you found your name on a Coke you couldn’t help but buy it. If you found the name of someone you cared for, then guess what, you had to buy that too! If your parents were the “creative types” who wanted to buck the usual naming conventions of the day, the clever marketing team at Coke thought of you too. Let’s say you had a grandma-shocking moniker such as Agape, Simba, North or Rocket; you could visit Coke’s website and order a virtual Coke to go. Coke even added generic titles like Mom, Dad, Mate, Dude, Family and BFF, etc. so no one would be left out.

Share a Coke

The brilliant thing about this customized marketing idea is that instead of customizing the product, Coke simply customized its packaging. In reality, they simply pre-customized it. Sure the personalization of Coke would have been a complex and challenging initiative, but was it worth it? Absolutely.

Did it work?

You bet it did. Before taking it global, Coke first tested the campaign in Australia in 2011 with very positive results. Millions of Australians (remember there are only 23 million of them) got together and shared a Coke either virtually or literally, buying over 250 million named bottle and cans – That’s more than 10 personalized units per person! As per Coca-Cola’s 3rd Quarter 2014 earning report, global volume grew 1% in the quarter and 2% year to date Q3 2014. 1%-2% growth may not seem like a lot, but when you note that the category has been in decline for 11 years in a row. [i]  Not bad for Coke, but relatively bad for Pepsi. The ‘Share a Coke’ campaign even picked up seven awards at 2012 Cannes Lions, otherwise known as the Oscars of the advertising world.

According to Lucie Austin, who at the time was director of marketing for Coca-Cola South Pacific in Sydney, the birthplace of ‘Share a Coke’ (see more of her interview with Jay Moye, Editor of Coca-Cola Journey), the campaign capitalized on the global trend of self-expression and sharing.[ii] It allowed consumers to express themselves through a bottle of Coke, and to share the experience with someone else.

So what can we learn from the ‘Share a Coke’ campaign? In this ‘age-of-me,’ consumers want to feel unique and thus, giving them something personalized and affordable is an excellent way to beat the competition.




What the fudge is machine-to-machine (M2M) technology?

M2M is a more straightforward explanation of another industry buzz term, ‘The Internet of Things’ (IoT). I am not a techie, and I won’t pretend to be one, so simply put M2M is machines connecting with other machines. They can connect wired or wirelessly and exchanging information in real-time without human intervention. Sounds simple? You are welcome! I had to read up a lot of technical mumbo-jumbo to demystify that for your benefit.

How does it work?

Imagine this scenario, your alarm clock wakes you up at 6:30 and signals your coffee maker to start brewing your coffee or your office printer automatically re-orders more ink before running out. Another good example is Google’s NEST thermostat that learns your schedule, programs itself and can be controlled with your phone. A commercial truck exchanges vehicle data like kilometres driven, fuel consumed, and route information with head-office computers and automatically schedules maintenance with the fleet’s garage.

Collecting and analyzing data in real-time using M2M helps companies increase productivity, lower operating costs, develop revenue streams and gain competitive advantage. But when the information being exchanged is about you, it gets personal!


One of M2M technology’s many benefits is the personalization of services, which is why I am writing about it. When combined with Big Data, M2M gets more sophisticated in supporting personalization and customization. Take, for instance, Progressive Insurance’s Snapshot device, which plugs into your car’s diagnostics to track your driving habits so that your insurance premium can be personalized. Or a Beacon that tracks your current location in the mall or within a grocery aisle and beams you a message for a product that is on offer in your immediate vicinity. The message could be accompanied by a customized coupon or a personalized price offer based on your previous shopping habits.


Beacons are little devices that send signals to Bluetooth-enabled technology such as a smartphone when a shopper is within its range. Beacons use Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) technology to create a wireless personal area network for transmitting data over short distances while consuming so little energy that a coin-sized battery could last 3 years.

This technology has the potential to significantly change the way brands and retailers will connect with consumers. Beacon technology provides shoppers with an almost concierge-like shopping experience with contextual messages and promotions, loyalty driven offers and shopping list reminders.

A June 2014 research study by inMarket, one of the world’s largest in-store Beacon platform service provider, found that shoppers who received location-based Beacon messages were 19 times more likely to interact with the advertised product than those who did not receive a beacon message. A similar study conducted by inMarket in September 2014 indicated that Beacon engagement achieved 5 times higher interaction rates than traditional push messages that occur without location context. Shoppers who receive branded messages at the right time in the store are 7.5 times more likely to seek out the product off the shelf than those that do not.

On the flip side, over-saturation and irrelevant Beacon pushes can cause app usage to decline and the app to be deleted from the phone. In fact, just adding one more push per beacon location reduces app usage by over 3 times.

Beacons at Retail

As M2M technology improves, here is what your grocery shopping would be like in a couple of years. Your refrigerator takes inventory and automatically adds milk, orange juice and eggs to your shopping app.  As you walk into the store’s produce section, you are reminded that the very short mangoes season has just started and lists the varieties that will be the ripest this week, how much they weigh and how much they will cost.

As you pick up milk and orange juice, a store beacon pings your device with a personalized offer for Philly Cheese for the cheesecake recipe you had ‘favorited’ last week while browsing the web. You walk past the freezer section, your Fitbit app informs you that because you have walked 5 kilometres in the day and you can add your favourite reduced-fat frozen yogurt into your daily calorie budget for a personalized price. Finally, you exit the store and pay using your phone.

Beacon applications are going beyond the retail arena to places like airports and train stations so that notifications on departures, delays, and gate and platform assignments can be delivered instantly to passenger smartphones. I know firsthand that Toronto’s Billy Bishop Airport on Toronto Island was planning to invest heavily in Beacon technology as part of its refurbishment plan.

According to Business Insider, over half of the top 100 retailers in the US had tested Beacon technology in 2014 and that the installed base of active Beacons would be 4.5 million by 2018. If Beacon’s haven’t caught your interest yet, this should help. [i]According to BI Intelligence, Beacon messages will trigger retail sales worth $44.4 billion in the US in 2016.

“We anticipate that in a couple of years, more than half of new mobile apps will talk to IoT devices. IoT enables mobile apps to provide great insights by connecting with a wide range of data points, as every temperature sensor, every light bulb, every printer, fridge, clothing could potentially act as a data source,” said Kundan Joshi, CEO of TheAppLabb.

There are privacy concerns from consumer groups, but I expect legislation and technology to catch up and alleviate fears of privacy and security. One way or another, we will see more personalized pricing and customized offers beamed to us.

The players  

Apple was the first major device maker to integrate Beacon protocol standard, called iBeacon, into an operating system followed by Google’s own standard called Eddystone. Both work with each other’s smartphone operating systems. On the hardware and firmware side there are numerous vendors, some of the notable ones, in no particular order, are Gimball, BlueCats, BlueSence, Estimote, Gelo, Bikon, Accent Systems, Lightcurb, Glimworm, Kontakt, Sensorberg, Sonic Notify, GP Motorola, Sensorberg and Swirl.

Is it expensive?

At about $5 a Beacon, the hardware itself is inexpensive, but the number of units required will depend on the size of your marketing effort. There will be other costs related to message planning, app development (if you don’t already have an app), programming, permissions from retailers, installation, monitoring and redemptions.

Beacon technology is poised to change the way consumers interact with brands, making devices more helpful and revolutionizing the way retail marketers measure the offline impact of online ads.[ii]

So if you are a marketer, you should consider using this technology to digitally extend your brand into the physical world in your next marketing plan. Or, at the very least, consider doing a localized test to see if proximity marketing in-store with Beacons will help boost sales.


[i] Smith, Cooper. “THE BEACONS REPORT: Growth Forecasts For The Most Important Retail Technology Since The Mobile Credit Card Reader.” Business Insider, Business Insider, 14 Nov. 2014,

[ii] “How Beacons Can Reshape Retail Marketing.” Google, Google, Aug. 2016,


Here’s proof that Personalized Advertising works.

In case you missed it, here is pioneering interactive personalized advertising campaign by British Airways (BA)

The British Airways (BA) Home Advantage TV commercial was created to mark BA’s sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympic Games and Paralympics.

The original TV ad shows BA’s jumbo jet driving, not flying, past iconic parts of London and then dropping off passengers to the Olympic stadium.

According to Justin Moore, Creative Director at BBH, a British agency that I admire tremendously, the ‘Home Advantage’ creative idea emerged a key question. “What would BA do with its planes, pilots and staff if it decided not to fly during the London Olympics so that Londoners could stay at home and cheer their Olympic teams?’

The interactive version of the ad allows viewers to create a personalized version of the advertisement by inputting their London street address or postcode, to take BA’s Jumbo Jet maneuvering past their home on their street. Set to a soundtrack of The Clash’s ‘London’s Calling,’ one clip shows a cockpit view of your street, while another shows a view from a passenger window and a third shows the nose of the aircraft rolling past homes on your street.

If you have a London address (a postal code will do), you can still test-drive the interactive BA ad here. I didn’t have a London address so I tried the Buckingham Palace postcode, but it did not work, and understandably so because I don’t think BA would have expected Her Majesty to tinker around with an interactive ad for Her amusement.

The original TV commercial premiered just before England’s June 12 game with Ukraine in Euro 2012,  and within weeks the interactive version of the BA ad had gone viral. When I last checked, BA’s #HomeAdvantage had 2695 likes, 1566 shares and 484 comments on Facebook, 10,800 tweets,  and 1.146 million views on YouTube. According to the July 5, 2012 edition of the Sunday Express, the ad had become “one of the most successful ever interactive personalized advertising campaigns in social media.”[i]

The Wilderness Downtown

I could be wrong, but I am reasonably sure that this original Google Chrome experiment from 2010 demonstrating the capabilities of the Google Chrome browser was the first generation of the technology that was used to create the BA ad. Arguably, it was also the inspiration for it. Keep in mind that “The Wilderness Downtown” was created two years before the BA ad, which is an eon in technological years.[ii]

Set to the song “We used to wait” by Arcade Fire, the interactive personalizable, multi-media video was a collaborative effort of Google Creative Labs and music video director Chris Milk. The viewer is prompted to provide the address of the street they grew up on, and the HTML5 video along with Google Map data and images does the rest. It places the viewer at the centre of the narrative, taking them down a nostalgic journey through the neighbourhood they grew up in. It is a powerful and emotional experience! Truly genius, in my opinion.

See more information on the experiment here. There is no sales data as this was only a demonstration of the technology, it was undoubtedly a massive success. It won every meaningful creative award, including Cannes Grand Prix Lion, Gold Lion, D&AD Black and Yellow Pencil, Clios Grand and Gold, One Show Gold and Silver Pencils, Webbys, Andys, SXSW, TED, MVPA and TIME.

So what can we learn from this? Personalized advertising helps improve marketing effectiveness.

[i] Meredith, Charlotte. “Interactive British Airways Advert Goes Viral.”,, 14 Mar. 2014,

[ii] “The Wilderness Downtown.” The Wilderness Downtown,


The customer is the brand. ‘Me’ is the new paradigm of marketing.

Originally published in the June 26th issue of Marketing Magnified, the journal the CMO Council

Consumers are much wealthier today, if measured by how much they consume, the stuff they own and the choices they have. Mass production, free markets, global supply chains, easy credit, access to information, the internet and the growth of e-commerce have democratized products and services by making them even more affordable and accessible. This has pushed the masses up Maslow’s pyramid, not just in the developed world, but arguably in the developing world too. The customer has become the brand!

Abraham Maslow (1943) stated that people are motivated by physiological, safety, love and belonging, esteem and self-actualization needs. When one need is fulfilled, a person seeks to fulfil the next one, and so on. He also noted that only one in a hundred people become fully self-actualized because our society rewards motivation primarily based on esteem, love and other social needs. That was true before social media, and the access and excess afforded by this century, but not anymore.  Another likely factor is the rise in the incidence of narcissism amongst Millennials as discovered by Dr. Twenge and Dr. Campbell in their study of self-esteem and narcissism for their book titled ‘The Narcissism Epidemic: Living in the Age of Entitlement.’ [i]

Now it appears that consumers are skipping Maslow’s basic hierarchies wanting to feel and be seen as self-actualized individuals, and it is not just the Millennials! Some are driven by a realistic sense of self-worth based on their own individual achievement and others by some level of narcissism. People are seeking instant gratification, not waiting to be recognized, they are making the world recognize them by carefully shaping their own brand.

Overwhelmingly, they want their own personal brand to be meaningful and different from the other 7 billion people on the planet – including the 1.5 billion that are measuring up against others on social and professional networks online. They all have different values, and they want these values reflected. The most valuable brand for them is their own.

I call this cultural shift the “Me Paradigm.”  It is no longer just about your brand, it is about “me” the consumer.

The customer is a brand onto themselves.

This has significant implications on how marketers, in general, think about their brand and interact with their consumers. It requires a shift in thinking from their brand being unique to their consumer being unique.

The “Me Paradigm” theory is based on recognizing some key realities.

  1. Every customer is a brand and wants to further his brand.
  2. Every customer is a segment on his own and has specific requirements.
  3. Every customer is in a different market at different times and places — multiple markets reside within each individual.
  4. Every customer has a voice in the internet democracy and wants to be heard.
  5. Every customer wants to be perceived and treated as special.

While this is a daunting list of requirements to consider in marketing to the masses efficiently and profitably, innovative marketers have employed this thinking with great success. They have achieved growth by personalizing consumer experience or customizing product, packaging and pricing.  If you thought that only niche, high-value, big-ticket or premium brands could be personalized and customized, you would be wrong.

During the summer of 2013, Coca-Cola the world’s largest beverage company rolled out its ‘Share a Coke’ campaign in 70 countries. The genius of this idea was that Coke simply pre-customized its packaging by replacing their usual branding with a few hundred of the most popular names like John, Ashley and Ryan. Names were carefully selected in each country so that at least 40% of a country’s population could find their own name or that of someone they knew on a Coke.

According to Lucie Austin, Coke’s marketing director, the campaign capitalized on the global trend of self-expression and sharing, allowing consumers to express themselves through a bottle of Coke, and to share the experience with someone else.

Did it work? You bet it did. Before taking it global, Coke tested the campaign in Australia in 2011, selling 250 million named bottles and cans to 23 million Australians – That’s over 10 personalized units per person! Globally, it grew volume by 2% in a category that has been in a consistent decline for 11 years.

The British Airways (BA) Home Advantage TV and an interactive internet commercial were created to mark BA’s sponsorship of the London 2012 Olympics.  The original TV ad showed BA’s jumbo jet driving (not flying) past iconic parts of London and then dropping off passengers to the Olympic stadium.

The interactive version of the ad allowed viewers to create a personalized version of the ad by inputting their London address to take BA’s Jumbo Jet manoeuvring past their home. If you have a London street address or postal code you can still test-drive the interactive BA ad here.

Within weeks the interactive version of the BA ad had gone viral with thousands of shares and over a million views on YouTube. According to the Sunday Express [ii] it was considered to be “one of the most successful ever interactive social media advertising campaigns.”

Another example is that of the soon to launch Atom Bank, the next generation virtual-only (mobile) bank. In a bid to provide a highly personalized customer experience, the bank created 1.4 million logos. Customers can not only choose a personalized logo and colour palette to drive their visual experience when using the app, they can also call the bank what they want, such as Robert’s bank or Sally’s bank. Atom Bank’s CMO, Lisa Wood told Marketing Week that personalization has been a dominant theme throughout the entire process. “It’s a way of showing that we believe every one of our customers is unique. No one should have exactly the same experience at Atom,” she said.[iii]

The marketing paradigm has changed from mass marketing to mass customization and now is moving towards individualized customization and super personalization. The new paradigm of marketing is the “ME paradigm.” Marketers embracing the reality that their customer is the brand will have the edge.