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Trade Stories


18 Jul Why “Brand Purpose” Today Must be Different

In developed markets, the scarcest commodity is not water or food, it’s someone’s attention.  We’re bombarded by on average, 5,000+ advertisements and brand exposures per day depending on one’s media consumption habbits1.  These aren’t just ads – but passing by labels in a grocery store for example or the fact that Facebook has 50 minutes of your time each day and is game for more. Using the broader calculation of what constitutes advertising, such as viewing the label of a brand in a grocery store, the figure grows exponentially to 20,000+ exposures. Interestingly, the average number of “ads only” that deliver engagement equates to 12. Statistically, that’s an incredibly poor rate of return on advertising and brand performance.

So how do brands fit into the consumer equation today?  The branding establishment is grounded in the basis of how a brand differentiates a company or product from a defined competitive set of companies and/or products.  It’s a classic dictum:  To audience W, brand X is Y and supported by Z1, Z2, Z3.  And it’s not wrong. The company or product does need to understand its alignment and relationships within a market space.  Having said this, what we find interesting is that in this age of internet of things (IoT) that people are forgoing products and instead increasingly buying experiences.

Also important is that people are more comfortable with the interconnectivity of experiences – that everything is connected to other things – to make occasions more anticipatory, intuitive and rich with other machines and other people.  So what separates a brand in positioning is probably less important that what brings people and things together in a collective experience.  For example: whether your Nike + syncs correctly with your phone and whether you’re able to connect with a running group this morning, matters immensely and represents the collective value of the brand experience.

In today’s world, the brands that scream the loudest will no longer command the most attention; the ones that offer useful information or things, such as seamless cross device integration, will instead.  In our business, we advocate and construct brands to foster co-participation between people and companies in a shared narrative theme that drive multiple story opportunities.  The themes derived are themes of participation and connection, not differentiation and separation.  And the stories generated are for story’s sake, providing information and utility, value and authenticity, not the “bait and switch” of sponsored or even native content for example.  If a company can provide something useful and facilitate a great experience, there’s reason for a person to reward the company with his/ her attention.

Perhaps more important, based on significant research for well recognized brands, we’re typically able to uncover larger themes of participation that ladder back to a company’s established and entrenched attributes. We never advocate abandoning brand attributes or positioning but note that there are certain themes that foster participation over others. Ultimately, the purpose of a “brand” must be to foster connectivity between the desired outcomes, community of advocates and the experience. We’ll leave you with a few names of companies that achieved success in redefining the purpose of a brand vs. well entrenched competitors.

Brand Comparison

In the end, if you look at your own brand through this lens, the questions you have to ask yourself are quite simple. What is the purpose of our brand and do we connect the experience of the brand to the desired behavior in a way that’s uniquely ownable?

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 312-909-2800

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

1Source: 9/14 Media Dynamics, Inc.

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14 Apr Five Keys to Audience Engagement Through Storytelling

As a marketer, we all recognize “the times they are a-changin” – for those that like Bob Dylan. The rate of change is astounding. If you’re not experiencing it, then there’s a number of questions you should be asking yourself. This article isn’t about that though…

What you’re going to read about is what you should be doing with the data that’s available to you to address your prospect and customer needs. This is about building an agile organization that’s able to respond to data-driven insights. If you’re responsible for marketing and you’re not immersed in data and you’re not building paid, earned and owned plans that are highly scalable / flexible, then you’re doing the equivalent of turning a blind eye to the obvious.

For the “modern marketer”, brands have come to be defined by their success in Total Experience Management, (TEM). Defining key customer-brand interactions is impossible to do without data. For reference – “In 2015, 37% of CMOs said that they are increasingly using data and analytics and see that as high priority. This year, sources are predicting that number will possibly double.” [1] While the increase in Big Data as a prioritization is admirable, it doesn’t mean that data is useful. In fact, we’ve written about the fact that Big Data is nothing more than significant amounts of small data combined to create informed, actionable marketing tactics within a broader plan. As a marketer, you have a responsibility to orchestrate the right channels, context, content, tools and alignment of teams to transform your business and customer relationships.

Here’s a few insights worth noting as it relates to the current state of marketing – 2016.

The question is – How do you compare?

Issue 1

You’re not integrating valuable, yet disparate data assets to holistically build prospect / customer profiles. This isn’t surprising considering only 53% of organizations consider a single view of the customer a priority.[2]

Issue 2

You’re ignoring key assets, which means you’re developing strategies based on a few pieces of the puzzle. A recent Forrester study notes that a lack of analytical tools and “repressive” data siloes lead companies to ignore 88% of their customer data.[3]

Issue 3

Marketing is a “science and an art.” If the lens you’re using is solely art, maybe you should be looking over your shoulder more often… Intersecting with your customers / prospects as a participant in the journey they call “life” by leveraging technologies that are readily available with brand stories that resonate = brand relationships. If tools such as Ensighten, Tealium, Adobe’s Marketing Cloud, Bottlenose, Brightedge, NUVI, Sprinklr, etc. aren’t in your arsenal or your teams don’t know how to take advantage of the technologies at their disposal, well, you’re facing a serious up hill battle.

Here are 5 actions you can take right now to make sure that you’re not in the marketing performance cross hairs at the end of ’16:

  1. Begin by conducting an audit to determine where you’re at in the maturity cycle. Assess the following behaviors: Storytelling, Contextual Planning, Multi Platform Publishing, Technologist, Governance, Data Driven using the following assessment metrics.Screen Shot 2016-04-13 at 5.10.40 PM copy
  2. Use this assessment as a tool to set realistic business goals for your company and to develop a data framework to guide alignment to key elements such as customer view/profile, organizational infrastructure, operations, technology platforms etc.
  3. Appoint a single data lead to spearhead this effort and mandate the collaboration of disciplines in the discussion of key reports and findings as it relates to the customer. Align the data lead with an advocate, preferably someone at the C-level who has the power to support the data efforts and foster camaraderie on data points-of-view.
  4. Identify data streams and opportunities. Communicate how the data streams work, when key data-related content and findings are available for colleague use, and how streams and information can be used.
  5. Focus on actionable insights. Determine what’s imperative to move your company one step further to better developing a holistic and singular customer view and creating the most relevant narrative for your brand.


If you want to succeed in ’16 and beyond, you must piece the data and learnings together intelligently and cohesively to identify story opportunities in which you can credibly participate in, improve on, and learn from.

If you’re looking for the right partner to assist your company in developing its data framework or want a strategic collaborator to help you transform your data integration culture, contact Trade at 312-909-2800.




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01 Apr The Power of Gifs and Data Visualization.

Three things we love: fast cars, data visualization, and gifs. So, it only makes sense to explore how people felt about the cars at the New York Auto Show using a couple of data visualization tools.


Our data source was NUVI. We set up a monitor for four days to capture all conversations on Twitter using the #NYIAS hashtag which resulted in nearly 70k mentions. Nuvi is an excellent tool for visualization but in many cases we are mashing up multiple data sets to identify unique insights. This mash up usually results in some crazy Excel file that we then have to visualize which keeps us always on the look out for tools to help data visualization and exploration.

You are probably asking yourself, when will I see a gif? I know, if it were me reading this, I would have already scrolled to the bottom looking for the gif. For you linear readers the gif’s are coming and let me know if you see the hidden image.

70k mentions are lot of data to sift through but this number is technically on the lower end when you are dealing with a large brand that is releasing a significant product or has the unfortunate situation of being in a crisis. To find patterns in the data to inform how we develop messaging, identify consumer needs, or figure out who are the detractors, we need to be able to explore the data.

So we took a simple subset of the NYIAS data to analyze the phrases that expressed positive sentiment using a beta product called SandDance created by the Visualization and Interaction Team (VIBE) in Microsoft Research. When I saw the headline “Microsoft’s New Data-Viz Tool Puts Excel Charts to Shame” from Fast Company, I felt compelled for some one-upmanship on my fellow Traders who are busy planning their next insights deck chock full o excel charts. Caveat for all you data geeks, this is just a sample of data to demonstrate the visualization tool’s capabilities.

Apparently love conquers all and who wouldn’t love a new Nissan GT-R or an Audi RS7 (and a cat).


Since I am one-upping, I took the same data set and created some charts using an online tool from Density Design, built on the d3js framework, which is one of my favorite visualization toolsets. Side note: If you want to find some inspiration for visual storytelling, take a look at and browse a vast collection of examples.

Once again the GTR was the most mentioned alongside periscope.


Client example: To help keep marketing & sales teams at Bank of America Merchant Services informed of trending topics during Money2020, we launched a real-time data visualization aligned to the solutions they have in the market.


These are just a few quick examples of how to take data out of your social listening platform to explore and visualize it in new ways. If you find the off the shelf products limiting your ability to align conversation data to messaging pillars for insights and measurement, just export your data and drop it into one of these tools or give us a call, and we will help you.



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28 Mar Define Your Data Architecture: The Path to Truly Personalized Experiences

Under pressure from younger customers with higher expectations and new digital standards being set in retail, finance companies must do more to build true omnichannel experiences that live up to the full potential of the idea – to provide personalized, contextually relevant customer and prospect experiences across device where, when, and how consumers want to interact.

Key to this concept is harnessing all the rich data that is generated from online and offline interactions.  As more and more is written about omnichannel in finance, we must start to get to the heart of how best to plan it.  Taking practices born out of “multichannel” planning –  where the focus was establishing options to engage with nothing smart or personal – is the mold that must be broken.

The fire is fanned by the idea that consumer demands for retail experiences are on the rise.  Finance brands must understand that there is data beyond the transaction that can lead to a better overall customer experience.

As Andrew Joss from Informatica writes in his post, “Omnichannel Banking and the Need for Data”:

Being driven by a younger generation of Banking customers, with high expectations of service provision due to their experiences with some market leading retailers, there is now an increasing demand for channel choice based upon individual preferences allied to continuous availability of the service as well as the ability to switch to an alternative channel if desired.

He goes on:

This same experience has created an impression that all key service providers (i.e. Banks) have huge amounts of customer data and that this data is being used to drive the engagement process. Banks have traditionally managed their businesses as operational or functional siloes as there was little need to do anything else – that time is coming to an end.

The key being data intelligence.  The parallel is drawn to consumer expectations based on other retail experiences outside banking which is generally understood to be a better experience.  But it is also assumed that banks are rich in data therefore are able to craft experiences based on preference, behavioral patterns, and sentiment which lead to better, higher value marketing and utility to the customer.  This is all driven by smarter data management and optimization.

The big promise of omnichannel is the idea of seamlessness across devices.  Within that concept, is the notion of personalized and contextual experiences.  And this is where most finance companies fall short.

In The Mobile Mind Shift; Engineer Your Business to Win in the Mobile Moment (Groundswell Press, 2014) we learned that “within the next 1-2 years, 50% of consumers will have the expectation of anywhere, anything, anytime on their mobile device and yet in reality a mere 4% of companies actually have what it takes to provide it.”

One of the key challenges is in the strategic planning approach. By definition, omnichannel is to provide users with a seamless experience no matter the transaction point – desktop to mobile to phone to physical space. This needs to be more than just enabling interaction or offering the touch point option such as what multichannel planning provides.

Omnichannel is not achieved through thinking merely about channels and touch points first.  It’s achieved by understanding how data flows – the inputs and outputs that map the true view of your complete customer experience – then backfilled by touch point activation and engagement based on what the data is telling us.  

The right place to start is not with the touchpoint or technology first but rather with planning the data architecture.  How does data get captured? How can it be passed from point to point? How can it inform smarter interactions?  Then build the experience on top of that architecture.

 Here are some steps to get there:

  1. Begin by mapping out the data that can and should be captured: behavioral, engagement, demographics, technographics, segmentation, transaction patterns, product purchase, preference, sentiment, etc.
  2. From the data set, understand which data allows you to build smarter experiences: decide what will allow you to build towards more contextual and personal experiences, and play out these scenarios in prototypes through the lens of the consumer.
  3. Push the limits of how data can flow: start with an architecture of touch points and technologies modeled after the scenarios to create a version of how data needs to flow from point to point to inform better interactions and enable the experience vision.
  4. Identify the barriers and gaps that exist in capturing and passing data from point to point. This will inform data requirements that should inform technology platform and configuration decisions, as well as the DMP (data management platform) housing the data and where it should “live.”
  5. Come back to the experience layer and focus on engagement value (content, utility, social, etc.): knowing your data architecture means nothing until it is manifested in smarter, more personal, and more contextual interactions which is a creative exercise.

Trade has executed this work in the finance space and can guide you.  It’s not a one size fits all approach but once you understand the required outputs to get to the right answer, it’s just about doing the work.  Interested in learning how to get started? Please contact Jeff Blackman

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Small Data

13 Mar Marketing’s Big Data Challenge – “Small Data”

Brands suffer no shortage of data measurement today.

Impressions. Interactions. Engagement. Views. Visitors. Leads. Qualified leads. Lift. Frequency. Reach. Amplification. Share. Shares. Likes. Comments. Tweets. Recall. Recognition. Awareness. Spend. Purchase. Loyalty. Consideration. Conversion. Favorability. Share of voice. CPA. ROI. P/E. Growth. Influence. Sentiment. NPS. Click Throughs. Uniques. Time. Intent. Rank. Traffic. Reputation. Advocacy. Usage. Earned. Earnings. Exposure. Pages. Logins. Affinity. Retention. LTV. CAC. Reputation. Participation. Value.

And this list doesn’t even begin to touch on the pre-go-to-market research inputs informing targeting, segmentation, audience, competition, etc.

This isn’t a “big data” problem. It’s a “big pile of small data” opportunity. Big data has been defined based on at least three “V”’s (some prognosticators go up to six):

1. Volume

2. Variety

3. Velocity

The insights below demonstrate this relationship nicely:


Small Data

Source:  Diya Soubra


Taken individually, many of the standard marketing metrics have become or are creeping into big data territory. However, too much of this data is silo-ed across internal departments or spread across a roster of specialized agencies. So, who’s doing the “knitting?” How should the business and marketing strategy be organized to actually leverage the power of big data?

The answer lies in a fourth “V”: Value. The disparate sources of data measurement must be restructured under a holistic architecture that provides real “Value” for better decision making by CMO’s and the rest of the executive suite – only then can the pile of small data be transformed into useful Big Data.

The funny thing is – consumers don’t think or act according to these terms. The industry’s metrics are a proxy for measuring and influencing human behavior. In our view at Trade, what’s needed is a framework that focuses on what’s really happening in people’s lives. Put simply, people are either living a story or telling one. So listen to and identify these narratives first. Plan second. Then execute to add value to the personal narratives. Measure, rinse and repeat.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 312-909-2800

To contact the author

Jeff Mikes, Partner

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black leather doctor's bag with stethoscope hanging out

09 Mar An Approach to Content: Healthcare’s Next Big Need

For a long time, healthcare direct-to-consumer advertising (DTC advertising) mimicked its counterparts on the consumer side of the aisle.  DTC healthcare advertising worked and still works in the duopoly of print and television.  It’s a broadcast first approach that leads the efforts and spend with collateral while having key opinion leaders follow behind to target providers.

Up until recently, this approach to reach the health consumer felt normal and in step with other brands across a variety of categories.  All that has changed.  Non healthcare brands have adopted their means of reaching consumers and are riding the wave of socially powered, omnichannel and on demand marketing.  There is no longer only TV and print.  Add to that, four social platform programs, a story world app, detailed analytics based email, over the top (OTT), which is content distribution across the Internet without the need for traditional networks and multi-channel event opportunities – you get the idea.

Increasingly, healthcare advertising and DTC healthcare advertising looks and feels out of step to the health consumer.  The conversations with healthcare brands aren’t behaving the same way as non healthcare brands when people are considering a particular drug therapy, insurer, or provider.   This is being combined with a change in the very nature of the health care business; the shift from volume to value, from sickness and treatment to health and wellness. The notion of “population health” has put the consumer at the center of a traditionally fragmented ecosystem and consumer behavior is becoming the binding force.

Non healthcare brands have followed consumer behavior and gone from having a digital strategy to strategies for a digital world.  Most of this new world is powered by various forms of content in a flow that’s continually optimized to reach various targeted consumers in their lives; a way that provides a return on attention for brand and business goals. As health systems are now incentivized and rewarded based on how consumers behave in their daily lives, outside of hospital boundaries, we think its time to really look at the way content plays a role in this future.  A properly designed publishing plan can shift marketing from big television to data-driven, always-on digital engagement that influences behavioral change.

Going from campaigns to always listening and communication takes serious work.  Our team has been working in highly regulated industries and helped to design publishing systems that take into consideration the regulatory and company compliance guidelines.  HIPPA compliance and medical regulations are comprehensive but there are ways to work through these environments, to find new always-on systems of health consumer engagement.

In healthcare there is no purchase funnel. The health consumer could jump from being a completely passive and healthy individual to a patient looking for the best doctor, the best hospital, and numerous kinds of treatment therapies in a flash. And there’s the flip scenario, where this same consumer could be in a state of awareness and proactive health management for a very long time before the need for any part of the health system arises.

We see a future where timely, relevant information coordinated across media channels and formats is seen less as “marketing” and more as an integral part of a therapeutic offering of the patient engagement with a doctor or hospital.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 312-909-2800

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner


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07 Mar Five ways to scale your in-house publishing team

The last decade has fundamentally changed the communications environment. Influence does not just come from those with the biggest audience, real time has become a model of authentic communication and cross channel content consumption is on the rise. The result is that nowadays no two people see the same Internet. We increasingly discover online content not by algorithms but through the “lens of a friend” as Microsoft researcher Dana Boyd likes to call it. So we must offer multiple options that provide paths to engage. These paths are the various themes and stories consumers are actively engaging in, which may or may not be directly associated with your products or services.

Gaining a share of a consumer’s mind in today’s hyper-connected marketplace does not happen with a single home run. It requires an organization to begin acting like a publisher with some fundamentals. Become more diligent with story mining, actively listening to what people are interested in and then efficiently tailoring these stories across platforms in a way that inspires the audience to participate in the dialog. Moving to a publishing-centric mindset can be accelerated by having the right data, tools and work flows in place to help guide creative teams to the right outcomes.

These 5 tips will help you scale your publishing team to handle everything from a multiplatform global editorial plan that operates like a newsroom to a story-centric content campaign.

1. Define the life-cycle of a Story


2. Align editorial calendar’s across the globe


3. Increase mix of content and delivery channels


4. Develop content strategies that ensure stories work across platforms 


5. Build a technology architecture that connects editorial, content delivery, and measurement


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25 Feb Yes. Now How About “Editorial Analytics” for Brands?

The Real Issue

If we had more marketers talking about how to adopt “editorial analytics” as a primary practice in communications planning we’d be further along in brands creating more meaningful content with purpose – to reach, engage, and drive real business value.

It’s not to say there is a lack of content, of course, or there isn’t enough engagement data flowing around. It’s to say brands still lead with paid media as the organizing principle for all communications and don’t understand which content is actually worth creating and which isn’t.

This report from the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism underpins the issue and can teach us marketers a lot.  The good news is, even in an industry that lives and dies by the quality of content there is still room to grow and no one has it all figured out.  The bad news: we don’t hear brands talking the same way about better holistic planning outside of optimizing single channels like Facebook or their website in silos.

At Trade, we look a lot at how brands can behave more like publishers to tell their story across ALL channels more efficiently and effectively.  As such, understanding how to interpret your content analytics is a major element of successful storytelling. But understanding your data starts with knowing why it matters in the first place and giving it structure.

The report sheds light on the idea of editorial analytics as a practice in the newsroom and for journalists.  We’ll look through the lens of how editorial analytics are needed in brand planning and for creatives plus a simple framework for how to do it.

Making Sense of the Challenge

Below are some key points from report with a relevant twist for marketers and brands.

Content creators must customize their analytics models. This means doing the hard work of establishing a bespoke framework for how to organize the layers of data that matter.  It starts with knowing what it is all for – what the business is trying to get out of the content effort.  Is it cost effective reach?  Better SEO? Pure engagement? Is it sales?  Is it all a test for where to spend big in TV or experiential?  Establishing the business case is key for why content exists in the organization is key.  From there, your metrics are structured to gain better understanding at each phase of the story journey.

Rally around a true view into data.  We’ve all been in the board room when the data portion of meeting comes up (usually the last segment) and everyone says, “Ok, that’s interesting.” Then promptly the meeting ends and a few ads get tweaked as the result.  The reports, the dashboards, the conversation walls, the simple tweaks to a banner – these are the easy parts.   Ingraining in brand culture a starting point that begins with the editorial framework is the hard part but necessary to provide meaning. If at the end of the day a brand essentially exists along an editorial calendar of touchpoints big and small – some better than others – with their audience, then it’s imperative to confirm that model before evaluating the data.

The need for journalist involvement in the analytical process.  Journalists equal “creatives” in this context – those that have ownership of the idea.  They have to be a part of the process to understand the true meaning in the data story. It’s one thing to share results with a creative and say, “This ad is not working, try something else.”  It’s another to bring them to the table in an active, participatory way where true understanding is fostered. Getting creatives used to interpreting data is about making sure that their time spent in reviewing it has real value to them and makes their ideas better.

There’s reach, then there’s REACH. To reach someone means more than just targeting and impressions.  Having an understanding of how your content speaks to an audience means you were able to truly reach through and connect. Editorial practices for brands are all about connecting and driving participation. Like newsrooms, a brand’s editorial practices should embrace that and develop the tools, processes, and culture necessary. This has to come out in the analytics and how brands build their own custom models.

A Starting Point for a Solution

To analyze editorial data like a publisher but through a marketers let’s start with a basic hierarchical outline for editorial content and a logical flow for processing performance.

How an Editorial Content Hierarchy Can Give Guidance


Themes –  Born out of an understanding of audience emotional drivers, themes are the conceptual articulation of motivators that are intrinsic to influencing or activating people.

Story Domain – Story domains are broad categorizations that cover related topics like recreation, family, health, and personal finance.  They are organized under various themes.

Story Concept – a collection of content pieces that make up a specific idea or concept with a domain.  The sum is the entirety of a story that can take place across channels and/or over periods of time.

Content Piece – Content formats user engage with; multiple content types can be combined into one experience that the tell the story (think infographics, text, video, images, tools).

Measuring Success – Asking the Right Questions About Content Performance

Once the hierarchy is established that makes sense for your brand, this includes the logical processing of data that comes from each level.

Are we increasing exposure to the brand?

  • Views and impressions across all channels (paid, earned, owned)
  • Share of Voice – PR, social, influencer
  • Authority on relevant topics via search


Does the content resonate the way it should?pie chart

  • The ways our users engaging with content


Which audience segments are responding, which are not?

  • Getting smarter about audience profiles


Where are we engaging our audience most effectively?

  • Up funnel, mid funnel, low funnel


How are social channels driving conversation?

  • Shares, likes, mentions, comments, retweets


Are we effectively driving users to desired destinations?

  • Website, eComm, Application, In store, Event


How does the content result in conversion?

  • Successful applications, CRM sign-ups, Online sales, Physical sales, Call center


To learn more about our point of view on editorial analytics and how they can help you be a better marketer contact 312-909-2800.

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22 Feb The VR Maker’s Guide for Marketers

Establishing Context

Virtual Reality, (VR)  involves a powerful approach to storytelling and sharing that can create immersive experiences for viewers.  So, what’s new about VR in 2016?

  • Mass distribution capabilities (Samsung’s Gear, HTC’s Vive, Oculus VR – acquired by Facebook)
  • Inexpensive VR viewing tools such as Google Cardboard
  • Better optics, better controls, better spatial audio
  • A burgeoning ecosystem of hardware (cameras, game consoles, exercise equipment, etc.)
  • Volume and quality of content being produced – driving adoption


Developing a Strategy

Thinking about VR as a marketing solution, beyond the “gee whiz” newness factor, ladders up to two approaches (note: if you are creating a digital game-like world, additional options exist).  One is where you are trying to change perceptions about someone or something, driving real understanding of that particular situation for a viewer. The other is to provide a more tangible, palpable, feel-able sense of place in a location or environment.  They can both be combined (and are in the former) to work together. The key is to understand your product or service as it relates to the experience of VR. If it can be accomplished in a linear format of traditional video, then VR probably isn’t the right format, nor the right investment for the projected rate of return.

Creating Story Lines

Story lines are absolutely critical in VR – yes, there important in any video format, but significantly more important in VR. Without an effective story line, the power of 360 degrees can become confusing and overwhelming to the viewer. Think of VR without a story line as you would a movie without a linear plot – the end coming in the middle and the middle being the start – incredibly confusing. With this in mind, let’s move on to what’s needed in order to make a story line effective in VR. Story lines must include these tenants:

  • Leave your world and visit theirs
  • Twist perceptions in an unanticipated direction
  • Make something be at stake if you can, create struggle to participate
  • Have the story do the work without relying on supers


Through each of these tenants the brand acts as an ancillary participant – a part of their life, a part of the total experience, yet not the focal point.

VR is going to be the “most social platform. It's the next platform, where anyone can create and experience anything they want.” - Mark Zuckerberg.

Facilitating Empathy Creation

If you are looking for a way to create real emotional triggers and desired responses / outcomes, placing a viewer right in the middle of the action where they feel as though they’re truly a part of it – then VR is a powerful medium.

Creating the Experience: Staging, Blocking and Shooting

For those who haven’t experienced VR production, linear films are, by their very nature of cuts and camera angles, a non-linear filmmaking process.  VR is more like staging a sequence of small plays. In these small plays natural or choreographed action can and does happen all around the camera.  The multi-lens camera rig placement is critical because it places principal and secondary action in a proximity perspective for the viewer and offers guidance to the weighting and emphasis of the scene. If you’ve overseen linear video production, your first VR shoot will be a learning experience – one that forces you to change conventional wisdom.


The Post Production Process

There really is very little visual editing in VR sequences, only “in” and “out” points of the sequence.  The only time visual editing is used is in fades between sequences for connection.  However, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t include time for post-production work. There is a need to stitch all of the footage together from each camera, which is both an art and a science. It’s also critical to determine how you want to reinforce key emotive events (e.g. a super of a thread from Snapchat with a teenager in their room). From a sound editing perspective, music is important as a driver in scenes, but not so much to affect or cue a mood, the visual experience and voice does plenty.  Using 360 sound rigging is a worthwhile investment because it enhances placement and perspective/distance for what the viewer is seeing.

We’ve recently completed 5 VR shoots and the viewer feedback surveys have been absolutely “off the charts.” If you’re contemplating VR, ask yourself how the experience will impact the viewer and what your desired outcomes are. If they can be accomplished by other means, then it’s worth reviewing the approach in order to take advantage of all this medium has to offer.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 312-909-2800

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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04 Feb What Walt Disney Can Teach Finance Companies

We loved this article by Melissa Bell, journalist and co-founder of, which is based on a meeting with the Niemen Foundation for Journalism at Harvard. She talks about many facets of what it takes to be a successful publisher in the modern media landscape from culture to diversity to ad experience to Snapchat.  But this excerpt stuck out to us because it embodies an inherent challenge with brand content publishing:

Walt Disney had an interesting idea about how his brands supported each other. The theme parks came from the movies; the movies came from his animations. The merchandise allowed for stores to be built. Some of the rides have become movies. Movies have influenced the rides. They all rely on each other. I think about that when I’m thinking about our newsroom.

She goes on…

Our Snapchat stories are inspired by the articles that we write on Our videos are inspired by the articles we run on Sometimes our videos are turned into graphics; sometimes the graphics are built into longer form pieces.

What Walt Disney understood is that every great story has an arc that can live across many different media channels and if these channels work in concert there’s a compounding effect that adds up to something greater.  In his world this meant more physical and analogue space, when applying this to our current digital landscape it’s even more critical to get it right.

46% of people managing their finances online switch between devices before completing the activity. - Google

This is important for finance companies to understand because of the nature of who they are and what they do.  Few things are as personal as money.  Due to the rise of technology disruption and the frictionless relationship consumers want with their money, the lines between what is a product and what is a channel to communicate value are blurring. That is to say that the touch points for how finance companies need to now offer services to their customers are correlated with, or at least expanding as fast as, the touch points for marketing those same services.

Summarizing the point:  Finance companies have to exist efficiently and meaningfully across more and more touchpoints to not only find customer experience alpha (the equivalent of Walt Disney’s compounding effect) but to stay relevant and not die.


Are we seeing progress?

This recent data point published by IAB got us thinking there’s movement in the marketplace towards understanding that point:

The report, conducted through an online survey of 120 IAB special-interest council members, found that 58% of survey participants believe cross-channel measurement and attribution will command significant time and attention in 2016.

Call it what you want (cross-channel, omni-channel, multi-channel), but it comes down to how brands are activating integrated communications to enhance marketing performance.

ROI will always be critically important but what brands really suffer from is an inability to craft and plan stories for campaigns across channels.  If they did, they would be able to construct the measurement plan of format and channel to draw attribution conclusions.

In focusing on outcomes first, they’re missing an important point that a strong narrative that drives participation will weave channels together to enable the right measurement to happen. It’s that exercise that often proves to be the hardest for brands and their agencies.

But we should look no further than Walt Disney, the ultimate storyteller and master of driving participation, to show us where to start with a solution.


For the finance industry it starts with narrative first.

We wrote a post titled, “The New Relationship with Money,” about how commerce is becoming a series of touchpoints driven by financial services; that transactions are fading to the background and are now more fluid with how consumers want to live, thereby becoming more human.

This is the starting point for the entire finance industry.  This is the new global narrative that will guide how finance brands should craft their own stories across channels for a compounding effect that drives participation and better performance.

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22 Jan Slideshow: Get Started with a Content Marketing Readiness Assessment

Trade reviews the relevance of a brand’s ongoing communications, technology, and business performance by using the Six Components of a Narrative First Marketing Strategy. This guides our understanding of what types of stories are being told today, whom they are reaching, and how well they are performing. We couple these insights with the organization’s current processes and alignment around storytelling and the platforms used for editorial management, publishing, and analytics. This assessment provides clarity regarding the implications of the “current state” and a roadmap for new opportunities to improve how a brand and its consumers align while positively impacting the overall business performance.

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"The New Relationship with Money"

22 Jan The New Relationship With Money

For the longest time the banks, credit card companies, and payment technology providers dictated the ways in which consumers conducted a transaction with a brand. These institutions are no longer in complete control. The global adoption of mobile devices, combined with over 6.4 billion connected devices in use along with a new host of new business models are challenging the old way. Companies like UBS bank have launched an open innovation competition called “The Future of Finance Challenge” to help them keep up with the changing landscape.

A consumer’s transaction options have gone from a few methods (cash, card or check) into a diverse set of digital services housed on their smartphone. These new transaction services are being integrated into a larger brand experience whether it’s hitting the buy button in Google’s search engine, being one of the 7mm people buying coffee via Starbucks app or checking out in a Disney retail location with the simple tap of a wearable device.

The proliferation of ways people can pay along with the rise of contextual experiences means more potential touch points for transactions than ever before. Brands will initially wrestle with how to design for these new opportunities, but once they can deliver relevant and seamless payment experiences, they will be able to access unprecedented amounts of new data to help build more personal relationships with their customers.

Today’s accelerated pace is creating an entirely new ecosystem for consumers, brands, and the payment’s industry. To stay relevant banks, must be integrated into the tapestry of people’s lives and its done by thinking of Commerce from the human down not the transaction up.

Five ways banks can meet the demands of the mobile first consumer.

Move beyond segmentation to real-time consumer profiles: The age of abundance has created a scarcity of attention. To personalize experiences with changing consumer sentiment brands will need to leave the traditional model of static customer segmentation behind and begin to develop a real-time view of the changing behaviors.

Implement design centered approaches: Mobile payments are allowing consumers to shop and pay for good with little to no interruption in their day. Working from the brand out in today’s consumer-led economy will lead to experiences that do not fit into the flow of how people shop and consume. Don’t just spend time understanding the journey of how people buy from you rather take a look at their whole life to determine ways you can fit at the right moment in time.

Create data-driven experiences: We know more than ever about consumers from what they bought, where they check in and what they like. This wealth of behavioral creates the opportunity to create more relevant experiences, offers, and new products. Data-driven experience planning means that you must move from mass audiences to a tailored experience based on behavior.

Connected Device Integration: 6.4 billion connected devices will be in use in 2016 to do everything from opening your garage door, telling your pharmacist when medications need a refill and ordering something from Amazon. If you allow payments to take place from these objects, it can further embed your brand into the fabric of people’s lives while providing new opportunities for revenue.

Embrace the programmable web: Opening up what is core to your role in the payments ecosystem whether it be security, processing or e-commerce to allow developers to build new business models faster ensures you will stay relevant in the changing payments landscape.

The new consumer relationship with money is more closely linked to brands versus the banks.



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14 Dec Using “Old School” Personas is a Serious Marketing Mistake

Let’s be honest. There’s probably a beautiful document, maybe even a video, a large wall chart or even a digital dashboard that contains your personas floating around your company. For generations of marketers, the persona served as the guiding principle for nearly all communication strategies. Your personas were the result of psychographic, demographic and ethnographic research. You made serious investments in those personas and your agencies / partners worked for months to develop them. There’s only one problem. They’re completely irrelevant. Let’s follow the logic.

Personas are based on the following:

  • Market Research
  • Audience Insights
  • Categorization of Attributes (Behavioral, Demographic, Psychographic, Ethnographic)
  • Purchase / Decision Influences
  • Response Criteria
  • Messaging & Media


Personas are supposed to be representational of key audiences. They are the basis from which brand architectures are developed, messaging strategies defined, creative execution aligned and measurement defined. Sadly, they are expensive exercises that today, are completely irrelevant and essentially counter intuitive to marketing success. Let’s delve into the “why?”

Fragmentation, Pace, Interest, Engagement & Influence

Personas were based on data sets that effectively represent a “moment in time.” Having worked with highly recognized companies that specialize in research, marketing automation and media planning, it’s interesting to see how legacy approaches continue to permeate insights and drive decision making. As we describe it at Trade, in a world where data drives narrative, storytelling drives brand and technology facilitates participation – engagement is dynamic.

If you’re using personas, they’ll most likely be built from a combination of the following:

Demographics:   1.) Gender; 2.) Age (Range); 3.) HHI; 4.) Marital Status; 5.) Size of Household

Psychographics: 1.) Values; 2.) Interests; 3.) Attitudes

Ethnography 1.)  In-depth visits to audience locations; 2.) Contextual interviews; 3) Product / service usage

How do you solve for fragmentation, pace, interest, engagement & influence?
  • Start with data that accessible and affordable; build data models that incorporate paid, earned and owned media into a set of customer and prospect “views.”
  • Combined with tools that capture “human generated information” (i.e. blogs, social posts and news sites)  built off of DataSift’s  core feeds such as  Zignal Labs, Nuvi, Hootsuite, etc.
  • Overlaid with paid, earned and owned (standard analytics from Adobe, Google, DoubleClick, etc.) with data sets from tools such as Salesforce, Pardot, Eloqua, Marketo, SAP, Oracle, Genesys and Avaya with
  • Data sets from tools such as Ensighten and Tealium to deliver experiences that drive customer experiences on owned platforms such as Adobe, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle and provide additional data sets that make programmatic significantly more value rather than solely optimized for spend.

This sounds complex, but in actuality, it’s the basis for real-time / near real-time decisioning in support of marketing spend and it’s easier than it sounds.  With the opportunity to capture insights from social channels where people aggregate into discreet communities that are in many instances, temporary – the model above provides the ability to build a marketing structure that operates more closely to a newsroom, (editorial) than a waterfall of research, brand messaging, asset creation, media buy and measurement. It affords your organization the ability to deliver the right content, to the right audience in the right channel at the right time. Your target audience(s) are constantly changing / evolving – hourly, daily, weekly. The question is – Is your marketing strategy dynamic? If it’s driven by legacy persona models, it will limit your ability to intersect to your target audience.

Don’t take our word for it – talk to our clients.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Robert Morris, Partner

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08 Dec Elements of Journey Mapping

If you’re attempting to map patient experiences over time in a way that extends to “tactical” planning, you’re going to need to make sure you include:


Primary Roles: This one is pretty obvious, identifying who is involved in the most critical aspects of the journey over the time period you are mapping.

Environment: Really understanding where things happen plays a greater roll than just a surface level description. For example, when mapping for cancer patients community hospitals are significantly different that university centers in terms of treatment workflow.

Needs/Behaviors: Here we’re identifying what the patient needs at a point in time and what behaviors they are exhibiting. We’re also identifying desired end-state behaviors over time that we expect to occur.

Narrative: This is different than most experience design maps. We, as humans, all participate in the story we call our life. And each of us are conditioned to understand story as an organizing principle. So in patient journey mapping you must look to major narrative arcs like the hero’s journey, destroying the monster, rags to riches, etc. – things we know and understand as a framing device to lay over the journey/experience chronicled. It helps to make sense of the flow.

Circle of Influencers: Map friends, relatives, co-workers, social influencers, etc. as a significant component of what can impact parts of the journey over time. Accounting for these points of influence can better describe particular aspects and actions of the journey.

Content: The types of content assets people consume provides insight into their state of mind. And that’s not just the subject, it should include format and device. It also provides us with an opportunity to examine what else can be provided in a timely and contextually relevant format.

Once you’ve mapped this out you can begin to look at patients more like participants in life. Remember, people don’t live to achieve a desired task of a brand. People seek meaning and value in their lives. Once we understand how people are living we can then use this information to better understand what they really want and ultimately need. In the end, delivering meaningful stories/information to them in the right format at the right place and time, not “selling”, not “advertising”, but simply adding value to their journey.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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09 Nov The Power of Empathy

Empathy is a soft metric, but an important way to think about human behavior and motivation. The word comes from the Greek em – in, pathos – passion or suffering. Empathy is by definition the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.

Empathy is different than sympathy. When somebody feels sympathy for another person it means they can identify with certain feelings the other person may be feeling. Empathy differs from sympathy because it means being able to share the whole experience of another individual. Sympathy is more about feeling sorry for someone, while empathy is about trying to understand what it is they are going through. Unlike personal distress, empathy is not characterized by aversion to another’s emotional response.

This ability to feel what others are going through has been seen in neuroscience research. First in the discovery of mirror neurons and claims that these neurons, which fire both when the individual performs an action and when it observes its execution by others.1  There have also been observational studies that demonstrate that empathy recruits similar neural networks as the direct experience of the emotion one is showing to another individual2. In other words, we are able to understand and share the emotions of others by, (partially) processing them with our very own emotion system(s). And there is a spontaneous sharing of affect or emotional impact provoked by witnessing and sympathizing with another’s emotional state that is also consequently pro-social or altruistic in action.

Trade has partnered with a health education company as they work to recognize and plan for empathy as a behavior change driver. This health education company has accomplished this through small-group working sessions that cover topics like medications, health condition monitoring and healthy eating. Topics have included:

  • Examining common myths and facts about a condition and how it affects the body
  • Strategies for managing conditions and reviews of various medications available
  • How to perform tests, interpret results and create plans of action based on those results
  • Healthy eating and diet
  • Staying active and exercise


In group sessions, shared empathy though shared story happens. Group discussion helps overcome stress, vulnerability and helplessness of what might have been considered a solitary condition based existence. In a group discussion, bonds are forged and people are influenced, sometimes deeply, by others acceptance, feedback and related stories. It’s a trust that’s based on shared circumstance and similar themes or experiences. Threats become shared. I becomes “we.” The personal sense of resource availability is also expanded.

The question always arises about using the internet as a support group tool. There are a variety of support groups and conversations about health conditions happening all the time online. The internet medium and designed guided response can drive empathetic behavior through time shifted shared story. This is much like any good story – when you read it the story taps into an empathetic response. Although there is something to the time commitment required for in-person that suggests people willing to drive to and from a location may want to get more out of it. Yet as societal norms become more digitally enabled, so to will forms of patient support. This holds especially true as those comfortable with digital living, while not native to it, age into ongoing health condition management.

We live in a world now where these little things really do matter. Each encounter, no matter how brief, is a micro interaction that makes a deposit or withdrawal from our subconscious. Whether that interaction can tap into powerful empathetic response is a function of story and design. The sum of these interactions and encounters adds up to how we relate to our health condition and should also add up to how we feel about a particular product, brand or service that claims to help us.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

1 Singer

Preston, de Waal

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Healthcare Gamification

08 Sep Gaming Healthcare

One’s health isn’t a game. However, some of the most effective learning has a gaming component, but you have to think beyond World of Warcraft. Think about the fact that you are building a system of patient engagement. This is a system built to serve patients, providers and system partners. Smart phones, tablets as well as analog media and events can enable these engagements. And the events within the engagements are focused on “in-the-moment” tasks learning.

To make it successful, you have to deliver to individuals, personalized context. In today’s data intensive healthcare environment, using a combination of data, coupled with predictive models and outcomes, aligned to behaviors measured through digital platforms drives these gamified experiences. Using data as the core of a gamified experience, the depth, breadth and relationship of the experience to the individual changes over time, delivering more effective outcomes.

Game mechanics work because there is an achievement of ROAI – a return on attention investment – for the individual. Game frameworks solve learning challenges. Start with defined expectations for activity that are presented in a clear way. There are the familiar cues that come with game play, the genres, the familiar game player story arcs, even the characters, they all drive people to engage with the game structure. This engagement is also where people derive satisfaction in their participation and feel a sense of accomplishment when successfully completing assigned activities and tasks. And if the engagement is going well, there’s opportunity to move an invested audience even deeper into a gamified experience and help the audience to share and draw in others’ experiences.

Gamification - Healthcare_Fotor

In healthcare game structure, we looked at the patient needs across a sense of control, feeling or finding hope, subjective loneliness and finding some kind of resolution and meaning. We also review the business case of brand ask or as a second line ask, the classic adherence problem, working through a drug’s adverse effects and the cost coverage issues. In healthcare, it’s important to note that making the business goals the game objective usually ends less successfully. It’s hard to make lower A1C’s the objective. The goal has to be the behavior you’re creating. If you create the right behavior, the outcome will be your business goal – not the other way around.

For chronic conditions, we have found that the most successful game design structure must make patients feel knowledgeable because, unfortunately, good information is harder to find than it should be. Making people willing to act involves having the right information in the right context. Enabling a person’s determination involves bringing forward a person’s sense of empowerment-based knowledge. Support is often ill defined and underutilized so finding ways to harness what is largely untapped is important. And success involves helping a person find a way to whatever a “normal” life may be and the meaning in that life. This provides a backbone.

In our work helping design patient education architectures for a patient health engagement company, we experienced the power and limitations of analog group session. There is nothing quite like the moment of in-person, shared empathy between people, especially over a shared chronic condition they’re facing. It’s why programs such as AA work so successfully. There’s a wealth of information passed around and along in patient advocacy groups but the sharing is mostly an oral tradition and not aggregated. There’s also confinement to specific time and place. We see logistical deployment of these programs at scale continues to be limited by costs and the overall perceived lack of interim steps and associated outcomes, which are available via game mechanics.

On the other hand a person can be deeply influenced by someone just like themself and their feedback Turning this into a primarily digitally enabled gamified experience has some conditions. First it has to be the right audience that is already using digital platforms for social participation. There has to be a “want” within the particular condition community for connection through advocacy groups or with healthcare professionals in ways not possible or convenient today – they have to want to participate and come together over shared circumstance. And there has to be the courage on the pharmaceutical, insurance provider or hospital network to fund exploration and development.

Creating game structure can create empowered patients. The threat of the condition becomes shared, “I” becomes “We” and the sense of resource availability is expanded. All through learning to change behaviors through means that are approachable and even enjoyable.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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27 Aug Marketing technology lessons – Avoiding the wasteland


By Catie Starr, Director Customer Acquisition

Credentials: $7B+ in deposits delivered to GE Capital Bank in 21 months

Director, Digital Marketing – GE Capital Bank
Managing Director, Digital – Charles Schwab

According to a recent study published by Ascend2, only 9% of marketers believe that they have all of the tools that they need AND that they fully utilize what they have.1 This leaves the other 91% of us needing more tools and/or more resources to fully realize an ideal marketing technology strategy. Sure, some of the 91% will never be satisfied, but I believe that to be a small percentage. The vast majority of marketers need a clear roadmap to get to the ideal solution.

The ideal stack?

But what is the ideal marketing stack for your business? In Q1 ’15 the marketing technology (MarTech) category had 1,876 companies listed within it. 1,876 companies in 30+ categories. Now that’s overwhelming. How are you supposed to source, let alone run 30 tools in your marketing technology stack?- especially given the ever-increasing pressure on efficiencies in marketing.



The good news? You don’t need 30 and, most likely, that figure includes just a handful, at best. There is a core set of tools that make sense for most companies, but the rest of the categories are pretty niche. The ideal stack all depends on your business, go-to-market strategy, internal capabilities, agency partner ecosystem and the level of investment that you can make. In particular, the investment isn’t so much about how much investment, rather, what does the business case support? The trick is finding the tools that make sense for your business model and determining the priority of bringing them on. But where do you start? My recommendation is to start with what you’ve got.

Start with what you’ve got

I’ve been involved in several different businesses with varying degrees of sophistication as it relates to the marketing stack – from a blank slate to a hodgepodge of systems strung together with duct tape and baling wire. But the most important first step that I’ve always taken is conducting an audit of where and how the data flows between the systems. It’s almost guaranteed that there are quick wins that you can have through this exercise. Before you make another investment in a new tool, look into what you have. You’re most likely to find an opportunity to make your current systems more productive.

For example, most of you will tell me that you have web analytics, right? But is it pulling its weight? Can you track end-to-end marketing efficiency by dollar that you spend? Is it a full closed-loop or are there gaps? The thing that we see the most is that companies have a lot of tools that aren’t properly used. And without closed-loop reporting, you’re flying blind and any tool that you add to the stack will not prove its worth.

Your ideal stack

Once you’ve evaluated your current stack, it’s time to determine if there are gaps in the transparency and optimization capabilities of your data. This is the key to determining where investments should be made and the priorities of those investments. This is a good exercise leading into next year’s strategic planning. Understanding the key business goals and strategies will help clarify where you need to improve and what you need to focus on. Is your business looking to improve it’s Net Promoter Score (NPS)? Maybe you should focus on voice of the customer and social analytics. Is your business focused on the lowest cost of acquisition? Maybe you should focus on conversion optimization and attribution tools? Your investments in technology need to be aligned to your business goals.

This is the fun part. It’s time to envision the ideal stack for your business. It’s time to get to know new technologies, talk to your existing partners and your network. It’s time to build a roadmap to achieve the vision.

Don’t forget about the people

One of the biggest reasons I have witnessed a lack of productivity in the marketing technology stack is a lack of people to run it. Idle tools do you no good. Under-supported tools will be under-productive. You will never reach a state of full utilization without the right people and skills on your team.

When you put together your business case for a technology investment you MUST include the cost of the resource(s) needed to run it. Unless you have the capacity and appropriate skills sitting idle on your team, your investment will also need to include people. It’s an often-overlooked piece of the puzzle that can make or break the productivity of a tool.

It’s a marathon

The process of getting to an ideal and fully-utilized marketing technology stack is a long one. It’s not a sprint. It’s not something that you can accomplish overnight or even over the course of a year. As more and more tools and technologies come on the scene and as your existing platforms mature or don’t – unfortunately in certain cases, it will continue to be an ongoing process of evaluating what’s available and determining if you need it to accomplish your businesses goals.

The keys to making your stack as productive as possible include: Understanding what you have and ensuring it is being utilized properly; constantly learning about and evaluating what is available to you; and surrounding yourself with smart people who are also looking to make sure that their system can stack up.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Catie Starr, Director, Customer Acquisition


1 Ascend2: Marketing Technology Strategy – Survey Summary Report

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Watching TV 3

14 Aug Stop Renting Eyeballs, Start Investing in Marketing Assets

Traditionally, using paid media to access audiences, whether offline or online, has been a “renting eyeballs” exercise. Much upfront effort is spent on targeting, segmentation, and creative production – all of which is then activated by placing the outputs where audiences aggregate (print, radio, TV, web, social). The hope is that these audiences will excuse the interruption to notice your marketing message and ultimately be influenced to buy your product. It’s been a tried and true method for a century but one that now suffers declining ROI due to fragmentation of both media channels and attention spans.

So if “renting” can no longer pay the rent, what else is a marketer to do?


The answer is simple: invest. Invest in building long-lived assets (owned media), invest in building relationships that spawn advocacy (earned media), and more generally endeavor to become part of the personal narrative of your target market rather than a passing interruption in their regularly scheduled programming.

This audience investment (rather than rental) approach requires a different way of thinking about how to create marketing assets and how to measure their efficacy. Marketers are now content creators – requiring adoption of the tools and techniques of narrative architecture on top of traditional segmentation and targeting. Unfortunately, great storytelling that reaches the right audience may win an Academy Award, but it won’t alone move a brand or, more importantly, sales in the right direction. So in addition, marketers need to establish performance measurement systems and metrics that allow them to optimize and do more of what’s working and improve or discard what’s not.

Let’s move from theory to application. Say you’re a senior marketer charged with driving more leads into the organization. Your peers in brand awareness are spending copious amounts of money renting eyeballs with their latest TV spots to make sure the average consumer has at least heard of the product. You also have a top-notch sales team that closes a respectable percentage of net new leads. You own the middle of the funnel (consideration). Typical media strategies would recommend renting more eyeballs, but at a more targeted, perhaps direct marketing level. It’s really a numbers game at this point – spend more on mailings, display ads, promos, paid search. A certain percentage of the audience that views your efforts (typically below 1-2% and sometimes well below), will interact – beginning the conversion phase of the sales process. But once you turn off the spigot of media funds the process grinds to a slow natural halt. You’re renting eyeballs and your marketing ROI is directly tied to your rent payment.

The alternative is investing in narrative strategy, content development, audience relationship building, and performance optimization. To be clear, this is an investment – an approach that may have a longer payback period than quarterly eyeball rental, but also a much higher ROI. Most marketers are already familiar with the general concepts of storytelling as well as content production, and have also likely been exposed to the huge upsides of direct interaction with consumers via social platforms. The missing ingredient that ties these elements together is a unified narrative architecture – one supported by a marketing technology stack and predicated on ongoing performance optimization.

Back to the example. Rather than pushing out the latest agency mailers and display ads, the smart marketer decides first to better understand her target customers – what’s going in their lives and how the brand can participate and add value. Notice the difference here – it’s not first about the brand’s story, it’s about the personal narrative of the potential customer. Knowledge in hand, the marketer can structure an editorial calendar that delivers content, not just ads, across channels. Both the content and the channel distribution are built on standardized frameworks and insights that can be measured for effectiveness at the point of interaction and across time as the customer relationship is developed and nurtured.

Deeper, more meaningful customer relationships lead to more and better-qualified leads. And once these customers become consumers they can also become advocates – driving additional awareness-consideration-conversion through earned media in a virtuous cycle. This modern approach to engaging audiences through investment rather than rental requires a shift in attitudes in the marketing budgeting process. But with the tools now available to measure and manage investment performance, it’s a natural evolution for brands and marketers to start building relationships rather than paying for the privilege of interrupting their target audience.


To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Jeff Mikes, Partner

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Patient Journey - Diabetes

05 Aug After the Journey Mapping – Now What?

So you’ve completed a process that maps a particular set of patients’ experiences through a system of care. Some things were expected. Some things may have been surprising. Either way, it has the potential to be a very powerful research output. And it should be a starting point.

There are usually three potential next steps that follow the creation of patient journey maps. These include:


There are only two reasons to open up completed patient journey mapping (okay there’s more than two but let’s assume you have a good research product). One reason some of the experiences may need more vetting – for example, we defined seven key experiences, each with two to five events and multiple communications tools leading to numerous combinations in starting a turnkey obesity treatment practice. And that’s not including the EMR and coding. All this illustrates is that there may be a need to do more work looking into a specific sequence and workflow. The other area might be looking at the raw date from the journey map in a different way – layering journey mapping with behavioral economic drivers and design thinking. Both of these cuts of the data usually drive at greater insights from observed activity to improve next steps.

Communication to Participation

One of the critical next steps post journey goes beyond defining touch points. While important, touch points suggest an inside company out to health consumer approach. What to look for is less about where it’s convenient to communicate and more about where people are already participating in the health conversation we want to have with them. There are high-level points of empowerment where conversations are occurring across the patient perspective. What can be uncovered includes participation themes like better condition understanding, connection to others with same condition, organized condition support and life’s meaning after adverse events among others. Within these themes are specific topics and experiences that a company can meaningfully listen, participate in or lead the conversation with a health consumer.

Experiences: Detours on the journey

In research there is always a moment in a journey mapping exercise where you want to understand if you’ve covered it all. And that’s just it. You’ve covered the known, observable behaviors within a system of, in this case, health. The answer to the changes in attitude or behavior you’re seeking might in fact lie outside of documented touch points, in the interval between touches within the system. And on top of that, the touch point may need to be created to fit into an existing human workflow. Take for example a provider and patient dialog around obesity, now reimbursable education in the US. This dialog did not exist before, beyond doctor mentions of “doing something about that weight” to a patient. Now there can be an experience inserted into an exam room visit that reinforces obesity as a medical condition, gives the doctor control and helps the patient take ownership of the condition.

Journey mapping is a valuable tool. But in many cases it should be looked at as a mid point and not an end point.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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Shot of a fan filming a concert on their camera

16 Jul The “Other” 1% – Are you on the endangered species list?

The “Other” 1% – Are you on the endangered species list? 1 of 3 

If you’re not aware of all of the talk about the “1%”, you’ve most likely been sequestered in a jury pool for the past 24+ months. For those who’ve done jury duty lately, you’re not laughing. Actually, the 1% we’re referencing here is the exclusive group of marketers that represent the most effective, data driven, performance focused within the industry. Let’s stop here for a moment and take a step back. The AMA defines “marketing” as the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. (July 2013). This definition is extremely broad, and yes, there’s a disagreement here regarding the functional role of marketing.

Some of you will have an issue with this premise, agreeing that this correct. What’s missing in this definition is data, insight and relevance.

Let’s get back to the 1%. Actually, let’s start with the other 99%. This is the group that views marketing as an “art” with a practical application of “science.” This is the group that still uses page views and click through rates as key measures – OK, they may use a bit more, but not much. This goes back to the fact that nine out of ten global marketers aren’t trained to calculate ROI and eight out of ten struggle to demonstrate the effectiveness of their spending to leadership – 2014 Fournaise Study. There’s a bit of irony in this study. One in ten figured out how to demonstrate effectiveness of their marketing, while not knowing how to measure the ROI. We’ll leave that item for another day. Here’s where the differentiation comes in. The 1% understand ROI and with that comes an appreciation for and understanding of the science and the art, effectively the role of the “alchemist.” Yes, the art is critical, but it’s value is defined when it’s applied to the science. Data is ubiquitous, so why do so many marketers fail to take advantage of the opportunity?

The answer: It requires a significant organizational change. Change that includes:

  • Investments in strategic planning
  • Investments in people (hiring, training, mentoring, etc.)
  • Organizational alignment (Shifts to a matrix model, yes – the loss of siloed management and “ownership)
  • Investment in technologies
  • Impacts to accounting (SaaS vs. On Premise, etc.)
  • Shifting of models that reflect “publishing” vs. traditional “linear” marketing
  • Requirement to listen and understand how to participate in the customer journey
  • Cross functional accountability (Teams comprised of technologists, marketers, data scientists, finance, media, etc. working collaboratively not within artificial org structures)

Those marketers that have taken on the challenge to focus their organizations on data driven marketing – not database marketing for clarification – have a significant advantage. Let’s take a look at a few categories within the market. If some of these platforms and solutions don’t look familiar, it’s time to assess the state of your marketing – and by the way, this is a small sub-set.

Tag Management

Data Management Platform

Behavioral Attribution

Trend Intelligence

Campaign Management

A/B Multivariate

User Experience Monitoring

Customer Communications Management

Identity Management

Offer Management

In Q1 ’15 the marketing technology (MarTech) category had 1,876 companies listed within it, and one can argue a number of companies could have been included that most likely feel a bit “left out.” Through Q3 ’14 over $21.8B1 in funding had been received collectively across the category.

So, what does this all mean? We’ll skip the typical high-level, which leads to “I didn’t learn anything from reading this.”

Introducing: The Human Interactions Officer:

We’ll start with the first of three insights in this post. You’ll need to come back for the next two. Insight 1: Organizations need a “Human Interactions Officer”, not a Chief “Customer” Officer, but rather someone that understands behavior tenets. The positive of technologies is that they provide incredible insights; the negative – they remove the “human” factor. One person needs to “own” the experience that humans have with a company. Why? Look at it this way – Marketing, Sales, Customer Support, Customer Care, Retention, etc. all have a different lens they use for determining success or failure relative to their role. They’re incentivized differently, which leads to discrepancies in the human experience. The organization model in and of itself is outdated and needs to change – again, that’s for a future discussion.

By structuring a company around an individual that’s responsible for each touch point in the human lifecycle, we can understand the relationship between needs, desires and outcomes as they relate to a company’s products and services. In order to do this, an organization has to first, understand their prospects. Second, it has to understand where in the life of a human, their product or service is relevant and valuable. Third, it has to become part of the human story – not interruptive, which is the role of advertising, (unfortunately). Forth, it has to use data to understand motivations and objectives. And fifth, it needs to nurture the relationship once it’s established.

What are the takeaways?

  • Organizational design needs to mimic the desired human relationship
  • Technologies need to be deployed that provide a holistic view of human interactions, guided by a unified set of objectives
  • A master human record needs to exist that contains the “body of knowledge” collected from the prospect through the customer stage (old terms)
  • The Human Interactions Officer should have a collective team that’s comprised of representatives from:
  • Product / Service Development
  • BI (within the marketing function)
  • IT
  • Legal, Risk, Compliance – wherever necessary
  • Economics
  • Customer Service
  • Merchandising
  • Marketing
  • Sales
  • Logistics
  • The marketing ecosystem should live in a state of “perpetual beta”, constantly evolving, leveraging the potential of SaaS tools


To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Robert Morris, Partner

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Much has been written and spoken about a person’s behavior and its impact on chronic disease. It is one of the major socio-economic opportunities of our time. It seems so simple; changing or breaking bad habits and creating better, healthier, new habits. Like most things, easier said than done. Yet, the facts are right there. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health1 say behaviors account for 50% of the factors contributing to health and 40% of the factors contributing to premature deaths.

08 Jul Chronic Disease and the Hero’s Story

Much has been written and spoken about a person’s behavior and its impact on chronic disease. It is one of the major socio-economic opportunities of our time. It seems so simple; changing or breaking bad habits and creating better, healthier, new habits. Like most things, easier said than done. Yet, the facts are right there. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control and National Institutes of Health1 say behaviors account for 50% of the factors contributing to health and 40% of the factors contributing to premature deaths.

There are many forces that establish bad habits, some out of our control. Ask any dietician or diabetes educator regarding diabetes type 2 behaviors and they will rattle off a list that includes big agriculture corn syrup to false expectations set on Biggest Loser and cultural biases that impede change in African American and Hispanic communities. This bad behavior has significant costs. For example, an American Diabetes Association study2 calculated a healthy person’s annual medical costs at approximately $2,500, a person with diabetes at $13,700 and if the person has diabetes and cardiovascular problems (as 74% of diabetics do) the cost is $44,500.

Changing behavior for the long-term requires the right kind of cognitive programs to be in place for success. Often this goes beyond a person’s visit to a doctor or specialist for a quick consult accompanied by a prescription. People need to be guided to and through their own behavior change process. Is this society’s role? Probably not. One could argue it is society’s role to stop blaming the chronically obese diabetic or heart disease patient for their condition. Instead, we need to look more at Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey,  because if these people are going to change, we need to understand that framework as the path forward.

Modifying the classic model in summary, answering the call becomes “I will change to improve my condition.” Tests and allies become “Who can help me?” and situations that challenge resolve. Ordeal, death and rebirth include relapse to bad behavior and situations where all looks lost to a person with a chronic condition. Reward, seizing the sword then becomes “I have things I do that are working.”   The road back is the never-ending road to maintain the best current health state, using tools that will help the person stay on the hero’s path.

What we’ve found through our work is that you can create a platform that enables the hero’s journey for people with chronic conditions digitally using storytelling and sharing.

We have found that to change, people need:

  1. Better understanding of what’s going on with their body
  2. Control, or a sense of control over their condition
  3. Support in a way that is organized
  4. Connection to others with the same condition
  5. Resolution to situations and challenges that occur
  6. Meaning in what life is now after fundamental change

To meet these kinds of needs, we’ve developed approaches that can enable the journey through:

  1. Resource libraries and links to the latest research and findings after diagnosis
  2. Discussion guides that help people ask the right questions of their doctors
  3. Curated guides by the those with the disease / ailment that are most social and include special situations and advice (braid your long hair before this type of surgery)
  4. Shared stories that allow people to post and share their journeys and find resolution in their lives
  5. Tracking tools with links to the right sets of resources that get people back to living


Sometimes these programs already exist in pieces in large health care organizations and need to be knitted together. In other situations, it becomes the role of large pharmaceutical or insurance companies to support these additional service efforts in lieu of advertising spend. Regardless, a hero’s journey needs to be structured and supported. It takes organized encouragement and support from friends and family and an understanding from society at large.


Source: 1;

2 American Diabetes Association / Health Partners

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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26 Jun The Digital Evolution of the Patient Journey

The healthcare system is big on patient journeys (or journey mapping or any other number of names). These are basically used to record patients describing their interactions with care providers, specialists and the hospital system. This research has been useful in knowing what drives patient sentiment and what else may drive the primary care or specialist prescription writing over time.

On top of this are the branded and unbranded marketing organizations at pharmaceutical companies, the marketing done at hospital networks and insurance companies. Their goals respectively include:

  • Prescription volume
  • Patient volume at lower costs of care
  • Improved customer service at a lower cost of care

Now add to it all a world that has become customer centric. In every other category, people are being given what they want or need, from entertainment to products, whenever they desire. New expectations for service delivery are being established outside of healthcare.

What’s becoming clear (or at least clearer) in healthcare is that the traditional silo based and “dictatorial” advertising approach of old, while it may have hard or soft numbers backing it, is out of synch with how Gen X on down are consuming information and making decisions. Enter the humble patient journey map. Now with the potential to be transformed into a more useful tool for health care organizations and their marketing services agencies.

This is an evolution in both form and purpose. Start by reframing the idea of patient as a health consumer. A healthcare company objective at the most fundamental level needs to evolve from basic economic transactions with their health consumer. Some kind of relationship to the parties within the healthcare value chain (e.g. providers, health consumer, HR executives, C-suite number crunchers) needs to be formed. We see the evolved journey map as a way for brands to identify and define additional worth for consumers in ways that can be differentiated by how products and services deliver value through human contact and use. By using quant and qual research methods to focus on the improvement of particular health experiences inside and outside of the healthcare system and applying design, science and theory to deliver it, patient care can be fundamentally impacted.

This additional worth can impact any particular point in a patient journey in a number of ways. Is it the right duration and are we initiating, continuing or concluding? Is it the right intensity born out of reflex, habit or something new? Should the interactions be passive, active or interactive and what are the triggers in senses or symbols? And is their meaning and significance embedded in this point that needs to be considered? Does the organization have a regulatory ability to contact a health consumer frequently with new and compelling information?

To get there requires fieldwork to define the journey and its architecture. Then one can work on a particular point in the journey (e.g. ER discharge or health plan enrollment) or within the entire sequence. What begins to emerge is an evolved patient journey, more of what is a human experience, designed in current and desired states with links to corresponding healthcare organization operations. Underpinning this can be a narrative storytelling engine of variable frequency.

It is from these new journey/experience exercises that opportunity planning can arise. And this kind of planning can unlock what were undiscovered or seemingly unimportant points in a person’s interactions with a particular player in the healthcare ecosystem. These points then guide channel based communications activities with the potential for significant improvement in results.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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18 May Effective Content Marketing – Part 2 of 2

3 Steps: Readiness, Relevance and Results

In readiness, we are thinking about how an organization becomes truly fit and ready to manage content marketing efforts. This is an assessment of capabilities and some kind of roadmap forward regarding opportunities and improvements if there is an appetite. Readiness usually impacts technology platforms, governance models and sometimes changes to how an organization operates. Stories are different than ads. They may take a different structure.

For relevance, we’re focused on publishing what’s valuable based on known behaviors and need states as well as context. What’s going on here is almost folding a direct response work todays responsiveness into an editorial plan that’s aligned to aforementioned themes and place in lifecycle. This also takes a governance structure organized to act quickly on real time or near real time measurement data.

Results are really about improving performance of multiple points in market. Not all individual results will be stellar when you press Go. Have the right measurement models in place that help understand performance of themes, stories and media channels. This allows for optimizing each story topic, theme and digital destination based on effectiveness and waste.

Assessment Workshops

The way we benchmark performance is to break story organizations down into operating components: storytelling, contextual planning, multi-platform publishing, technology integration, governance and data.

Evaluating storytelling means we are looking at theme design and stories as sharable conversation. It’s about how well the editorial calendar aligns to human intent and business goals. There should also be a review of the rapid ideation and visual storytelling capabilities.

Contextual planning looks at how well the human experience and interaction with brands is understood. This is about how well the persona is crafted as a story consuming human. There is a review of the experiences, has participation been defined and to what end.

For us, multi-platform publishing is more than  the CMS. We look for an omni-channel editorial calendar with clear roles for each touch point defined. There is a wish to see an editorial planning that’s merged with traditional media amplifying paid as well as driving earned and owned media efforts.

Technology is evaluating your stack across the whole workflow. The generative side includes content managing and publishing as well as editorial asset tag management and flow throw a system. On the measurement side, we’re looking for the right mix of cross channel analytics for your business performance.

In governance we look at the rules and people behind the operations. How stringent is your editorial policy; how many reviews by whom? How fast can you react to an event in the world that impacts your organization – minutes, hours, days – and is this the same for social? In the end, it’s a right resource and capacity management review.

All of this is nothing without data measurement. Listening and monitoring tools assess performance are key. From that data how fast can the organization optimize around positive data sets. And then can we actually quantify monetization of certain assets and artifacts created.

Every day the game changes. Twenty percent of searches on Google are brand new phrases. Organizing by story, adding a story layer that knits together new platforms, content providers, and brand communications with themes will keep you relevant and motivate people you are interested in having a relationship with.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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18 May Effective Content Marketing – Part 1 of 2

How is this whole content thing actually working out?

Almost all of us are doing it now. The Content Marketing Institute’s B2B Content Marketing 2015 report showed that 83 percent of B2B marketers are using content marketing. They also reported in their B2C Content Marketing 2015 report that 77 percent of B2C marketers are using content marketing. And 70 percent of marketers are creating more content than they did a year ago with more than half saying they’ll increase spending over the next 12 months.

So how do we know what we’re doing is working? What side of the following reporting do you fall on? It turns out that 49 percent of B2B marketers and 51 percent of B2C marketers are challenged in their measurement of content engagement. We can tell what they viewed, read or registered for to download. We can see visitor numbers, time on site and traffic. But we need to understand more.

Creating and producing engaging content is a perennial challenge for marketers with half the B2C marketers saying so. B2B marketers rank high quality content creation as a top challenge. We can concept and ideate. We can listicle, infographic design, make videos or produce long form pieces with all of the above, but we need to do it better.

Effectiveness Checklist

How do we know what good is or, more important, what good will be? How can we see it in the data? It’s doable. It’s a process.

Start by answering the right questions. Who are we doing this for? We need to understand our audience as a story consuming human, an archetype. Not a demographic, just the people that share trying to find meaning and value through content about health, finances, family, leisure time or the future. Where does your story meet them?

Why are we doing it? Is this attached to a hard business goal like lowering acquisition costs? Why we are doing it determines the types of content and places of participation within the customer relationship cycle. Some content can be better in pre-commerce, some during light or serious consideration and other content near the purchase decision. Having the right data can help make that determination.

How are we making it engaging? Are we riffing on ad copy? Engagement is related to what’s searched, what’s observed. It’s different. It’s a brand derivative story, not so positioning specific. In story, the highest order of storytelling is theme. What we’re reviewing is the observable data of story or content preference and laddering that up to thematic ideas. After the theme comes the topic generation and ways to measure performance that can take the shape of an editorial calendar.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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07 May Adding Story Layers to Events

In the age of time-shifted experiences, it can be challenging to get the most out of the substantial marketing dollars invested in consumer experiences at large events. These dollars are going mostly toward the non-time-shifted (have to see it in person) kind of experiences, so marketers must find new ways to create memorable interactions.

There is an opportunity to add layers of story to an event. The idea is to use story as a way to activate and enhance places and events with mobile and social technologies. These story frameworks can extend your company’s event experience with new kinds of topics and behaviors that help achieve marketing goals.

Think about human flow through an event and what else people may want to do. In its simplest terms, events can be divided into pre, during, and post phases of time. In the pre-phase, people may want to learn more about your products, share information with friends, or invite them or participate in more exclusive packages. During an event, people will share information they found or interact with the event using digital tools. Post event, people share more stories and images and often memorialize their participation, send feedback to organizers or continue on a journey built by the event or brand itself.

What’s needed is a platform/service designed for an organization to infuse events and experiences with more connective and relevant stories/content to increase consumer dwell time, which can take many forms. On one end it could be a small newsgathering and publishing organization that “covers” the event. On the other end it could be a story that drives one creatively through multiple media, organically embedding story experiences, like Oculus Rift, in the event itself. Both are valid and can become almost a white label offering that can be customized for each event season to compliment core experiences in a way that drives differentiation and on-site conversion.

To learn more about how Trade can assist your organization, contact 404-900-5592

To contact the author

Rick Shaughnessy, Partner

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