Mike Vacanti is a fitness expert, publisher and blogger, where he explains his take on affiliate marketing which, like the Force, has a light side and a big fat dark side.

Read full article on Mike’s blog here.

Affiliate marketing matters to the buyer because it is important for you to know that influencers are often getting paid to recommend products.

While this does not invalidate their recommendations, it would be disadvantageous for you NOT to question the authenticity of each suggestion.

The morality of affiliate marketing is dictated by who is doing it and how they are doing it. It is about the presence of honesty or deception in four key areas:

1. Disclosure: Does the buyer know you are making a commission?

2. Product Matches Audience: Do you truly believe the product will serve it’s intended purpose and meet your audience’s needs?

3. Forthright Sales CopyAre you promising 30 pounds of muscle in 20 days? Or any other physiologically impossible feats?

4. Miscellaneous Scumbaggary: What are you promoting? Is it a “free service” that starts billing on day 30, but don’t worry you can cancel*

*Please send a copy of your birth certificate and three notarized bank statements sealed with dragon blood by direct mail to this shady address in Taiwan

Conclusion: affiliate marketing is not immoral.

Though, writing this section is reminding me of the subjectivity of morality.


Documentary- The Story of Content: Rise of the New Marketing

Technology has changed the game. Consumers can ignore advertising and marketing at will. To break through the clutter, brands need to tell remarkable stories worth listening to and become the media in the process.

The Story of Content: Rise of the New Marketing, a new documentary by the Content Marketing Institute, is the first comprehensive film of its kind for the industry. It explores the evolution of content marketing through the eyes of the world’s biggest leading brands such as Red Bull, Kraft and Marriott; and marketing influencers, including Joe Pulizzi, Ann Handley, Scott Stratten, Jay Baer and more. Featuring case studies from early pioneers to today’s marketing innovators, you’ll learn how content marketing has been–and will continue– to change business and media forever.

“There is no such thing as digital marketing. There is marketing — most of which happens to be digital.”

PepsiCo’s Brad Jakeman Suggests Shops Have Not Kept Pace With Change

Excerpts from Jakeman’s presentation at the Association of National Advertising’s annual “Masters of Marketing” conference in Orlando, Fla.

Brad Jakeman

“The agency model that I grew up with largely has not changed today,” he said, noting that he has been in the ad industry for 25 years. “Yet agency CEOs are sitting there watching retainers disappear … they are looking at clients being way more promiscuous with their agencies than they ever have.”

And he pointed out that big consumer packaged good companies still measure marketing spending as a percentage of net revenue. “That assumes that paid media is the only way to build brands,” he said. But that is wrong because content generated by others on a brand’s behalf, for instance, “doesn’t cost us a cent,” he added.

We are still talking about the 30-second TV spot. Seriously?
Mr. Jakeman called digital marketing the “most ridiculous term I’ve ever heard.” He added: “There is no such thing as digital marketing. There is marketing — most of which happens to be digital.” He urged marketers to create digital cultures, not digital departments. “We ‘ghettoize’ digital as though it’s the life raft tethered to the big ocean liner. And we have to move on from that.”

Excerpted from full article at Ad Age. Read at this link.

Small Business Internet Marketing: 4 Do’s and 3 Don’ts

Launching an online marketing campaign can be quite a challenge for most companies. Many companies hire experts to help them achieve their rankings, boost their profits and optimize conversion funnels. Hiring someone to take care of all these things is a common struggle among small and medium businesses, who often have to work with a limited budget in place.

The following are tips from Internet marketing expert Ben Oren, Director of Web Marketing at WhiteWeb. With over a decade of experience under his belt, he specializes in helping brands strengthen their online presence using both traditional and innovative marketing techniques. His clients include Caesar’s Entertainment (WSOP), Babylon, Bouclair Home and more (including many start-ups).

His insight can help make the most of a startup’s marketing budget, including do’s and don’ts for any website as well as the areas to focus on when launching an online marketing campaign.

Four Things Any Small Business Should Do

  1. Open a Google Business account. “Follow Google’s instructions, which are pretty straightforward,” he said. This is a relatively simple way to gain some exposure for your business, not only in Google search results, but also in Google Maps, Google Local and Google +.
  2. Make sure your website is search engine-friendly. He suggested to check out this list from the Search Engine Journal, on how to improve a site’s optimization. Ben said these advanced on-page SEO techniques will do wonders for your organic visibility online. These strategies “will improve your rankings even without a large number of incoming links,” he said.
  3. Read at least one post about internet marketing per day. Ben, whose specialty is marketing of the creative variety, believes that reading will open your mind to new ideas and best practices. It will “give you a better handling on the subject matter when you decide to launch a campaign,” he added. Start with these high authority sites: MOZ blog, SEJ and Search Engine Land.
  4. Reach out to major publications in your niche. He said the purpose of this is to offer to write a post on a relevant topic for an e-magazine or a top blog. “You’d be surprised how many authoritative sites out there are searching for quality content to publish, which could help businesses like yours immeasurably,” he said. With that, he came up with two simple steps to follow. First, find blogs in your niche. He advised to check out this list for the leading search modifiers. This makes Google work like a scalpel, instead of a club. The second step is to use a web scraper to gather a list into CSV. “I use WebHarvy.com. Find reviews of each site, find contact info and email a pitch. This is called outreach, and it’s important you bring something new to the table. Something you heard and read about that is ‘up-and-coming’. Big publishers love that kind of approach.” he added.

Three Typical Small Business Mistakes

There’s a lot of information on the web about SEO, and it’s not all accurate. The following are the most common, widespread, misleading information. These often results in some very costly and time consuming mistakes.

  1. Content stuffing: this is the act of generating short pieces of content for the sake of cultivating a ‘content strategy’ targeting various search keywords. This method stopped working very early on, around 2006, and it certainly doesn’t work nowadays. Actually, publishing short, superficial and uninteresting texts will be detrimental to any web marketing effort, by putting the site at risk of receiving a Google penalty. If you’re going to invest in content, it’s best to invest in quality over quantity – nix short, generic pieces, instead publish few but highly relevant, thorough, interesting and engaging pieces your site’s target audience will enjoy.
  2. Treating SEO as a separate marketing channel: times have changed, and nowadays SEO is an integral part of a business’ online marketing strategy. Online and offline marketing channels should be as streamlined and in synch as possible, meaning that the business’ marketing messages should be uniform throughout a potential client’s funnel, from exposure-to-conversion. Essentially, this means that all your marketing channels – PPC, social media, PR, TV – should have common goals, a common language, and a common look & feel.
  3. Doing the bare minimum: treating online marketing as a necessary evil is the most common form of wasting time and money among small businesses. Online marketing is no longer about a series of technical actions; it requires a lot of creativity, forethought, attention to detail and impeccable execution. By opting to hire a low cost marketing firm, employee or intern to cover the bases, some small businesses are setting themselves up for failure. Online marketing is not cheap, but when done right, it can be a major stepping stone for any business.

Excerpted from full article:Ben Oren: How to Avoid the Most Common Marketing Mistakes SMB Commit” by Jonha Revesencio at Huff Post. Click here to view full article.

How Big Data Can Help Your Business Thrive

Big Data Matters

If you truly want to make an impact on your company’s bottom line, you need to know what type of people are interested in it. Being privy to this information will allow you to preempt their needs and meet them head-on through strategic targeting.

One example of this exists in the gaming industry, where effectively marketing their product towards those customers who would be most interested in their product. An unfocused marketing campaign that targets a very general audience would be ineffective, and can cost a company thousands in lost marketing dollars.

So where do they get this information? Information aggregation services employ analytics experts, or data scientists, who interpret customer behavior from reams of raw data. With this information, changes can be made with the aim of maximizing revenue. In one case, a game manufacturer was able to double its revenue to over $100 million dollars through simple tweaks to game design that targeted common customer characteristics.

The important thing is to pay attention to your customers and make the appropriate changes, and that’s what makes “big data” so exciting: it can be extremely lucrative, regardless of your specific business niche.

The Growth of Big Data

With the explosive growth of social media and the Internet in general, marketers began to realize the power of harnessing both to increase brand awareness. Later, they discovered that they could learn a lot about their customers’ spending habits and interests by monitoring their online activities.

However, with over 9,000 tweets sent per second, it can seem impractical to dedicate time to understanding and interpreting customer behavior through such a vast amount of data. Even Google had attempted the enormous feat of indexing tweets back in 2011, but ultimately failed.

Even worse, some financial officers may be cross to budget for social media departments due to the department’s inability to provide a tangible ROI. In fact, many social media departments are shut down entirely due to not having set goals. If the department can’t prove that it’s making a difference in returns, it doesn’t have a chance of survival.

And that, sadly, is where many companies get it wrong. You can’t simply jump on the social media bandwagon and specifically assign a team to do just that. Rather, an integrated approach that utilizes all facets of big data would effectively cover all of your bases and provide you the valuable insight to make informed decisions.

Psychographics Fill in the Gaps

Where demographics cover the basic physical traits of a customer base, psychographics go one step further by observing customer behavior. In essence, it takes into consideration the customer’s social identity and modifying marketing efforts to meet that identity. Where demographics can be lifted from readily available tools, psychographics are not.

The basic goals of psychographics are to retrieve customer insight by:

  • Getting to know them
  • Observing their behavior.
  • Asking questions.

As the previously mentioned game manufacturer clearly displayed, customer behaviors were observed, studied and met with relevant changes to game design that netted double their normal revenue.

Even better, the natural steps that come from studying psychographics also generate brand loyalty. When a company takes proactive steps towards connecting with their customer, the latter will feel more valued and will likely recommend the business to their friends and family.

Word-of-mouth recommendations are also very powerful at creating brand awareness and helps companies avoid the old school and inefficient method of “cold calling” potential customers.

Examining and acting upon what motivates your customers will generate more accurate leads than simply pandering to what’s shown in a demographics spreadsheet. Just because your customers share the same age group or income level doesn’t mean that they have the same interests.

Instead, find out what motivates them and where they interact most.

Examples of Big Data in Action

Where using big data can help a company effectively connect with their customers, it can also be used in other areas, such as company expansion. For example, Wendy’s recently utilized a GIS service called Esri to help them determine where to build new stores. When ran, the system gives planners demographic information on nearby residents and sales records, mostly pulled from public records.

After the economic downturn of the economy in 2008, many companies have turned to services like Esri to reduce the risk that comes with a serious investment like expansion. However, it has also been used in more customer-centric approaches as well, like with Ascena Retail Group, Inc., which owns brands Maurice’s, Dress Barn & Justice. All three of these brands cater to three distinct audiences, and through the use of big data, Ascena Retail was able to stratify all three brands and effectively plan for their integration based on socioeconomic information.

Regardless of your application, big data can help you significantly reduce your risk and help you make informed decisions in regards to marketing and planning. The chances of a return are much greater if you make a genuine connection with your customers, and part of that is fulfilling a need before any of them knew they had one.

This excerpt is from the Innovation Excellence. To view the whole article click here.

Data Analytics Tools: R Gaining on SAS

Coming from the Digital Solutions side of the analog communications business, I’ve seen platforms come and go, with many dominant technologies replaced by disruptive upstarts offering lower costs and broader functionality. It happens all the time.

A similar changing of the guard is happening between SAS and R, with the divide being between established, old-economy firms heavily invested in SAS and newer technology companies that tend to leverage the free, open-source R platform.

Earlier this year Burtch Works did a survey which showed R nearly neck and neck with SAS, gaining 13% in user preference since last year. Companies using R for data analytics include Facebook, Google, Twitter, Zillow, and even Monsanto and Lloyds.

2015 SAS vs. R Survey Results

Some of the more humorous comments by people declaring their allegiance to R

  • R! But don’t tell my friends at SAS 🙂
  • SAS, but I’m taking an online R class now to stay current. I’m sure I’ll still like SAS better though.
  • I’m under 40 and work in tech, so I haven’t used SAS since a professor made me back in grad school.
  • SAS due to inertia, learning R as I respond.
  • R hands down. SAS is for boring dinosaurs. Note: I have used both extensively. One of the main requirements of me switching jobs last year was to not use SAS anymore. SAS will die a slow, painful death. No tech company/startup in their right mind uses SAS and that is where the future is going (not to mention where the more exciting work is).
  • SAS had its glory. Sadly it is becoming legacy system.
  • I only use SAS when they make me.

SAS has a huge installed base and isn’t going away any time soon, but R looks like its going to have a permanent seat at the table going forward.


Completed “What is Social?” and Discovered the Cluetrain Manifesto

This course is part of Northwestern University’s Social Media Marketing specialization, and is focused on the importance of integrating social media marketing channels into the overall omni-channel marketing mix.

Contemporary markets are highly engaged on social and generating peer-to-peer recommendations which increasingly inform the consumer decision journey. Organizations must know how to use these channels to have a voice in that conversation.

That said, there are many different types of digital communities, with varying degrees of depth and potential for audience engagement. These run the gamut from very large social networks (e.g., Facebook and Twitter) with enable somewhat shallow engagement with a broad audience, all the way down to much smaller virtual communities (e.g., Circle of Moms, Rigid Forum) which dive deeply into niche areas of interest where more intimate engagement through content and thought leadership is possible.

Based on an understanding of an organization’s objectives, and the communities frequented by its customers, savvy digital marketers will craft strategies leveraging the strength of these channels to speak to their audience in an authentic voice.

Cluetrain Manifesto

This was a fun discovery introduced by the course. The Cluetrain Manifesto is a work of business literature first posted to the web back in 1999 as 95 theses, published the following year in book form as a series of seven essays.

Though fifteen years old, its assertions are not only still relevant, but have been magnified in importance by the proliferation of mobile/social media.

The manifesto’s 95 Theses speaks to the company in the voice of the customer, and doesn’t mince words. I highly recommend anyone in corporate leadership and marketing give it a thoughtful read. Below are twelve of my favorites:

  • Conversations among human beings sound human. They are conducted in a human voice
  • There are no secrets. The networked market knows more than companies do about their own products – and whether the news is good or bad, they tell everyone
  • Companies that speak in the language of the pitch, the dog-and-pony show, are no longer speaking to anyone
  • Companies that assume online markets are the same markets that used to watch their ads on television are kidding themselves
  • To speak with a human voice, companies must share the concerns of their communities
  • Smart companies will get out of the way and help the inevitable to happen sooner
  • We like this new marketplace much better – in fact, we are creating it
  • You want us to pay? We want you to pay attention
  • We want you to take 50 million of us as seriously as you take one reporter from The Wall Street Journal
  • When we have questions we turn to each other for answers. If you didn’t have such a tight rein on “your people” maybe they’d be among the people we’d turn to
  • Our allegiance is to ourselves—our friends, our new allies and acquaintances, even our sparring partners. Companies that have no part in this world, also have no future
  • We are waking up and linking to each other. We are watching. But we are not waiting

Until next time –  Cheers!


Smartphones vs Beer, Marketing Geeks, and Four Tips for Winning the Zero Moment of Truth

The proliferation of smartphones and high-speed mobile internet has changed the marketing landscape forever. Over 70% of Americans have mobile phones, which are always-on and always-on-hand.

Consumers are decreasingly influenced by traditional marketing channels (e.g., circular, broadcast, and POP) and are more than ever using mobile technology to inform buying decisions. Therefore, marketing is increasingly digital and fueled by analytics, giving the data-geeks a seat at the table with the strategists and creatives.

This post provides a quick summary of how it all happened, concluding with four tips on how to make the most of the digital marketing landscape going forward.


Proctor and Gamble defined the “First Moment of Truth” paradigm, which asserted that the consumer decision making process was largely won by in-store marketing (which really reminds me of e-commerce’s last-click attribution). P&G even went as far as to create the position of “Director of FMOT” and a 15-person team to create solutions designed to “win over customers in the first three to seven seconds of the shopping experience”


FCB’s Michael Fassnacht predicted,

Over the next few years Geeks in Marketing will become one of the most disruptive force in a discipline that traditionally was driven by big creative personalities


Apple released the iPhone, beginning the shift from feature-phones to smart phones


McKinsey published their framework of the Consumer Decision Journey, with the “Moment of Purchase” corresponding to P&G’s the “First Moment of Truth”

McKinsey CDJ Framework


Google published their “Zero Moment of Truth” framework, asserting that the consumer purchase decision is increasingly won during the active evaluation phase (done increasingly on smart phones), before the actual moment of purchase (First Moment of Truth)


Smart phones outnumbered feature phones in America for the first time

Showrooming” punishes Best Buy and retailers scramble to respond


43% of U.S. adults would be willing to give up beer for a month if it meant they could keep accessing the Internet on their smartphones


Smart phones accounted for 60% of internet connections in developed countries with 3.6 billion unique subscribers

26% of over 2,200 Amercians in a Harris Poll survey ranked smart phone access more important than sex


Mobile data traffic is expected to grow ten-fold between 2014 and 2019


Smart phones are expected to reach 70% of the global base by 2020, with 4.6 billion subscribers. (Source – 2015 GSMA Report)

The new, digital marketing landscape

Technology usage in the active evaluation process has expanded, with many consumers consulting 10 or more sources before a purchase, frequently through their smart phones (and often in-store).

Ironically, reverse-showrooming or “webrooming” is a growing trend, with consumers checking online for product information and reviews before going to a brick-and-mortar location to buy.

In the new digital age, it’s no longer realistic or smart to judge campaigns solely by the final point-of-sale interaction. Marketers must utilize the data generated by consumers in the evaluation phase to craft their engagement strategy to win the purchase decision before the first moment of truth arrives.

To again quote Fassnacht, who has proven to be something of a prophet, had this to say about the role of marketing geeks in winning what would later be called the Zero Moment of Truth:

The staggering growth of available customer data, and the proliferation of technology tools enable us to decipher and explain patterns better. But how will the rise of the Geek influence the practice of Marketing? I suggest three key changes:

  • More and more marketers in more and more meetings will ask the question: “What does the data tell us?” This will change how marketing programs are designed, and executed!
  • The sophistication level of any marketing dialog between companies, agencies, and 3rd parties will rise due to a data and number centric foundation that everyone will share (hopefully)
  • The currently dominant strategic and creative forces within marketing will learn how to share the power of decision making with more and more Geeks. I believe that this will make the creative better and more relevant for the consumer instead of pleasing the personal preferences of some executives within a Fortune 2000 company

Taking this to heart, the most successful marketing teams will be the ones who are able to marry successfully the three key tribes of marketers:

  • The Creative
  • The Strategist/Account Guy
  • The Marketing Geek

Such teams will be able to best capitalize on the opportunity afforded by the “Zero Moment of Truth” by doing the following four things: (source)

1. Use search to uncover and understand the moments that matter

Long before many brand managers even knew what they were, consumers were searching for things like “greek yogurt,” “BB cream,” and “ombre hair.” If you had to guess what kind of stain is searched for most, would you know the answer? Overwhelmingly, it’€™s “red wine stains.”

Do you know what’€™s in the collective mind of consumers right now? (Answer: coconut oil). The trick is to use search to identify the moments that matter to consumers and act on them across your entire marketing mix.

2. Be present in the moments that matter

Woody Allen is often credited with saying, “Eighty percent of success is showing up.” This is especially true when it comes to digital. You can’€™t be a helpful brand partner and improve the lives of consumers if you’€™re not present in the moments they need you most. And increasingly, these moments are happening on smartphones.

On mobile, do you know how many people are searching for your brand? Your category? How many of those times do you show up? How many times do they choose you, and why? Most importantly, how many times does your competitor show up, but you don’t?

3. Have something interesting, relevant and/or engaging to say

We’€™ve established that you need to have an answer to these many consumer moments, but do you have the “right” answer? And does your ad provide the best possible experience across screens? Links to products may not be enough to hook consumers. Your ads should provide an experience that’s as informative and entertaining as possible: links to rich content on your website and opportunities to engage on Facebook or watch videos on YouTube, for example.

4. Measure the impact

You’ve managed to successfully capture the Zero Moment of Truth. Now what? To what degree does a ZMOT win advance business KPIs such as awareness, consideration, purchase intent, trial and repeat and purchase considerations?

Brands that are committed to the Zero Moment of Truth—the ones that use search to uncover and understand the moments that matter, that show up, that provide the right mobile-relevant answers and that measure the impact—€”stand to gain a competitive advantage. More importantly, they can help consumers when they need it most. At the end of the day, what matters more?

Many businesses have fallen behind on consumer behavior. In a world where people look first to mobile devices and real-time streams, the digital journey has grown more complex, and it’s become more challenging to gain a clear picture of these interactions. Success depends on adapting to this new reality, and analytics is a key to successful evolution.

Its dangerous to go alone! Bring a Geek with you.



Course Complete: Digital Marketing Channels – Planning

I hope everyone got a good look at last night’s Super Blood Moon. Which was visible in North Texas between 8:00 PM and 10:00 PM Central.

Super Blood Moon
Lunar Eclipse. 09/27/2015, about 9:00 PM Central Standard Time. Last one like it until 2033.

Condolences to those of you where it was cloudy. It was a really cool thing to see – an at a reasonable hour too!

Now back to the books.

While an undergrad at Memphis State, I was obliged to fit in my classes and school work around a full-time job where I worked no less than 50 hours per week. Later, I did grad-school at night over three years while managing an extremely demanding marcom production operation at RadioShack in Fort Worth. This has been my first experience where I’ve been able to focus on my education full-time. Its so much EASIER! Who knew right?

This latest course on digital marketing channels contained four modules, focused on the following disciplines:

  • Best practices for successful online copywriting and SEO, how specialized search can affect rankings, and how to plan, set up, and run your own search campaign.
  • Where to place your online advertising, the process of producing successful online videos, and paid, earned, and owned methods of promoting online video.
  • Best ways to engage with audiences on social channels, social media strategy creation and execution, how to plan and execute an email campaign, and the effective campaign measurement.
  • Mobile messaging channels and applications, the role that mobile plays in an integrated marketing strategy, how to track mobile activity, how to optimize your digital plan, and the best practices in digital.

As the capstone course doesn’t open until November 1st, I’ve registered for a Social Media Marketing series offered by Northwestern University, and a couple Data Analytics courses offered by Johns Hopkins University (Data Analysis Toolkit and Programming in R). Unfortunately, those don’t open up until next Monday.

Sooooo, I’ve been forging my way through the Google Analytics Academy, and have already completed the first course, Digital Analytics Fundamentals. On top of that, I’ve been working through Bucky Robert’s 18-video series on R-Studio, which I highly recommend to those new to R. Bucky does a great job introducing the features and functionality of the suite, in a way that’s both humorous and informative.

I kid you not, I go to sleep and dream about multi-channel funnels, goal-flow reports, social media strategy and KPIs, only to wake up thinking about how companies in my area are applying these concepts (or have yet to apply them) in their marketing and business development efforts. Fun but bordering on obsession!

Till next time, Cheers!

Selfie - Nick Krueger - Digital Marketing Analytics