Thursday, October 27, 2016

2017 Market Challenges And Changes... Are You Embracing Them Yet?

Every year starting the first of November, I begin scripting the trends for the next year’s Trendcast Report – something that I have done now close to 20 years ago!

It’s always an interesting process of reviewing the field work and studies EXPERIENCE conducted during the course of the last year as well as the trends that peers are tracking and ferreting out the broader nature of market change.

Take Millennials as an example. 

Back in 2003, I was already labeling the Millennials, “Millennials” versus “Generation Y” as many in the marketing and media fields were doing.

I projected out just how much of a change-wave the Millennials were going to be as they exited college and entered into our social and business communities.

Today, Millennials make up the majority share of the workforce and nearly 98% of every baby now being delivered is the product of two Millennials.

Take social media as another example.

Back in the earlier days, I talked about how it and mobile technology access would influence more than just online exchanges. 

Today, how the public processes information, secures feedback from friends, communicates among one another and provides and receives word-of-mouth advice operates in a context more formed by social media than past structures of communications.

Some think that folks are more direct today in expressing their thoughts... but that has been more fostered by the restrictions of texting and Twitter than many think!

House & Home… LOL… I spoke in the early days that the great escalation of both home prices and new home construction was in for a correction.  Now going into 2017, there’s another  correction in housing looming – both homeownership and rental. 

Boomer parents will loan down payments just long enough!

2017 is now 60 days away and the market is in for more change and challenge.

Here’s a couple pre-lude observations…

#1 Social Media has reached the level of market maturity and is morphing into dynamics actually of the past. 

An article in the Wall Street Journal this past week talks about two conflicting camps at Facebook.  One camp believes that Facebook is evolving into a forum of for apps… another camp believes that Facebook is evolving into a forum of video programming. 

What’s intriguing is that nowhere in the article does it highlight the fact that Facebook has historically been a forum of social exchange among people.

Linked In was purchased by Microsoft and touts the purchase as a means to market Microsoft Office and how its programs can be used to assist business leadership. 

Wow… I am sure that the “433 million professionals” who have posted profiles on Linked In are sitting back with baited breath to purchase Microsoft Office products.

And then there’s Twitter… that’s tanked.  

Just as I am writing this, CBS News just broke with the announcement that Twitter is cutting 10% of its employees because it cannot find a buyer and is losing money at a record rate.

Reality hits quickly once the media hype and Wall Street delusionals ask the fundamental question… how is this venture going to generate revenue? 

Whether social media becomes another format of advertising-supported broadcast programming or another avenue of retail distribution, what social media was all touted to be is unraveling as we sit back and watch.

Here’s another 2017 Trendcast Market Driver…

#2 Mass retail is downsizing and emerging as another forum of Mom & Pop. 

In the last 60 days, Target announced that store expansion is being rechanneled to much smaller, niche-targeted Target stores – no pun intended!

Reduced down is not only the square footage, but also in relationship to selection and choice. 

Just as Target made its announcement, Walmart did the same. 

Whole Foods is even re-thinking its product mix and actually opening up a set of smaller Whole Food stores that will sell mostly 360 Whole Foods generic products at a competitive price point.

Kmart-Sears is now an EXPERIENCE client and all I can share is that customization of the retail deliverable is quickly replacing the business paradigm that all stores are all the same. 

Starbucks is now diversifying too. Some Starbucks sell just coffee, others offer expanded food selection and others sell more wines and beers than coffee. 

On another related note, there are now more new homes being built by independent builders than home building corporations. 

And here’s another interesting trend…

#3 Suburban town squares are quickly becoming hot again as the in-town communities become more and more similar to the look and feel of the malls.

There is no question that I am somewhat biased in making this observation.
Where EXPERIENCE was housed the longest was torn down about 5 years ago… a location in the heart of the first neighborhood built in Atlanta after the city was set ablaze in the conclusion of the Civil War. 

What sits on that site now is a “live-play” complex that houses a couple retail chain stores, a coffee house and a few restaurants. 

That complex can be picked-up and placed in the once-hip, in-town centers of Austin, Seattle, Boston, DC or San Diego and it would look just as much local there as it does in Atlanta’s Historic Inman Park.

Just this past week I read in one of the intown Atlanta newspapers that a new development is slated to be built at on a property site that also once housed EXPERIENCE. 

It’s a site two blocks from the home where Dr. King was born.

The historic loft building is being expanded with 40 townhouses that will be built above retail and restaurants in a post-modern architecture style…townhouses that will be starting in the $600K’s.

I am not alone in making these observations… and further emotionally pondering the sanity of developers and “locals” allowing it.

Whether it’s the Bohemians seeking alternative diversity or the Gay community seeking a sense of community or artists seeking out creativity, many are stepping back and watching their sense of place getting replaced by a canned and cost-prohibited culture.

This “mass produced” gentrification coupled with the rise of popularity of mid-century culture is quickly opening up new interest in… suburban town squares.

Part driven by affordability… and part driven by a sense of novelty… high tech is also facilitating what will challenge the viability of in-town communities all over again as commute times will not matter with new dynamics of work-from-home, web-connects and even co-working sites.

There are even some companies now realizing that relocation back out to the 'burbs might actually be easier in terms of cost as well as against-the-intown flow commutes of others.

There are more cool trends rattling the marketplace that will challenge strategists, entrepreneurs, top management and politicians alike.

As I age in this from one year to the next there are some overall observations that become clearer …

#1 – Generational groups have more impact that many marketers think
#2 – For all the integration of technology, there is more value in human innovation
#3 – The marketplace is not linear, its cyclical but the cycles run on different tier levels
#4 – Smart entrepreneurs and business leadership embrace challenge and change
#5 – Success requires looking beyond the obvious and the programmed… and unraveling the submerged.

If you want to take the dive… give me a call!

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Human Disconnect With Data Mining And Marketing

As I have shared in the past, I have a second home out in the country that I escape to at least a couple of days a week.  The “Farm House,” as I term it, has a nice room set up as an office and I get a lot of work completed when I use it.

About two miles from the Farm House sits a large Walmart.  I sometimes dash over to that Walmart to grab a mix of groceries, house & home stuff and garden supplies.

Yesterday I was sitting in a Starbucks and a recent grad from Emory’s Goizueta Business School was sipping coffee adjacent to me. His specialty was database modeling.  He was telling me how impressed he was with Walmart’s recent purchase of was not a cheap buy. never made a profit. ran a set of ads that featured folks with purple hair and exploding heads. 

At the Walmart near the Farm House, there’s a significant share of shoppers who have purple, green, orange and pick hair.  Perhaps that is where Birds of a Feather Flocking Together justifies what I consider a waste of investment dollars.

The multi-colored hair I see at Walmart fits well with the profile of who shops a lot at Walmart.  A high percentage of the Walmart shopper base sports Nielsen PRIZM nicknames like “Young & Rustic,” “Campers & Camo,” “Multi-Culti Families” and “Lo-Tech Singles.”

About a year ago, I purchased a set of working shoes from the Walmart store by the Farm House.  They were cheap, but functional and actually comfortable too.

When they wore out, I went to the store to find another pair with no success.  Once I got back to the Farm House, I went online and found a similar pair on and purchased them. 

They have since arrived and are actually very comfortable and durable too.  Especially when I go out and work in the yard around the Farm House.

What happened next though has not only been interesting to observe, but furthermore is where I think so many clients I work with end up. 

Data “Miners” and “Modelers” are manic-depressive players on brand marketing teams. Part of what they do is helpful.  Much of what they do, that corporate teams then employ, are downright dangerous.

I heard that many data miners test out as ISTJs when they take the Myers-Briggs test.  Introverts who use sensory assessment – the numbers! --- to drive rational pathways of thinking further set up in a “just do it” and move on path of resolution.

So what did Walmart do after I purchased those shoes online?

They started a stream of Emails to me that featured similar looking shoes and boots.  Next came a series of Emails and banner ads featuring everything from flannel shirts and Jiffy Mix to toilet paper and baby diapers.  Then came another round of Emails on boots and belts. 

The data model that the data miners built is using something to drive the outbound content, but it fails to accurately portray me.  It links a physical transaction with rational behavioral analytics to then engage in a personal, customer-building exchange.

I once had a dog that wanted to hump about anything with four legs.  I guess that hound shared a similar linear line of rational assessment.

A couple of our clients went out and hired a database “strategy” firm to manage their direct and online marketing. 

One of the clients already has called and asked me if I can assist in taking what the database firm has done and make some sense out of it to apply it more into their day-to-day marketing strategy.

Another travel-lodging client has shared that their database “strategy” firm will not allow them access to their customer records that have since been statistically modeled into predictive algorithms.  The client went on to say that the algorithms are not driving booking gains yet.


Yesterday I received a call from an Environics sales manager.  Environics is a firm we partner with in Canada that owns a sister neighborhood lifestyle system that works in tandem with Nielsen PRIZM.

The sales manager, a very nice young woman, attempted to expand the service mix in our current license arrangement.  She told me that there was a whole host of statistical modeling resources we currently do not use.

I attempt to refresh and update when doing so will enhance our client deliverables, so I asked her what specifically did these resources do that would enhance what we have done over a good number of years. 

She went on to say that the additional resources allow us to micro-analyze geographic trade areas in factor-building modeling.

Wow. Factor-building modeling.

When I asked how that type of modeling could be applied against multiple site locations like a chain of 600+ retail sites, she was stunned and could not explain how because once a model is built for one site location it does not easily duplicate in application against another set of sites. Micro-analytics and linear rationale perhaps at its best.

When I experience what I have just shared in this blog, I actually get excited.

Human behaviors and human cultures drive the vision-mission-purpose of EXPERIENCE and why I started the firm in the first place. 

Humans are not rational beasts.  They are both driven by experiential dynamics and emotional context. Two factors that are not always predictable… and certainly not linear, but instead dimensional.

My Farm House is located in a Nielsen PRIZM neighborhood nicknamed, “Country Squires.”  My city flat is located in a Nielsen PRIZM neighborhood nicknamed, “Movers & Shakers.” 

It’s unfortunate that the marketing, sales and database miners at Walmart failed to add that dimensional part of my human persona to its linear data-driven interactive exchange.  

The flannel shirts connected with me some.  Featuring them in a setting around a backyard fire pit along with some nice Brie and Jack Daniels in some retro-cocktail glasses would have not only activated my wallet, but probably an endorsement post to my fellow Facebook “Country Squire” gents.

Something tells me though that the data “Miners” and “Modelers” might not have any idea that Bourbon and Brie share more in common than the “B” in their names.

We do a good amount of number crunching and statistical analytics here at EXPERIENCE.  But… whenever I find myself in the midst of numbers, I purposely get out of the office and move out into the neighborhoods around where my clients’ customers hang.

I strike up conversations about their day-to-day lives as well as prompt them to tell me stories about experiences that drive my clients’ brands.  And I take time to put the calculator down and listen and observe. 

If you are reading this and work in a corporate high-rise, I encourage you too to do the same. 

I know it sounds basic and simplistic.  And yes, there are ways to do this also in social media channels where a person can “hang” and track dialogue too.

But the human experience is what truly drives brand culture and brand cultures supersede rational relationships.

All said, I hope more database Miners and Modelers expand what they do. It certainly builds a linear drive to my iPhone and website!