Complex Emotions & Polarizing Characters

Netflix Knows Which Pictures You’ll Click On—And Why

The service’s recent experiments with images reveal some surprising (and useful) takeaways about why people click what they do.

It’s still one of the great mysteries of the Internet: with the millions of images that bombard us on the web every day, what makes us click on one instead of another? Are some pictures universally appealing, or is art always a matter of personal opinion?

Netflix has been pondering these profound questions for years. After all, images are critical to getting you to binge: A small, compelling thumbnail could mean the difference between getting you to spend the entire weekend watching House of Cards or losing interest and bouncing over to Hulu.

A powerful picture is an incredibly efficient tool: The human brain can process an image in just a few milliseconds, so the right picture can spark someone’s interest and convince a viewer it’s worth exploring a new show in a single glance. Which is why, in 2014, Netflix began gathering consumer research specifically about the images on its service.

The research indicated that looking at images not only prompted users to watch content, but accounted for a whopping 82% of their time spent browsing (as opposed to, say, reading movie titles or descriptions). In other words, the images mattered almost four times more than the text describing the storyline. Members also spent only 1.8 seconds considering each title. “We know that if you don’t capture a member’s attention within 90 seconds, he or she will likely lose interest and move on to another activity,” says Nick Nelson, Netflix’s global manager for creative services. “Images become the most efficient and compelling way to help them discover the perfect title as quickly as possible.”

Recently, Netflix—which is famously tight-lipped about its own data—has been doing experiments to better understand which images capture our attention and why, and shared some of its findings with Fast Company as well as in a post on its blog. The effort was both science and art: Data scientists analyzed user statistics, while creative teams considered the colors, emotions, and words that appear on pictures. The company tests several images for a single show or movie to try to discover what makes members click. Its first lesson was that images had to be high quality in order to draw viewers in. “We saw one clear thing,” Nelson says. “Using better images to represent content significantly increased overall streaming hours and engagement.”

Netflix’s data reveals some interesting takeaways about why people watch one thing over another, but more broadly, may be applicable to anyone looking to hook readers, viewers, or buyers with compelling imagery.

Three People Or Fewer, Please

One of Netflix’s earliest findings was that interest tended to drop off when an image touting a show or movie contained more than three people. It seems that users find it hard to focus when there are too many people, and may not be able to absorb cues about the storyline. This was a surprising insight for Netflix, given that some shows are popular precisely because they have large casts. Orange Is the New Black is a good example of this. “While ensemble casts are fantastic for a huge billboard on the side of a highway, they are too complex at small sizes,” Nelson says. “They are ultimately not as effective at helping our members decide if the title is right for them on smaller screens.”

Complex Emotions Make Us Pause

Scientists have known for a long time that humans are hardwired to respond to faces: Studies have found that infants process faces long before they are able to recognize other objects. However, one interesting thing that Netflix discovered is that people tend to focus more on images of people displaying complicated expressions over stoic or benign ones. These highly emotive images are able to quickly and effectively convey subtle details about the show or movie, drawing users into the storyline and prompting them to watch it. Take, for instance, the image for the second season of Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which drove a lot of engagement; its thumbnail ad features Ellie Kemper’s face looking over at Tituss Burgess with an expression of surprise and possibly disbelief.

A Focus On Polarizing Characters

Just like complex emotions are more likely to capture our attention, images of polarizing characters also tend to grab our attention. Netflix found that members responded better to recognizable villainous characters over pictures of the hero. They found this to be true in the kids’ genre, as well as for action shows and movies.

Different Countries, Different Tastes

By testing across geographies, Netflix found that there are regional preferences when it comes to imagery. For instance, Sense8, a show with a diverse, international cast, has a wide audience across countries, but Netflix discovered that different images worked better in different places. While the company didn’t offer us a clear rubric about what kind of images work best in each country, from the images they showed us, it seemed that more artistic images worked better in Germany, while American audiences were more compelled by images that revealed the storyline clearly. The point is that in order to sell the same content or product across different countries, it is worth testing several images.


See original including graphics at Fast Company.  By Elizabeth Segran 05.03.16



Starbucks’ Loyalty Reigns

Tech-savvy Starbucks stays on top of artisanal wave

The big idea: Early in the 1990s, Starbucks was a growth darling, offering a consistently good product in the expanding market for specialty coffee and blazing the trail for what is now known as corporate social responsibility. Starbucks defined itself as an early technology leader, offering WiFi in stores in 2002 and partnering with Apple in 2007 to provide free access to iTunes. In 2011, the company launched a mobile app digitizing its Starbucks Rewards loyalty program. By 2016, Starbucks was a $20 billion company with more than 21,000 locations. But in recent years, it has encountered challenging consumer trends.

The scenario: The artisanal coffee market has evolved along with markets for such products as craft-brewed beer, locally sourced grass-fed beef and non-GMO vegetables. Small, specialized coffee companies have been attracting venture funding — Oakland, Calif.-based Blue Bottle, for instance, raised more than $45 million — and the wholesale price of coffee beans rose 40 percent in 2014. A global coffee brand could suffer in such a fast-changing market. To survive, Starbucks would need to identify revenue drivers, invest in them quickly and maintain its customer base.

The resolution: Much of the company’s recent success is due to its mobile app, which has loyalty-building features. Starbucks customers are awarded “Stars” for purchases, and they advance through reward levels as they earn free refreshments. In addition, members have access to free digital apps and content from high-profile partners. The mobile app can be used to send a digital Starbucks gift card to any email address, find the nearest store and receive targeted promotional messages.

The true breakthrough, however, is the mobile order-and-pay feature introduced last year, which functions like a pre-loaded debit card. Users can order ahead of time and skip the lines. These customers generally make purchases more often and have a larger average order size than those without the app.

By the end of 2015, more than 20 percent of Starbucks customers were paying via mobile devices. The number of mobile-using customers went up 32 percent between the third and fourth quarters of 2015. The company’s profit grew from $2.1 billion in fiscal 2014 to $2.8 billion in fiscal 2015 — a 33 percent gain.

Starbucks coffee is not craft food, but the company has capitalized on some of the same consumer sentiment by emphasizing culture and community in its marketing and social media presence. In 2008, it launched the My Starbucks Idea website, which customers could use to make recommendations. And Starbucks followed through — with a tree-planting program suggested by a customer, drink recipe changes and a recent update to how rewards points work.

The lesson: Starbucks has cultivated brand loyalty in the mass market. It has invested in technology to keep customers connected to its products and stores. It is a truly omnichannel company, using social media and mobile devices to drive in-store sales. As a result, this publicly traded company with a global footprint has maintained an edge in an ­artisanal-food-obsessed world.


Published in the Washington Post  Sunday,  April 3, 2016

— Meghan R. Murray

Murray is a digital marketing consultant who teaches at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business.



Incentives to Bypass Ad Blockers

More Marketers Offer Incentives for Watching Ads

Delivering ads to people seeking rewards may help combat ad fraud and viewability challenges

Marketers are increasingly employing a tried-and-true tactic to get people to watch their ads: bribery.

Some ad buyers believe that the direct approach may go over better with consumers than traditional ads that interrupt or try to distract people from content, while also helping solve several major pain points in digital advertising.

Indeed, advertisers continue to grapple with fundamental issues in their digital campaigns: whether their ads can actually be seen and whether the ads are even reaching real people. Because of these challenges, offering consumers free stuff in exchange for watching ads—known in the industry as “incentivized ads”—may be gaining acceptance among more established brands and media companies.

That’s because many such ads appear within social or mobile games, where users have either logged in or provided some identifying information. Or the ads are delivered on websites geared for people interested in earning free items to be redeemed in the real world where they are required to register with their real names.

For example, a marketer might provide consumers with more lives or weapons in a videogame or reward points for gift cards in exchange for viewing their ads—typically video ads. In either case, advertisers may feel more comfortable that they are reaching an actual person, since most fraudsters can’t teach bots to register on these types of sites, let alone play mobile games.

Established brands from Microsoft to Chevrolet to Purina have employed incentivized ads over the past few years.

Advocates for incentive-based ads contend that these kinds of ads are more palatable on mobile devices, where people can be annoyed by ads that interrupt their experience. They say these ads work particularly well in mobile games, which have natural breaks in the action.

Incentivized advertising has been around for years. But the overt nature of it has also long carried a stigma, as some advertisers consider this form of exposure less legitimate than when people encounter ads through more traditional channels. They see it as “bribing” people to watch an ad instead of hoping they’ll find it on their own and then deem the ad entertaining or useful. For example,recently several publishers and advertisers called into question AOL’s practice of driving people to view their videos via websites that exist primarily to reward people for watching ads.

But the advertising industry is quickly evolving and facing new challenges. Some digital ad experts predict that more brands will employ incentivized ads to help combat the growing problems of ad fraud and viewability, plus the mainstream adoption of ad-blocking software.

Sony’s free streaming video service Crackle has even used the incentive site Zoombucks to drive people to watch series like “Dilbert” and “The Real Ghostbusters,” even as it looks to build out a premium video-on-demand offering. Similarly, Hulu is currently using Zoombucks to incite people to download its mobile app. People on Zoombucks earn points by watching Crackle videos or downloading Hulu’s app, and the points can then be redeemed for products or gift cards to retailers like Target and Amazon.com.

But perhaps more typical are advertisers driving consumers to their ads and content during mobile games. For example, people playing the mobile game Nibblers could receive a “free booster” to help improve their play by watching a video from Reuters. That campaign was executed by Jun Group.

For such brands, the thinking is, “they are giving a gift to their customers, as it creates positive association,” said Shenan Reed, president of digital for North America at the media buying agency MEC. “It’s really the same as having to watch YouTube pre-rolls to get to free videos.”

Mitchell Reichgut, chief executive at Jun Group, claims his company has executed incentive-based ad campaigns for 40% of top 200 advertisers. The company raised $28 million in funding last summer.

“We see the value exchange [model] as perfect for mobile, where you just can’t afford to interrupt users,” he said. Mr. Reichgut acknowledged that some brands take time to get used to the concept of incentive-based video advertising. “But we think rest of the industry will catch up to us.”

Peter Horan, a veteran digital media investor and former chief executive at IAC’s media and advertising group, agrees. He argues that incentive-based ads will be a growing trend in 2016. Not only because advertisers are looking to gain more confidence that their ads are being seen, but because publishers are looking for ways to better create reliable revenue streams, particularly in light of the growth of ad blocking.

“Consumers have struck back with ad blocking as a counter to the scorched eyeball tactics of marketers,” he said. “We need new models for value exchange between readers and publishers. I believe that, in the future, this value exchange will be much more explicit.”

The explicit nature of these ads aren’t for everyone. Ms. Reed said she’d likely not recommend these ads for luxury advertisers, for example, since the environment of these sites may not match the aesthetic these high-end brands are looking for.

And while Jun Group touts its use of incentivized ads, AOL says sites like Zoombucks represent a small part of its video business. The same goes for Virool, a Web video ad company that bills itself as a leader in delivering “native video ads,” which are video ads that are woven in between paragraphs of text on content sites and only play when a person scrolls past them while reading these articles.

“Incentivized advertising works for some yet many others are staunchly against leveraging it,” said Alex Debelov, Virool’s chief executive. “However, our philosophy is not to take a position on one’s perceived quality of inventory.” Virool uses third-party technology to make sure that sites like Zoombucks deliver only high-quality traffic, he added.

It’s crucial that advertisers know what they are paying for. It’s a problem if they don’t fully understand what types of incentives consumers are being provided, said Alan Smith, chief digital officer at the ad firm Assembly. “The key is to know what they are buying,” he said.

While some brands are O.K. with providing game credits because they believe those consumers are deeply engaged with the game, they may be more wary of running ads on sites where people are just racking up points for free stuff by watching lots of videos they may or may not care about, said Ms. Reed.

Still, Mr. Horan said the advertising business is going to have to get over any preconceived notions about how pure the relationship once was between marketers and consumers.

“Free media was never free, it was ad-supported,” he said. “On the Web, the old broadcast push model is increasingly dysfunctional. I think a lot of the holier-than-thou crap is people’s natural resistance to change.”

First published Jan 5, 2016 by Mike Shields in WSJ.  See the original.



We’ll All Do More of It in 2016

Jason DeMers compiled some useful facts about content marketing. Two interesting ones: SEM is essential for B2B and eNewsletters are still #1 for B2C.  YouTube beats Twitter and Instagram in B2C platform rankings. Check out all of them below.

35 Content Marketing Statistics You Need To Know In 2016

As we approach 2016, it’s interesting to think about how content marketing has changed this year, and where we’re headed in the coming year.

To help with this, I’ve put together this list of the most recent content marketing statistics I could find. I’ve divided them into B2B, B2C and general content marketing statistics. Most are from 2015, although I’ve thrown in a handful of older stats where newer data couldn’t be found.

Content marketing encompasses and intersects with many other digital channels: social media, blogging and email marketing to name a few. The statistics contained in this post are generally focused around content marketing as an industry and practice, rather than on stats for specific digital marketing channels (although there are a few of these as well).

B2B Content Marketing Stats

  1. 88% of B2B marketers currently use content marketing as part of their marketing strategy, yet only 32% have a documented content marketing strategy. (source)
  2. 61% of the most effective B2B content marketers meet with their content team daily or weekly. (source)
  3. The most effective B2B content marketers allocate a larger portion of their budget to content marketing: 42% of their total budget, compared to 28% for less-effective marketers. (source)
  4. B2B marketers report sales lead quality as their #1 most important metric for measuring content marketing success; even more important than sales and conversions. (source)
  5. Nearly half (48%) of the most effective B2B marketers have a documented editorial mission statement as part of their content strategy. (source)
  6. 76% of B2B marketers say they will produce more content in 2016. (source)
  7. The 5 most important marketing tactics for B2B businesses are (in order): in-person events, webinars/webcasts, case studies, white papers and videos. (source)
  8. 94% of B2B marketers use LinkedIn as part of their content strategy. Other popular platforms include Twitter (87%), Facebook (84%), YouTube (74%) and Google+ (62%). (source)
  9. 66% of B2B marketers rank LinkedIn as the most effective social media platform for their business. Other effective platforms were Twitter (55%), YouTube (51%), SlideShare (41%) and Facebook (30%). (source)
  10. 66% of B2B marketers report using search engine marketing (SEM), making it the most used paid marketing tactic among B2B companies. (source)
  11. 55% of B2B marketers report that search engine marketing (SEM) is their most effective paid advertising method. (source)
  12. 85% of B2B marketers say lead generation will be their most important content marketing goal in 2016. Sales will be their second priority. (source)
  13. A majority (60%) of B2B marketers report that their top challenge in 2016 will be producing engaging content. 57% say measuring content effectiveness will be their greatest challenge, and 57% say producing content consistently will be their biggest struggle. (source)

B2C Content Marketing Stats

  1. 76% of B2C marketers report using content marketing, yet only 37% say their strategy is effective. (source)
  2. 37% of B2C marketers say they have a documented content marketing strategy. This is up from just 27% last year. (source)
  3. B2C marketers use infographics more than any other content strategy. 62% report using infographics, and 63% from this group said they were effective. (source)
  4. Content marketing budgets have increased among B2C companies this year: On average, 32% of total marketing budgets are going towards content, compared to 25% last year. (source)
  5. Compared to 2015, 77% of B2C marketers say they will produce more content in 2016. Only 2% will produce less. (source)
  6. The most popular content marketing tactic reported by 90% of B2C businesses is social media; the next most used tactics are illustrations and photos (87%), eNewsletters (83%), videos (82%) and website articles (81%). (source)
  7. The most effective content marketing strategy for B2C businesses is eNewsletters (61% of marketers say these are effective). Other effective strategies are in-person events (67%), illustrations/photos (66%) and social media content (66%). (source)
  8. The most popular social media platform among B2C businesses is Facebook, with 94% reporting its usage. Other popular platforms are Twitter (82%), YouTube (77%) and LinkedIn (76%). (source)
  9. 66% of B2C marketers say Facebook is their most effective social platform; this is followed by YouTube (53%), Twitter (50%) and Instagram (42%). (source)
  10. The most popular paid advertising methods for B2C marketers are promoted posts and search engine marketing (SEM). 76% of businesses reported using these strategies. (source)
  11. The most effective paid advertising method for B2C marketers is search engine marketing (SEM), with 64% reporting that it’s effective. (source)
  12. The #1 content marketing goal for B2C businesses in 2016 is sales (83%), followed by customer retention and loyalty (81%) and engagement (81%). (source)
  13. 30% of B2C marketers say sales is their most important content marketing metric. (source)
  14. 50% of B2C companies say they plan to increase their content marketing budget in 2016. (source)
  15. Self-employed individuals are more likely to use blogging than large businesses (those with 1,000+ employees). (source)
  16. B2B businesses are more likely to use blogging than B2C businesses. (source)
  17. 45% of marketers say blogging is their #1 most important content strategy. (source)
  18. 69% of marketers say they plan to increase their use of blogging this year. (source)
  19. The average word count of top-ranking content (in Google) is between 1,140-1,285 words. (source)
  20. Marketers who prioritize blogging are 13x more likely to achieve a positive ROI on their efforts. (source)
  21. Just over half (51%) of business owners report that content management is “very important” or “absolutely critical” to creating a cohesive customer journey. (source)
  22. 71% of marketers report using visual assets as part of their content marketing strategy. (source)



DEC 10, 2015 Jayson DeMers for Forbes



Selling Via Vendors: Big for B2B ’16

HuffPost effectively describes the new B2B marketplace approach, plus provides tips about mobile & marketing automation:

B2B E-Commerce Trends for 2016

Developing a strategy to drive your business to success is always a challenge, but keeping up with industry trends is another obstacle in itself. The digital marketplace is constantly shifting which is making it that much harder for eCommerce retailers to devise a strategy that will be effective for the long haul. How do you really know which trends to follow and which to toss aside with yesterday’s news? Let’s take a look at a few B2B trends on the horizon for 2016:

Mobile Sky Rockets: Recent statistics show that 80% of internet users own a smartphone which automatically puts mobile on the track to success. While desktop purchases still take the lead, mobile is making serious headway. This trend has consistently popped up on lists of “Trends to watch” for several years but 2016 is starting to look like a game changer. Over the course of 1 year, mobile increased their share of eCommerce site traffic in the US by 5 % surpassing desktop. According toeMarketer, “while conversion rates on mobile also trailed those on desktop, they had gained ground. Between May 2014 and May 2015, the average ecommerce conversion rate on tablets rose 7.7%, from 2.34% to 2.52%. Smartphones trailed tablets, with a conversion rate of 1.18%, but this was up a whopping 32.6% year over year, from 0.89%. Desktops saw their average conversion rate drop 3.5%, from 3.47% to 3.35%.”

As mobile is playing a significant role in B2B eCommerce sales, keep in mind that it’s simply not enough to just offer a mobile version of your site. Your user experience and design should be at the top of your list of things to consider for your mobile site. Remember, visual appeal and simple navigation are crucial to a smooth customer experience.

Up the Quality of Content: Regardless of what you’re buying, the better the product description is the more likely you are to feel confident with your purchase. In the case of B2B eCommerce sales, B2B buyers want as much detail as possible from both a written and visual perspective. All retailers should provide merchandising guidelines, high resolution images, product specifications and create rich media. Providing in depth detail and nice imagery will help establish trust and will further convince the buyer they are making the right choice.

Marking Automation: As an eCommerce retailer, email marketing won’t quite cut it to boost your sales. The scope of marketing extends way beyond the traditional newsletter. Online retailers are now using customized landing pages, banners, discounts and promotions to relate to their customers wants and needs.

To a whole sale buyer, this is just as important. Using specific tailored messages to target your buyers are essential, as mentioned above the more descriptive your content is the greater your chances are of retaining a new customer. If you are able to create content that is informative yet brief, this will go a long way to making sure your rich media is effective. Identify key points that are important to share with your target audience.

Another aspect that adds value to a wholesaler or any B2B is the option to provide a vendor log module and functionality top calculate bulk-pricing discounts. Wholesalers especially appreciate this feature because it helps them in maximizing their business.

Direct and Marketplace: B2B eCommerce has been divided into two defined models, Marketplace and Direct. The Marketplace model involves selling products parallel to vendors such as Amazon Business, Tradescraper and Kinnek. This new crop of B2B e-marketplaces displays promise for growth and new market opportunity which in turn attracts business from wholesalers, distributors and manufacturers.

As for the other model, direct, is when a company has its own B2B webstore where their customers have access to create an account and make direct purchases. Out of the two models, it appears that the marketplace model is a fast growing trend that is bringing fierce competition to the table. The new B2B marketplace approach is helping both the seller and buyer enter the eCommerce space. Many B2B companies are still in the early stages of becoming acquainted with this system, but within the next year similar marketplaces like Amazon are on the rise to adding to this competitive market. Keep your eyes peeled on this trend!


See the original article by the CEO/Co-Founder of Dotcomweavers here, originally published 11-20-15

Amit Bhaiya






Thanksgiving Mindset in October

Paid ad spending for Black Friday is already red-hot

Promotions for Black Friday deals started two months before the day after Thanksgiving, AdGooroo finds.

If shoppers aren’t yet making lists of deals they can find the day after Thanksgiving, they’re not paying attention. And if retailers haven’t started their Black Friday advertising, they’re already behind.

Retailers started spending heavily on keywords that contained “Black Friday” during the week of Sept. 27, two months before Black Friday, Nov. 27, according to a report from paid search firm AdGooroo. Amazon.com, Target.com, Groupon.com and Walmart.com were among 277 advertisers who, starting Sept. 27, sponsored 161 keywords containing “Black Friday,” including terms such as “Black Friday Deals,” “Black Friday laptop deals” and “Black Friday online sales,” says AdGooroo, which studied U.S. Google Desktop Text Ad activity on the keywords.

From Sept. 27-Oct. 3, advertisers spent $52,417 on the Black Friday keyword group, 324% more than advertisers spent on the same keywords in the previous two months combined. That’s “a strong indicator that Black Friday advertising began last week on the search engines,” AdGooroo stated. Last year, the spending surge on Black Friday keywords didn’t occur until the week of Oct. 26, the report states.

Amazon.com Inc., No. 1 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Top 500 Guide, led this year’s field on Black Friday keywords, garnering 10% of the ad views during the first week of the surge, according to the report. Target (No. 16) had a 7% ad impression share and Walmart (No. 3) had a 2.2% share. “The fact that large retailers are leading this effort is further evidence that Black Friday advertising has officially begun on the search engines, since these brands are consistently among the largest advertisers over the holiday season,” the report stated.

In the fourth quarter of 2014, advertisers spent $4.6 billion on U.S. Google desktop text ads, according to AdGooroo.


BY TRACY MAPLE Managing Editor, Digital Content

Original Internet Retailer Article


Most Expensive Paid Search Terms

AdGooroo conducted a study in the first half of 2015 concluding “mesothelioma” (TX) is the most expensive single category to buy a keyword in.  Attorneys who are willing to pay over $270 per click for these targeted searches because of the potential financial rewards if a plaintiff they represent wins a lawsuit.  However, other categories, such as credit reports and insurance receive more search traffic and higher overall ad spending.

Below are summaries of each.  Full report at MarketingProfs.com.


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Mobile is a Magic Word

NYTimes has an excellent assessment of the value of mobile in light of the AOL acquision by Verizon.  Users are on mobile devices, in apps.  We haven’t yet figured out how to monetize this perfectly (though see the Tango article NYT 5/13/15), but recognizing the need for media companies to acquire mobile expertise and vice versa is essential.  There are infinite opportunities for uber-customized, uber-targeted advertising, we just need to do it.

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The Best Ecommerce Idea This Year

We need more of this.

A Gift Shop That Sells Snapchats, Avatars, and Voicemails

I JUST PAID $10 for a voicemail.

To be fair, I’ve been promised it’s going to be a greatvoicemail, delivered by conceptual artist Martine Syms as she impersonates a member of the imaginary band XXXXX. The whole thing is just weird enough to make me take out my credit card and click “Add To Cart.”

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No surprises but validation from Constant Contact.

New Data Reveals What Makes Customers “Click” On Email Campaigns

Recent research from Constant Contact Inc. revealed what makes customers click-through emails, further connecting with the small businesses that are reaching out to them. Specifically, this data identified the ideal number of images and lines of texts small businesses should include in email marketing campaigns to optimize click-through rates.

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