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Dark data keeps companies guessing

The new State of Dark Data Report reveals that, well, we don’t know very much about dark data. That’s why it’s named as such. While it is recognized that heaps of information are now being amassed by companies, the problem is that since it is collected in different ways, used for different purposes, and ends up in different places, it remains uncorrelated and unanalyzed. The survey of views from executives from the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, China, Japan, and Australia explains why, as is, dark data remains only theoretically useful.

 

The report estimates that dark data represents over 55% of the totality of all information. The figure uses various metrics to attempt to account for the array of systems, protocols, people and IT devices used to collect data. Three-quarters of the executives asked agree that the institutions that collect and make use of the greatest amount of data will have heightened advantages that cannot be compensated for by way of other advantages. Data is king.

 

We’re trying; really, we are

 

More than half of the companies claiming to be “data-driven” in one way or another admitted that this phrase is more aspirational than a statement of actuality. On a related note, even in the early stages before artificial intelligence have really been established, 4 out of 5 industry professionals have expressed confidence that humans will remain central to AI applications. However, over 90% of respondents from companies said they are willing to develop and apply a new understanding of data. Only just over half are enthusiastic about having to do so. The only country where significant enthusiasm was generated on the topic, and which was seen as most advanced in understanding dark data’s potential, was China.

 

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The rise of brand storytelling

Stories are more easily remembered than statistics and facts alone. Stories stimulate our neural activity. Stories also impact the brain’s sensory cortex. Such are just a few facts related to how stories do a better job than facts alone (but, of course, still very much need them). The union of facts and heart-stirring narratives is called brand storytelling, a phenomenon rapidly gaining currency among digital marketers, aka digital storytellers and content marketers.

 

The future of marketing

 

Brand storytelling capitalizes on and represents the nearly inevitable outcome of several trends, including buyers trusting information coming from fellow customers than from companies, the tendency to edit out advertisements from daily news feeds and streaming sites, the quest for authenticity in brands, decreasing brand loyalty, and the nature of the trend-setting, digital-native Gen Z.

 

Sponsoring values, not products

 

Advertisers are rebranding themselves as value-focused, which has always been be a tough sell. Creating interest in goods and services without blatantly looking like you’re selling them may not be a new challenge, but is an increasingly relevant one to meet in a world awash with information and multiple channels for exposure. Influencers are found attractive by their followers for their character and integrity, not their over loyalty to particular brands, let alone for being mouthpieces for sales and specials of the day.

 

There’s no publicity like free publicity

 

If the best stories write themselves, the most unscripted of plot twists can have the happiest of endings in terms of PR value. Which is to say, the best things in life are free. When a very obviously 21st-century coffee cup looking like it was from Starbucks worked itself into a bar scene from the premium streaming series “Game of Thrones” the gargantuan error generated for Starbucks what one industry expert valued to be no less than US$2.3 billion in free advertising. Some stories are too good to be true, and the great ones are too serendipitous to have been made up.

 

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And the innovators are…

Boston Consulting Group recently released its report “The Most Innovative Companies 2019: The Rise of AI, Platforms, and Ecosystems”. The companies at the top shifted slightly, and, ironically, are also those sometimes known for losing their knack for creative intentions.

 

Innovation means IT

 

The #1 position has been taken by Google, having replaced Apple at the top. The former #1 and new #3 has been in the news lately not so much for innovation and carrying on in the outside-the-box spirit of its late founder, Steve Jobs, but for a future focusing on streaming original series for fans of the brand. Apple has also been on the defensive in terms of sales of smartphones and other gadgets, with competition stiffening with the up-and-coming Huawei. The top 10 positions on the list of innovative companies were dominated by tech firms, which gives a good indication of how IT provides need to be on the ball and changing all the time, lest market shares and the advantages of leadership slip away. Just ask Nokia.

 

A Google will rise

 

Even the new #1, the world’s most famous search engine, will not impress everyone with taking over the top slot, as this can be seen as the inevitable position of a behemoth controller and provider of information that insists on getting its way. The king of SEO will be seen as innovative by size and influence alone, no matter what effects this may have on daily life, for good or otherwise. Amazon, an online good provider making bold plans for a whole new bricks-and-mortar shopping experience, placed second. Notable at #4 is bundling giant Microsoft, also no stranger of bullying competitors and customers with offers they can’t refuse.

 

Another fly higher

 

Meanwhile in other barometers of success, another firm worth mentioning is Singapore Airlines, which has long been the world’s most awarded airline. The carrier credits its successful campaigns and popularity with travelers by taking the approach that localization is hardly synonymous with translation, and that nuanced, contextual understanding of and respect for local audiences is essential in forging the right connections. The company’s latest tagline, ‘Making Every Journey Personal’ says it all about what happens when you live up to your own PR.

 

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Digital marketers, are you listening?

Podcasts have become widely popular in a short amount of time in the US. About 75% of trendsetting Generation Z – people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s – pay for a streaming or music service, compared to six out 10 among the not all that older Millennials (a third of whom say they listen to at least one podcast daily). Commuters and workers are coming more and more to value multitasking and making efficient use of time. This is indeed the Information Age, as a new study among on the popularity of podcasts in the US indicates.

 

Giving reason to radically rethink ideas related to digital distraction and shorter attention spans, Millennials are focused more than other age group on education podcasts, and along with Gen Zers are 5 percent more likely to play podcasts for motivation related to professional development than Gen Xers and Baby Boomers. The two younger generations were also more likely to listen to podcasts of 26 minutes, compared to older generations. Significant majorities in all generations believed that podcasts helped them in terms of intellectual growth. Older generations still saw them more as gadgets associated with downtime rather than the platforms for learning they have also become thought of among younger Americans.

 

Spreading the word

 

Most podcast fans want to share, but desire easier technology allowing for sharing snippets of sound rather than links requiring some fine tuning to get to the best sections. Spotify, Apple Podcasts and web browsers were cited as the most popular platforms for podcasts. Nearly a full tenth of the entire adult US population listen to at least one podcast a month, a trend that has shown significant increase. Good listeners are indeed out there, for anyone sharing the right messages…

 

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Sports influencers making lots of smooth moves

After a slow start compared to other marketing fields, sports marketing has taken off, and shows no signs of slowing down. Industry experts cite a variety of factors for the trend, but particularly the relatively sudden appearance of Gen Z’s financial prowess. This digital native, most socially conscious demographic is expected by next year to be spending anywhere from US$30 billion to over US$100 billion annually. Just as e-commerce platforms and big data are coming of age, not surprisingly, so are the youngsters best positioned to take advantage of new ways of spending income, including sports-related purchases.

 

An e-marketing bonanza awaiting

 

The new earners and spenders of Generation Z are seen as being more pragmatic, supportive of social initiatives, and robustly responsive to campaigns of all kinds that directly appeal to them and appear genuine in intent. At the same time, around two-thirds of marketers of sports events, teams and equipment and see more influencer programs as being vital for their field in the mid- and long-term future. The up-and-coming generation in particular can long expect to be targeted with sports-related campaigns.

 

Great ROI for sports marketing

 

The ROI of recent sports marketing programs indicates that they are very effective in generating profits. Sports marketers in recent studies said this is facilitated by having open relationships with influencers and working collaboratively to ensure that the authentic reach of their influence was optimized in line with client companies’ needs and matching them in turn as closely as possible to the expectations of buyers.

 

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Marketing, automated

When you’re curious about what chance there is of rain, snow or something even more dramatic falling down on you, it’s good to know weather reports are reasonably reliable. While the forecasts for marketing trends may not yet be as accurate, they are getting better at indicating stormy conditions best avoided. Still in its infancy, this technology is called predictive analytics, and uses AI to help marketers forge ahead more confidently with strategy based largely on future customer behavior, in ways that would have looked risky just a few years ago.

 

PR, scientifically

 

The science takes a variety of statistics and facts about current trends to build models that are getting better at giving a good indication of how consumers will spend their money, based on analysis of past behavioral patterns. The big idea is that this will help save a ton of money on splash-out marketing campaigns and help PR agencies and their clients improve ROI numbers. Six out of 10 entrepreneurs questioned in a recent study said that think predictive analytics is an extremely significant trend, while nearly three-fourths of them said it would more definitely be so within two years.

 

Why predictions matter

 

Beyond lucrative applications for predicting the wants and needs of buyers of all kinds of products and services, the technology will be useful for prioritizing and qualifying leads, focusing publicity and campaigns on more targeted audiences, and more efficient introduction and testing of new items in the market. Predictive analytics is one more indicator of how big data is changing and enriching the information landscape in countless ways.

 

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The rise of video SEO

Image may not be everything, but videos are often more fun to take a moment to be distracted by than text. Marketing experts know that using video helps websites rank more highly in terms of SEO. The authority of the website matters as well, in addition to various factors that will increase the professionalism of your videos. High quality video videos have been easily shot on smartphones for years now, and companies are slowly getting better about capturing images in short films that help project the image they want.

 

How to optimize

 

Having a website that’s already impressive helps. So does a good choice and use of platforms your videos are seen and available on beyond your website. Social media accounts like YouTube, Vimeo and Facebook are of course useful for generating awareness. Screenshots can be extracted from footage and used to help generate interest with a choice caption. If you don’t have a transcript yet, make one – this will make it easier for those who still prefer reading or use it part of the time. And do you offer a choice of languages?

 

Thumbnails matter

 

The video will get better play when it is the focus of the page and not lingering in corners. This makes for easier navigation as well. Another tech spec to be aware of is page-loading time. Since videos aren’t digested all in one go, and don’t lend themselves as effectively to scanning and scrolling through like website and texts, having an enticing and clear thumbnail image with an appropriate title is a must. If your video is about dining in a particular restaurant, don’t use a thumbnail featuring someone driving to the restaurant or something else indirectly related. But being human matters too. One marketing site found that thumbnails with a person were clicked on 30% more. Many tend to judge a book by its cover and a video by its thumbnail, so make sure to have an irresistible one.

 

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The shifting but significant nature of SEO and social media

Recent research shows that while almost two-thirds of small businesses have social media accounts, just over half of them have a social media marketing strategy. While that may not be as dangerous as buying and driving a car without getting a driver’s license first, there is plenty of room for more prudence on behalf of firms of any size attempting to make best use of their online potential. Even when you don’t know all of the terrain that lies ahead, roadmaps are useful.

 

Social media marketing coming of age

 

Over 55% of these businesses with a social media presence have an in-house team managing these webpages, while 37% of them use social media software to help maintain their social media accounts. The most popular ways in which these firms are tracking the success of their social media presence is engagement (24%), leads/conversation (24%), clicks to other websites (18%) and audience growth (16%). There remains significant reluctance to jump into new waters without a sense of what lies beneath.

 

Don’t forget SEO, even if it’s mysterious

 

Even more perplexing than attempting to optimize usage of social media is managing your website’s SEO, since, well, we’re not quite sure exactly what it is or how it works, actually. Over 60% of small companies place greater importance on social media marketing than SEO planning. Just over a third of small businesses have an SEO strategy, although about a quarter of them plan to have one by the end of 2019. This lack of planning is perhaps understandable when considering the shifting, unreliable nature of what SEO is, and how search engines like Google define it. But it pays to pay attention and be ready for what comes next, when some kind of calm and standardization comes about after the stormy conditions defining the online world of today.

 

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Who’s your CSR czar?

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) has been with us for around a quarter century now, but is rooted in philanthropic concepts as old as time, which go to the heart of what society could or should be based on. The tendency to want to be seen as doing good and being fair-minded has long been a concern to leaders of businesses, nations and other institutions. Not least of which since it helps justify their continuing to retain power and influence, for – at least in their minds – the greater good.

 

The authority to help out

 

While CSR is still seen as secondary to the overriding purposes of many firms, it easily aligns with their overarching mission statements, which describe companies’ ideal societal impacts, beyond profits. At a minimum, companies facilitate the betterment of the lives of employees and their dependents. Meanwhile, governments tend to see themselves as providers or at least enablers of the SR part of CSR. But as big data comes about, transparency increases and bottom lines and product origins become more traceable, CSR in a wider sense of ethics increasingly affects not just local environments, but carbon footprints felt globally.

 

The Gen Z factor

 

People with little to know knowledge of the last millennium or life before smartphones are now coming of age, shopping online, and expressing tendencies to spend their money on companies they see as taking stands on issues and sourcing products and services in ethical, sustainable and documentable ways. Several multinationals like Netflix, Google and IBM have reached out to young consumers who have expressed interest in supporting companies aligned with their progressive, modern values. Many brands are shifting to move away from certain segments of the public and more overtly marketing and positioning themselves to take better advantage of new demographic realties.

 

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Gen Z’s sustainable, supercharged shopping spree

The young people of the world know what they want and know where they can get it. This trend will only increase, as the newest generation grows up. Online marketers not tuned into the call of Generation Z’s growing legions of focused, often female online shoppers, entertainment seekers and social media users risk losing out to, well, the future, actually…

 

Currying favor, spinning stories

 

The boldness and brevity of Gen Z was sportily displayed by one spritely girl who upon discovering that Stephen Curry’s latest line of trainers were available only for boys, personally appealed to the NBA superstar in a Tweet sweetly succinct, imploring him to take action. The forthrightness and connection the young storyteller forged proved irresistible and the Golden State Warriors player Tweeted back saying he had arranged for his young fan to attend an upcoming home game. She did, and was presented a pair of custom-made Curry 5s, along with a promise that she’d be among the first to try out the new Curry 6s when they debut.

 

Beyond brand awareness

 

In addition to not being shy about putting CEO-types in their place, girls are giving big brands a challenging time by being more willing to buy off-brand and generic products, patronizing companies like Kirkland and Amazon Essentials. Brands are in better shape on another score though, as long as they’ve got logistics covered: almost half of Gen Z girls said that their top motivational factor for buying clothes online was fast and free delivery.

 

Get ready, providers of products and services and the PR firms supporting them: Gen Z is entering the workforce and will be shopping online more and more in years to come.

 

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