Posted by: garyskidmore | October 19, 2014

First & 10: What Today’s Football Experience Teaches Marketers

From ATX - Football USA

Graphic Source:

Fall in Texas means football – high school, college, NFL.   In fact there are many indicators that Texas is the heart of football:

  • Friday night lights – every Friday there are more than 600 high school football games. More than 1 million people will attend a game each week.
  • The University of Texas has the most valuable college football program with $166 million in annual revenue.
  • And then there’s America’s team, the Dallas Cowboys, which according to Forbes is the most valuable NFL team, worth $3.2 billion.

That also means Texas is the heart of all the controversy surrounding football these days: the need to strengthen protection of athletes from head injuries, explore and deter the incidence of domestic violence among certain players, and, at the college level specifically, why all the conference realignment and the ability of individual football players to organize and get paid (beyond a scholarship and a college education).

While these issues deserve healthy debate and scrutiny – in the interest of protecting the growth of the game – there is also overwhelming passion for the sport.

All over the U.S., fans consume, interact and share content about their favorite teams. The sport (the brand) is healthy and growing. Marketers and other brands might take note on what football teaches us about how to build a brand.

Brand Community and Engagement – Between tailgating and fantasy football, and watch sites in bars, football provides numerous channels for its fan base to come together and engage. The energy and effort families and friends share in loyally following their team, and the sport overall, may be unmatched among other brands, but that doesn’t mean brands can’t aspire to offer their own opportunities for community building and engagement.

3 Questions:

  1. Do you know who your brand’s loyalists are?
  2. Have you identified them – and do you find ways to connect with them directly and to let them connect easily with each other?
  3. Are you in all the channels where customers choose to interact – and how do you use these channels effectively to build engagement and loyalty?

Content on Demand – There is a reason why the NFL, college conferences and college teams are increasing their programming, on both television and online: public consumption for football information, entertainment and analysis is increasing, substantially. The University of Texas has its own Longhorn Network, as do all the power conferences (SEC, Big XII, Big Ten, Atlantic Coast, and PAC-12), and the NFL Network has expanded its Thursday coverage – giving 3 nights of the week in the fall entirely over to games, while filling seven days, 24 hours a day, and on-demand in video and online coverage and analysis from every point of view – the coaches, the players, the sport press and the fans.

3 Questions:

  1. Is there a narrative for your brand?
  2. Are you creating compelling content that enables your customers to stay interested and connected?
  3. Are you enabling that content to be available to customers when they want on their terms?

The Customer Experience – Why do stadiums cost so much, and getting bigger and better all the time? In short, because the experience matters: when tens of thousands assemble, it’s not just the gamesmanship on the field, it’s the entirety of the game experience – from transportation and parking, to tailgating and fan exchange, to in-stadium comfort and safety, to the ability to interact with the game on smartphones and apps (whether in the stadium or otherwise). While the economics of football are seemingly steep, the realized returns are phenomenal. No city wants to lose a franchise.

3 Questions:

  1. How is your brand investing in your customer’s experience – from path to purchase, to fulfillment and service, to loyalty and evangelism?
  2. Is there research to determine what customers enjoy most (and least) about your brand – and how this enjoyment can be enhanced (and dissatisfaction erased)?
  3. Is there an investment strategy to build on this vision – and calculate return?

Perhaps the National Football League has fumbled handling of some of the issues it faces, and the NCAA policies and enforcement actions leave some of us scratching our heads, but the public’s interest – the fans’ interest – results directly in people talking, opinion sharing and – eventually – serving the best interest of the sports’ players, their families and the fan base.

Your brand may not have as much command of the public’s imagination as the game of football – but consider the football case. Football has successfully impassioned generations of fans, and its ability to serve that fan base keeps the sport growing in the American entertainment marketplace. Football has its challenges – and there are plenty of other sports that are plainly in crisis (no democracy wants to host the 2022 Winter Olympic Games, for example) that may be a sort of warning – but by being deeply engaged with its fan base, football delivers – and it’s only getting better.


Chief Marketer, “Why Brands Should Pay Attention to College Football”

USA Today, “NCAA Finances”

Forbes, “NFL Team Valuations”

Houston Chronicle, “When It Comes to High School Football, Texas has no Rival”

Forbes, “2014’s Most Loyal Football Fans & How Ray Rice Abused League Loyalty”

Fox News, “Where the Real Game Is Played: NFL Cities That Do Tailgating Best”

Time, “Why Nobody Wants to Host the 2022 Winter Olympics”


“Football is a team game. So is life.”

- Joe Namath

Posted by: garyskidmore | September 15, 2014

My Mobile, Multiscreen Life – with More Living to Come

From ATX -- My Multiscreen Life

Like you, I’m very busy managing my life (personal and business) with my three screens: iPhone, iPad and Macbook Air. My use of each screen reflects the strengths – and weaknesses – of each, and I’m still largely tethered to any one screen for any given task. In other words, no one device is likely to replace completely another – at least not in the immediate future.

For example, using my iPhone or iPad throughout the day, I may spot stories, news or ideas I want to link to and share using LinkedIn and Twitter (@gskid on Twitter — follow me). I’ll also check Facebook numerous times daily to keep up with family and friends.  I rarely use my notebook for these tasks.

I also daily use several apps on my mobile and tablet, — Google Maps, Safari, iTunes, Pandora and the online editions of The Wall Street Journal and Austin American-Statesman. I also listen to the iPad app of Bloomberg every morning. And everyday on my drive to the office I use the Apple podcast app to listen podcasts from TED, KCRW, Dan Pink, Freakonomics and Andy Stanley.

Then there are those mobile apps that I use for a specific purpose:

  •  Fandango (to check on movie times and buy tickets)
  • Airline and Hotel apps to make reservations and confirm details (Southwest has the best)
  • Weather Bug (to see if it will once again be above 100º in Austin)
  • Pay for my bold coffee with the Starbucks app
  • Check scores, listen and occasionally watch via ESPN’s apps
  • Amex and Wells Fargo apps to make payments and deposits (just snapshot the check via the app and it’s deposited!)
  • Walgreens app to send photos to my 86-year-old mom (the photos print at a Lubbock store and she picks up since she doesn’t do Facebook or iPhone)

According to Nielsen, U.S. Android and iPhone users age 18 and over spend 65 percent more time each month using apps than they did just two years ago. In Q4 2013, they spent 30 hours, 15 minutes using apps, a full half-day more than in Q4 2011. The average number of apps used per month increased to 26.5.

My own behavior may help explain why mobile ad spend is overtaking radio and print — is TV next?

There are still many things that are done best on my MacBook.

  • I’m editing this blog with Word.
  • I build and review complex spreadsheets
  • And accessing attachments (perhaps I need to store everything on the cloud)
  • Especially buying stuff online (even though I do most of my searches on my phone)

Unfortunately, when it comes to ecommerce, a reliable, easy-to-use mobile wallet is still elusive for me. (I’m hoping Apple Pay is the answer.) This remains the big opportunity.  According to Nielsen and xAd/Telemetrics, more than 50 percent of buying searches are on a mobile, but only 33 percent of online shopping is on a mobile device, while 77 percent of smartphone shopping lead to in-store purchases.

The reason I like my financial apps is that I can complete a transaction…pay a bill, deposit, transfer, but unless I use a retailer’s specific app (Amazon, for example) I have to complete the 30 or so steps to complete a purchase and that’s just too hard with my phone typing. We need a universal way (thumb print checkout, perhaps) so we can do search-and-complete transactions.

At the end of the day, I turn to one of my leading indicators: watching what millennials do. I still see them using laptops, tablets and smartphones. Certainly, as we’re multi-screen, jumping from one to another, we’re not using each screen equally for the same purposes. I wonder if we ever will. The PC is not dead.

Tell me about your multi-screen habits and your mobile use (how many apps do you regularly use?) that you’d like to offer a comment on – post it below!

Helpful Links:

MarketingCharts and CMO Council: How is the Media Mix Changing? |

MarketingLand: Mobile Ad Revenue Surpasses Print & Radio |

Nielsen: Smartphones – So Many Apps So Much Time |–so-much-time.html

Wired: How Working on Multiple Screens Can Actually Help You Focus |


At the heart of this multiscreen life is a counterintuitive realization: that a profusion of devices can help focus one’s attention rather than fracture it. A pile of browser tabs on your laptop becomes mentally confusing; tasks get hidden and maybe forgotten. But when screens are physically separate, the problem evaporates.”

– Clive Thompson in Wired (July 7, 2014)

Posted by: garyskidmore | August 14, 2014

How Old Would You Be…?

Gary at 60 with Much to Love

Lots to Love at 60

How old would you be, if you didn’t know how old you are?

I’d be about 47… old enough to have had the experience of my career, but young and energetic enough to be planning a substantial second career. 47, that sounds good.

However, last week I turned 60. I’m now in age limbo.

Some, (millennials) consider me too old to “get it.” (For the record, I do not “feel” old and I DO get it.) Some, (boomers) believe that 60 is the new launching pad age…that time after you’ve had a long, successful career and you’re ready to start something new.

I do know that 60 is much too young to retire…in fact I don’t believe in retirement at all. However, turning 60 has been a time of intense thinking and reflection, including thinking about what I have learned after being in the workforce for 45 years about work life (and some personal life lessons, too).

So from score/groundskeeper for Western Little League to president and COO for a global marketing services company, here are Skidmore’s five things that matter most in business.

1. Everyone needs a true mentor. I will be forever grateful to Bill New. He took me under his wing when he purchased Sweet Publishing and was my advisor and partner in Select Marketing. He gave me advice and listened to me. He told me stuff I needed to hear to be a better business leader and person (if you think I’m intense now, you should have seen me at 26!). Everyone needs a “Bill New” in his or her life.

2. No matter what you do, decide you will be the best. I have said many times, that I fully intended to play second base for the Yankees, but I couldn’t hit and was slow. I sure didn’t intend to be in the direct marketing business, but I was. So, like my dad, Skinny Skidmore, taught me, if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right and being the best.

3. Be intentional about hiring and working with people smarter than you. This was easy for me ;-). Smart people raise the performance of everyone around them, including the supervisor, department head, vice president or CEO. And when you find them, hang onto them. As a leader, having really smart people on your team can make you look BRILLIANT!

4. Have at least 3 bad days in a row before you quit a job. Every job has bad stuff…bad bosses, bad co-workers, some lousy and boring tasks…you can make your own list. And the grass is never as green on the other side as it looks. So when you’re ready to throw in the towel, wait. If it stays bad, really bad, for 3 days in a row (this doesn’t happen very often), then think about doing something different. Staying in the same job for a while has big benefits.

5. Give back. The workplace is populated with people who need a friend, a listening ear, a littler career advice, or just a hug. Don’t make it all about you. When you go to work tomorrow, in addition to doing the best possible job, ask yourself, “how can I make a difference in someone’s life?” Knowing that you’ve done that, feels better (and is better) than a raise or promotion.

And here’s one more thought…maybe the most important learning from my first 45 years of working. Always…always act with integrity and be honest. In other words, do the right thing. You’ll always get a good night’s sleep.


“You have to change your ID, because they made a mistake. You are not 60. You are just a 40 year old with 20 years of experience.” — Unknown

Posted by: garyskidmore | July 29, 2014

How Satisfied Are Your Customers? How Satisfied Are You?

From ATX - Customer Service Issues - July 14

Perhaps the most logical fundamental idea of business is this: if your customers are satisfied with your product and service then they will continue to buy and buy more. Even if you are a product-centric company, your employees are essentially the way satisfaction is created. (And, if you take good care of your employees they are much more likely to take good care of your customers – but that’s another discussion.)

So why do so many companies seem to not get this?

The leading indicator of U.S. consumer satisfaction is ACSI (American Customer Satisfaction Index) and in Q2 of this year the drop in satisfaction was one of the largest in the 20-year history of the index. And the result of that drop was a material weakening of consumer’s willingness to spend.


Last week I experienced extreme dissatisfaction with Time Warner Cable. I work from home a lot, so when Time Warner offered me new ultra fast internet (up to 100 Mbps) I jumped on it. The result has been highly unreliable and generally slower speeds.

( )

I talked to at least 10 tech support reps, each of which had a different approach to solving my problem. (It’s a bad sign when you know by heart both the tech support phone number and the irritating self-service menu tree.) One in home service call led to new cable from the street to the house – the problems continued.

Finally after rebooting the modem every morning and increasingly angry conversations with another four tech support reps on Wednesday morning, I was “allowed” to talk to a supervisor who could not fix the problem, but arranged for another home service call. This time a knowledgeable and honest technician arrived on time and fixed the problem. He told me, “you and everyone else is having big problems with this upgrade.”

Why hadn’t anyone else told me that? And why did I have to threaten to end a 30+ year relationship to get my problem solved?

This does not make sense.

Why don’t more companies do what Ritz-Carlton does? Every one of the 38,000 employees is permitted to spend up to $2,000 to make any single guest satisfied – without having to get approval. That’s front desk staff, house keepers, reservation agents and waiters….EVERYONE.

( ).

What do you think? Why is satisfaction declining and most companies are not responding to empower their employees to solve the problems?

I don’t get it.


Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong.”  – Donald Porter, V.P. British Airways

“Customer service is not a department, it’s everyone’s job.” – Anonymous

“Customer service is just a day in, day out ongoing, never ending, unremitting, persevering, compassionate, type of activity.” – Leon Gorman, CEO L.L.Bean

From ATX - Student Optimism - June 14 - 2

I’ve had a busy spring involved in higher education – and seriously, I can’t recall a time when I’ve encountered a maturity, level of enthusiasm, and skills-matching for launching and thriving in careers in marketing.

This month, I joined the Board of Trustees of Marketing EDGE (formerly the Direct Marketing Educational Foundation), a New York-based nonprofit education organization. Marketing EDGE programs literally touch thousands of students, hundreds of academicians and hundreds of marketing organizations (commercial and nonprofit, agencies, ad tech companies and brands) each year. Its many programs and scholarships serve to build a bridge between a better marketing education in colleges and universities (undergraduate and graduate) and a better learning and early-career experience inside some of the best marketing firms in the business. I love the work it is doing.

This short video (2 and a half minutes) captures the excitement that Marketing EDGE has to offer:

One such program is I-MAX [Interactive Marketing Analytics eXperience] where a group of very mature, knowledgeable, capable and encouraging marketing students get real-life case work and training inside the marketing analytics practice of a sponsoring data-driven marketing company.

Another event I attended this month was Marketing EDGE’s “Rising Stars” event in New York. Six under-40 marketing leaders who are not only creating innovation in the practice of marketing, but also are giving back through mentoring, teaching and encouraging the professional development of all their colleagues – might I say, younger and older. These individuals are making a difference in companies old and new, from startups to Fortune 500s.

In May, I judged the University of Texas MBA New Venture Creation competition, which involved primarily experienced business people who had returned to get their MBA degree. Innovation again, and very much on the cutting edge, among them a consumer packaged goods company that actually has been launched, a professional services company and a financial services company. In all three, technology is enabling whole new ways of creating, engaging and growing customers – creating value each and every step.

Call me Professor, adjunct that is: I also taught Direct Marketing every Monday night this past semester at Abilene Christian University, to 35 about-to-graduate seniors. There were no text books. There was actual, real-time information on the best digital marketing brands (some offline integration, too) that enabled knowledge transfer (and knowledge discovery, I learned a few things as well) through case studies. At the end of the semester, six class teams presented digital marketing ideas – and they pushed the innovation envelope with some ideas I’d love to test.

Here’s my take-aways from six months of involvement with marketing higher ed:

• Today’s university students and youngest professionals (Millennials) are smart and want to learn cutting-edge ideas – not text book stuff. They learn by doing.
• They want, and seek out, jobs that interest them – not those that pay the most.
• They want real-world internship experiences where they do real work – not make photocopies and order lunches.
• They expect to make a difference – and they seek out employers who do the same.
• And they understand the importance of analytics – they have taken lots of math and science to prepare and they know this is a difference maker.

I am bullish on what I’m hearing and seeing in our next generation of marketing professionals. I’m hopeful that more companies are in a position to prepare to hire these individuals because, with the right culture and openness, they will make a difference, and the practice of marketing will improve because of it.

Post your open internships, entry-level and early-experience jobs to:

Helpful Links:

• Marketing EDGE: | Twitter @mktgEDGEorg

• Abilene Christian University | Marketing Degree Program:

• University of Texas MBA Program:


“Learn from yesterday, live for today, hope for tomorrow. The important thing is not to stop questioning.”

― Albert Einstein

From ATX - Student Optimism - June 14 - 1


The pace of change in marketing technology during the past 10 years is astonishing. It used to be (and probably still is, to some extent) that the big challenge in enterprises was getting the sales team and the marketing team to play nice together.

Today, an even bigger challenge is marketing and technology alignment – having a unified plan for managing the huge growth, variety and speed of data to recognize and serve customers at every touch-point in real time. In step with this alignment are having in place data management platforms and analytics capabilities to manage the high volume of prospects. Daunting indeed.

Welcome to the Marketing Cloud: Where the ether of digital technology enables data flows and information analysis for the potential of the smartest marketing we’ve ever known. Except one thing: how do we master it all?

As a president of a global marketing company, I was concerned (and still am) about silos of data – downloaded from a centralized customer or prospect database. Where one part of the enterprise, or another, worked on its various objectives independent of each other – creating mini-data stores that did a wonderful job for a department’s immediate business needs, but created incongruent views of the customer (and prospect) overall. From the customer’s experience, this delivered an inconsistent, disjointed brand experience.

Those nasty data silos “down” in the organization now have a crazier cousin – how do I manage “up” to the Marketing Cloud?

Right now, the bigger your brand, the more technology, data and analytics providers there are jumping all over your customer and prospect interactions, appending information, slicing and dicing, and serving up differentiated content in the persistent pursuit of greater relevance. It’s really a fascinating development – and one that has to happen to serve consumers the way they expect and demand, but yet is there really a central force – a CMO-CIO partnership – driving it all in sync?

Let’s not kid ourselves – no one brand really fully controls “its” marketing cloud, and neither does any single Big Tech or Big Digital company, no matter how many startups and acquisitions they undertake to increase share. Web site analytics, customer data management, tag management, prospect and customer data segmentation and appending, ad networks and servers, social platforms and social sharing, customer reviews, data quality management – a plethora of tech vendors large and small have access to a brand’s customer data, and potentially that of prospects, too.

As software-as-a-service off the cloud booms, it is hard to conceive that all this enterprise data is safe and secure. I’m not talking about security in the sense of criminal networks and foreign government espionage (though these threats are very real, too), but that of “commercial evaporation and precipitation of data” – leakage – as information is de-identified, re-identified, aggregated, analyzed and served up to meet the needs of consumers in each and every channel.

In a brilliant white paper (download link, registration required), Ghostery Enterprises reports that one leading retailer conducted an audit of its data vendors in the Marketing Cloud against its three main competitors and found a 72-percent overlap. Ouch! Yes contracts can spell out firewalls between competitors with a single vendor, but can they truly stop all leakage in cross-category situations with all vendors large and small? Ghostery also identified Web site load times, lack of uniform encryption, and “diluted data” from third-party data sources as additional Cloud threats. Whether or not we like it, we’re taking on all this risk to get the consumer served.

What’s your take on the Marketing Cloud? Is software-as-a-service making marketing easier – or harder? Are you in control of all your vendors (and what they are doing)? Do you have the ways and means in place to manage data flows and data analysis and apply learning throughout the organization? And keep this learning proprietary?

Helpful Links:


“The biggest challenge that you see as a cloud beginner is security, followed by compliance, followed by managing multiple clouds. Now, it’s interesting, because as you move down to cloud focus, you’ll see … the top challenges change for cloud-focused companies.”

– Kim Weins, Vice President for Marketing, RightScale, reported in Fierce Enterprise Communications



My two grown daughters (Kathrine – 31 and Shelby – 28) tell me I’m a conference junkie. And I suppose it’s true. If I had the time (and $!) I’d probably attend at least one conference each month.

So last month was pure joy for me. I attended 3(!) conferences.

Here are some big ideas I learned at these events:

  1. My good friend Charlie Stryker was the keynote speaker at the Adlucent conference. He told us there are 5 billion gigabytes of data made newly available every day. The focus has been on big data, but it should be on smart data. Leading companies find the data that matters to them and then use it, understand and apply it is an intelligent way. This requires new types of SaaS (software-as-a-service, such as GoodData) and bigger, smarter analytic teams or partners.

    [Heads up, the Direct Marketing Club of New York will be hosting a Data Innovators Group Dinner on April 24 in New York City – where they will be honoring Charlie as the Data Innovator of the Year.]

  1. RampUp was all about how to use offline data to improve online marketing results. In fact, LiveRamp, the conference host, offered up the most profound idea from the conference. LiveRamp does one thing…onboard consumer offline data by placing a cookie on its clients’ customers’ records so each customer can be recognized on the web (not using personally identifiable data, but through a de-identified digital identity). Having such data history in hand, in real time, allows marketers to deliver relevant messages when customers visit their sites or partner sites.

    Too often we try to “boil the ocean” when it comes to the offline/online challenge – and as consumers move between screens and channels. But simple yet very powerful methods can yield big results.

  1. South By Southwest® is such a big and comprehensive event (from education trends to sports marketing – almost anything you can imagine) that one take-away is challenging, but my favorite came from a marketing-as-a-service session led by Team Detroit, Hipcricket and Digitaria Interactive.

The availability of customer and prospect data (and consumers’ willingness to share) means that today’s customers expect (require!) relevant messages and offers. The segment-of-one is a reality. Marketplace winners will be leaders in recognizing consumers and dialoguing with them. Companies no longer should send “email blasts” or make the same offer to everyone. Every channel is now addressable.

If you were at one of these events, please post the Big Ideas you learned.

Helpful Links:

Mobile Marketing Watch: “What We Learned about the Future at SXSW 2014”

iMediaConnection: “SXSW hot topics: Email, the Whole Funnel, and Customization”

Digiday: “What Caught Marketers’ Eyes at SXSW”

Digiday: “The 15 Worst People of SXSW” (just a little bit funny)

LiveRamp2014 RampUp Summit Agenda:

Adlucent’s Client Summit Press Release—22-192095511.html

Data Innovators Group Dinner in New York City – Where Charlie Stryker Will be Honored on April 24 (Register If You Can Come)


“SXSW also showcased geo-location and customized ad delivery. ‘Beacons,’ which were used sparingly at the show, will be ‘getting small’ very soon, as small as a grain of sand, in fact. And, while big data was certainly a topic of discussion, hyper personalized customer service was a bit more popular…”

– Michael Essany, Mobile Marketing Watch

Posted by: garyskidmore | March 20, 2014

Privacy & A Skeptical Consumer


Image courtesy of franky242 /

In the never-ending pursuit of the engaged, loyal customer, brands are trying to present themselves to the right audiences, with the right message, at the right time – and they need data to do it, no matter what the communications channel.  This is happening at a time of increasingly skeptical marketplace.

In the privacy arena, at the same time, I’d say we’re a fed-up bunch. In a January address, President Obama seemed to lump National Security Agency surveillance, marketers’ data use, and other modern-day privacy concerns in one big privacy pot… which made me scratch my head.  Isn’t public sector use of personal information – and private sector use of the same… two different issues?

Public sector use of personally identifiable data may or may not improve national security, improve law enforcement and it may impugn civil liberties. As for the private sector? Well in the world of marketing at least, it’s simply to increase value and relevance; to create, serve and retain a customer; and to generate commerce, jobs and tax revenue in the process.

Still, the President may be onto something (that’s really hard for me to admit): Americans may have distrust of Big Government, but they aren’t head-over-heels for big brands either. Even worse for marketers would be for consumers to see business and government in quiet collusion against citizen privacy and civil liberties. The President might be rolling this up altogether, perhaps as a distraction from the NSA debate.  It is clear the Direct Marketing Association seeks to dispel this point of view.

Yet the takeaways for brands and marketers, in my mind, are clear. Trust is essential – earn it, protect it, focus on it:

  1. Be absolutely transparent and give each consumer (and business individual) a choice on personally identifiable data usage, and track each individual’s channel preferences.
  2. Use marketing data for marketing purposes only. Adhere to all marketing-privacy self-regulation regimes.
  3. Keep your privacy policies up to date with advertising technologies being used – and keep these policies short, concise and free from legalese.
  4. Perform due diligence on all third-party data you incorporate in customer and prospect data. Make sure its original source also included disclosures and permissions.
  5. Secure data (PII and otherwise) – perform a security audit, map all data flows, and test all points where data are exchanged (vendors included). Beyond trust, business continuity also depends on this.
  6. Design all data-driven processes and products with consumer privacy in mind.

This is just a starter list – and you may have additional “rules” of engagement you might add to this in comments.  I’d welcome your sharing them.  

Let’s be certain:  U.S. consumers, at least, want relevant messaging from the brands they interact with – but in achieving such relevance, we need to be transparent and empower customers in that pursuit.

Helpful Links:

Will the White House’s big data privacy initiative distract from the NSA debate?

Direct Marketers Object to Obama’s NSA Comparison

We want to be your friend | Brands are finding it hard to adapt to an age of skepticism

Consumer Confidence in Online Privacy Hits 3-Year Low | Most afraid of businesses, not government

2014: Trust is the New Currency

Are Consumers ‘Falling Out of Love’ With Brands?


“But spare a thought for the poor admen. Their industry is going through a particularly difficult time. Not only are they confronting a proliferation of new ‘channels’ through which to pump their messages; they are also having to puzzle out how to craft them in an age of mass scepticism. Consumers are bombarded with brands wherever they look—the average Westerner sees a logo (sometimes the same one repeatedly) perhaps 3,000 times each day—and thus are becoming jaded. They are also increasingly familiar with the tricks of the marketing trade and determined to cut through the clutter to get a bargain. Scepticism and sophistication are especially pronounced among those born since the early 1980s. A study by the Boston Consulting Group found that 46% of American ‘millennials’ use their smartphones to check prices and online comments when they visit a shop.”

 – Economist, Feb. 1, 2014

Posted by: garyskidmore | February 27, 2014

It’s Earnings Season – And the Markets Tell a Story

Image - Stock Market Board

The Markets Define Value

It’s been a while – much too long – since I posted a From ATX blog post. Well, check off one of my New Year’s resolutions (well, maybe a Chinese New Year resolution at this late date), I’m back in the saddle here in Austin.

To kick things off, I’ve listened in on many 2013 fourth-quarter and full-year earnings call from many leading brands – some I admire, some where I hold shares, and all of them in the news and leaders in their respective categories. In each case, I share some observations and key take-aways.

Southwest Airlines (NYSE:LUV) the most consistently, high-performing company in America (and in maybe the world) has done it again. It has just completed 41 consecutive years of profit…including 2001. The key? Its people… mentioned throughout the call as the reason for the company’s achievements.

Apple (NasdaqGS:APPL) – Year after year, the expectations of financial analysts are outrageous in my mind. Apple sets a record for revenue and profit, but it wasn’t good enough, and so its stock price fell. No other company is held to such a high standard for level of performance. In my opinion, Apple delivers.

Netflix (NasdaqGS:NFLX) is my current favorite company. It is changing the TV industry. As of the end 2013, it counted 44 million members worldwide (33 million in the U.S., up 14% over a year ago) watching what they want, when they want it. Netflix is an entertainment company with its own high-quality content (Millie and I are watching season 2 of “House of Cards,” which won an Emmy) and a technology company able to serve high-speed, on-demand video. If it were a network, it would be the fifth largest – trailing only the 4 majors.

Google (NasdaqGS:GOOG) is the most powerful company in the world and it worries me. Look at the metrics: 67% of all web searches in the world are on Google, and Google+ members are up to 540 million. They store every search and e-commerce transaction conducted on its platform – it knows everything about your web behavior. For the most part, the company doesn’t use it and doesn’t allow access to it, but what would happen if it did?

Disney (NYSE:DIS) – The Walt Disney Company has the happiest place on earth and has very happy shareholders. Earnings Per Share grew 32% in Q4. Its parks and resorts worldwide have record attendance, ESPN is still growing, “Frozen” is a smash success on the screen, all while the company is successfully integrating huge acquisitions in Marvel and Lucasfilm. What a great company, and they’ll even teach you how it does it at the Disney Leadership Institute.

Facebook (NasdaqGS:FB) is a really young company that in the past year transformed itself into one of the biggest mobile marketers. More than 50% of its revenue originated on mobile last quarter. In fact, mobile revenue in Q4 was higher than all its revenue in Q4 of the previous year. Facebook now has 1.23 billion members (increasingly older, which equals bigger spending from those members, thus advertisers). (Note: The WhatsApp purchase came after the earnings call.)

Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) had its first earnings call and the challenges are obvious: how can the platform get more revenue (GROWTH!) and make a profit from advertises who want to reach Twitter’s 225 million active/engaged users. And how can it do this without changing the basic Twitter user experience. This will be one of the great business stories of 2014 and for the next few years.

Amazon (NasdaqGS:AMZN) – The everything store set more records in Q4…revenue up 20% to $25.6 billion. How do you describe Amazon today? A retailer, entertainment company (Amazon Instant Video), a tech company (Kindle and Cloud Services)… but maybe more than anything… a big data company! The company knows the purchasing behavior of its 240 million customers so well they may be able to ship you a product you want – even before you order it and you’ll be happy that it did.

Linkedin (NYSE:LNKD) is both fast growing ($447 million revenue in Q4) and profitable ($111 million in Q4). Maybe the most important business-to-business tool today….connecting, getting a job, hiring, information learning. I use it all day, every day. It is a well-managed company and is unmatched in its scope.

I’m a big fan of these companies. They are transforming marketplace dynamics – literally how we work, play and live – even as they evolve themselves. That’s exciting, and for me, very hopeful about the kind of world we’re becoming – and the businesses and business leaders who are getting us there.


“It’s far better to buy a wonderful company at a fair price than a fair company at a wonderful price.”

– Source: Warren Buffet in a Letter to Shareholders, 1989

Posted by: garyskidmore | March 13, 2013

SXSW Interactive 2013

ImageA confession:  although I’ve lived in Austin since 1976, this is the first year I’ve been to SXSW.  I know, I know… how could I have let that happen.

Well, my life has changed a lot in the last 8 months and now I’m in the middle of all things social in my new role at Dachis Group.  So I spent the last 5 days in sessions, meeting really smart people and learning about amazing new products (

Here are my rookie observations.

  1. SX Interactive is much more than a technology conference.  It’s a gathering about tech/business/life.  For example, I attended sessions on the latest tech in social, how to manage and sell to millenials, and how tiny habits can lead to big behavior change.  Every one of the 16 sessions I attended was very good.
  2. That said, the real power of SX is not the sessions, but the unexpected connections with other attendees that will lead to fantastic business and personal opportunities.
  3. The next big product idea (like Twitter and Foursquare at past SX’s) was here.  I don’t know if it’s Yabbly or Koozoo or one of the hundreds of other new products I saw and heard about, but it was here.  As Bruce Sterling said yesterday, “the disrupters will be disrupted.”
  4. The best new ideas are the most simple.  Who would have thought that being able to share 140 character thoughts would change how we communicate?
  5. There weren’t enough of my peers (the “50 and up” generation) at SX.  I’m not saying I’d rather spend time with my peers instead the 30 and under crowd (they are the smartest generation every!).  But I worry that my peers think they have nothing more to learn.  Are you kidding me!?  There’s no way to keep up with all that’s happening in the tech business world.  SX is best way I’ve found to spend a concentrated 5 days learning.   Time well spent.

The broad appeal of the SXSW Interactive may be best shown by Oreo being an event sponsor.  Since tweeting “you can still dunk in the dark” during this year’s Super Bowl blackout, they’re one of the hottest companies in social.  Who’d thunk it.

Put it on you calendar… SXSW Interactive 2014… March 7-11, 2014… Austin.

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