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  • The Proliferation of AI Begs the Question: Are We Still Important?

    The era of artificial intelligence is upon us, and I’m not afraid to admit that I’m afraid as I slap myself in the face, ala Moonstruck, click my heels, ala The Wizard of Oz, and repeat over and over again, “AI will not replace me. AI will not replace me.” Will AI outperform my creativity? Can it understand the nuances of marketing, including how to develop unique brand voices and customer personas or articulate my clients’ unique competitive values? I comfort myself in the knowledge that AI marketing tools have been around for a very long time, even before my career began, and for perspective, I remember what mimeograph paper smells like. For example, “the first spelling checker was created at MIT in 1961 by Les Earnest as part of the first cursive handwriting recognizer and used a list of the 10,000 most common English words, ” according to Stanford University. I doubt any of us lament the introduction of that innovation. In fact, I owe my entire career to it. The Scarlet Letter Was Actually an F In tenth grade, I came home in tears and handed my mother my English paper, which featured a big red F at the top, followed by dozens of little red lines, xs, and comments. The F was based on a two-point deduction for each spelling mistake. I was completely demoralized. My teacher noted that while my ideas were good, I needed to try harder and catch all of those typos in the future. What he didn't know didn’t know was that those weren’t typos. I couldn’t and still can’t visualize words. Now, staring down at the marked-up essay, my mother’s jaw locked, and her eyes narrowed, a true sign of anger. “He can’t pick up oculomotor dysfunction?” she muttered. I could feel the blood rush to my face. I felt like someone had just punched me in my stomach. “What?” I asked. My mother didn’t have time to indulge me. It was 7:30, and as the head of the school’s remedial reading department, she had lesson plans to finalize, and I had to get back to washing the dishes. It was my night. (Ahh... the 1970s, when kids were expected to grow their own self-esteem and do chores at the same time.) “You have an eye condition. Your eyes jump around when you read. It causes spelling problems.” This was all news to me. Apparently, she had diagnosed me in elementary school and hadn't told me or my teachers. “I didn’t want you labeled. That would follow you through school and you probably wouldn’t be on a college track. You’re smart enough, though. I’ll talk to your teacher but, please try harder.” So, I tried harder and white-knuckled my way through high school and college writing assignments. But by the time I began my career in media relations, the magical spell-check software was everywhere. Thank you, faceless spell-checker software engineers. I owe you big time. AI is a Tool, Not a Replacement, Unless, of Course, You Are Also a Tool AI can enhance our capabilities, as demonstrated above. It excels at processing vast amounts of data, identifying patterns, and providing analytical insights that can take ages for humans to compute. And while it can mimic the human voice and writing styles, it always just misses the mark. For example, as a joke for my husband, I asked ChatGPT to write song lyrics about our foster dog, Benji, in the style of #TaylorSwift. I have to admit, it was pretty good, but it was by no stretch of the imagination T Swift-level poetry. Also, last time I checked, ChatGPT still can't take your clients out to dinner. I believe (another thing AI can’t do) successful, long-term business relationships depend on authentic human interaction because.. AI will always be second best to human-to-human exchanges, unless we are talking about lawyers, in which case AI will most certainly be a nicer experience. (I bet you didn’t see that last comment coming, did you? Did it make you smile? Are you offended? Were you surprised? AI-generated content wouldn’t do any of those things. In other words, it’s fair to assume that AI would bomb at the comedy club open-mic night.) Unlike AI, the creative process doesn't immediately make sense and is best nurtured in a judgment-free environment where random, disconnected thoughts are encouraged in brainstorming sessions. This ultimately leads to fresher, original perspectives that cut through the clutter and resonate with your intended audiences. But for those who prefer content soldiers over strategists and creative professionals, AI is tailor-made for you. Beware, though: over-dependence on AI content will make your marketing lifeless and speak to few outside of search engine bots. Far from eliminating the need for marketers and other white-collar workers, the rapid emergence of robust AI tools should be seen not as a threat but as a compelling opportunity to revisit and reaffirm the intrinsic value of people in business. It encourages us to leverage our uniquely human skills — creativity, empathy, and intuition — which are more crucial than ever. Using AI strategically can free up valuable time so you can engage in meaningful interactions, build better relationships, and even take a moment to play a game of fetch… with your lawyer. About the Author: Mary MacLeod Jones Mary MacLeod Jones is a seasoned marketing communications consultant based in Maine. Her expertise centers around strategic marketing planning, and she is keen on integrating cutting-edge tools, including artificial intelligence, to enhance customer engagement. Mary's professional journey is marked by a deep commitment to refining digital marketing strategies to keep pace with evolving technologies; she recently completed the Digital Marketing Strategy program through Yale's School of Executive Management. To learn more about Mary and read the # TaylorSwift-inspired poem about her foster dog Benji and the ChatGPT text that inspired this post, please visit Read the Pre-Edited ChatGPT version of this post. ChatGPT Instructions from Me: Write a blog post about the following themes: You are not the only one afraid of AI. Marketers like me are petrified but, here's the good news; nothing can replace human relationships and the power of trusted partnerships. The introduction of AI gives us all an opportunity to revisit the value of human interaction in business. ChatGPT Embracing AI in Marketing: The Continued Importance of Human Relationships As we edge deeper into the era of artificial intelligence, it’s clear that I am not alone in my apprehension about this transformative technology. Like many of my peers in marketing, I find myself oscillating between excitement for the possibilities and a deep-seated fear of the unknown. However, amidst this sea of change, there’s comforting news that remains steadfast: the irreplaceable value of human relationships and the enduring power of trusted partnerships. The Root of Our Fear The fear that marketers experience stems largely from the unknown capabilities of AI. Will AI outperform human creativity? Can it replicate the nuanced understanding of consumer behavior that seasoned marketers bring to the table? These questions are not unique to our field but permeate various industries worldwide. The rapid advancement and integration of AI technologies into marketing tools have led to an existential pondering about the future role of human marketers. AI as a Tool, Not a Replacement However, it’s crucial to recognize that AI is a tool rather than a replacement. It is designed to enhance our capabilities, not overshadow them. AI excels at processing vast amounts of data, identifying patterns, and providing analytical insights that can take ages for humans to compute. These capabilities can significantly boost our strategic planning and decision-making processes, allowing us to be more efficient and proactive. For instance, AI-powered analytics can help us understand consumer trends and behaviors at a scale and speed unachievable by humans alone. But interpreting these insights with an understanding of cultural nuances, emotional intelligence, and creative flair is where marketers continue to shine. AI lacks the capability to genuinely connect with human emotions and craft messages that resonate on a personal level — a core aspect of successful marketing. The Power of Human Connection This brings us to the undiminished power of human relationships. In the world of marketing, trust and personal connections are the bedrocks upon which long-term partnerships are built. Clients and consumers alike seek authenticity, a trait that machines have yet to master. The personal touch, understanding client needs beyond numbers, empathizing with their concerns, and celebrating shared successes are aspects of business relationships that cannot be automated. Moreover, the strategic discussions, the brainstorming sessions with creative sparks flying, and the deep, sometimes challenging conversations about brand vision and values are deeply human aspects that forge stronger bonds and successful campaigns. These elements highlight the unique value that human interaction brings to the table — something that AI is far from replicating. Revisiting the Value of Human Interaction The advent of AI should be seen not as a threat but as a compelling opportunity to revisit and reaffirm the value of human interaction in business. It encourages us to leverage our uniquely human skills — creativity, empathy, and intuition — which are more crucial than ever. By integrating AI tools, we can free up more time to engage in meaningful interactions and build relationships that are the cornerstone of successful marketing. Conclusion While AI will undoubtedly continue to shape the landscape of marketing in ways we are only beginning to understand, it is essential to remember that the core of marketing remains unchanged. It is about connecting, understanding, and building relationships. As marketers, our challenge is to harness the power of AI to enhance our capabilities without losing sight of the personal touch that defines our profession. In this new digital age, let us not fear AI but instead embrace it as a partner that can help us underscore the importance of human connection in the digital marketplace. rewiteAbout the Author: Mary MacLeod Jones is a marketing communications consultant in Maine. Her focus is on strategic marketing planning and using new tools, including AI, to improve customer conversations. Mary Digital Marketing Strategies and is an Alumnus of the Yale School of Executive Management. ChatGPT About the Author: Mary MacLeod Jones Mary MacLeod Jones is a seasoned marketing communications consultant based in Maine. Her expertise centers around strategic marketing planning, with a keen interest in integrating cutting-edge tools, including artificial intelligence, to enhance customer engagement. Mary's professional journey is marked by a deep commitment to refining digital marketing strategies to keep pace with evolving technologies. She holds an esteemed qualification from the Yale School of Executive Management, which underpins her analytical and strategic approach to marketing challenges. Mary's dedication to her field is evident in her continuous pursuit of knowledge and her innovative application of new technologies to traditional marketing principles.

  • The Power of Partnerships

    Why Togetherness is a Smart Business Strategy Addressing customer needs through partnerships demonstrates organizational responsiveness, agility, and customer focus and engenders customer loyalty and trust.  Partnerships can also lead to consumers having access to otherwise cost-prohibitive technologies, like microwaves to lifesaving technology partnerships that lead to one-third of all COVID-19 vaccine candidates (Louise C. Druedahl, Timo Minssen, W. Nicholson Price 2021) Customers also benefit when partners share, collect, and analyze data, resulting in customized targeting and responsive product development. It also allows for more high-value customer interactions along several micro-moments while maximizing a brand's reach to include its partners’ niche markets. From a digital perspective, partnerships allow for broader access to digital services, including online tools, calculators, databases, and other resources that would otherwise not be available in one place. This can be seen on, a website that serves the homebuilding/ renovation industry with a mission to teach, promote, and advance zero-energy homes. Most of the site's visitors are building and design professionals looking for better ways to build zero-energy homes. The site's Zero Energy Professional Directory, which includes industry partners' membership listings., acts as a zero-energy community aggregator, allowing visitors to research and locate experts who can help all achieve the united goals of reducing carbon emissions and energy consumption nationally. Creating this free service provides a deeper level of value for the visitor. It increases the website's relevancy and engagement while providing greater visibility and sales leads for partner organizations, like the Structural Insulated Panel Association, and their members. For homeowners a recent Porch survey reported that 34% of homeowners have renovated recently to make their homes more eco-friendly. Yet, many generic online contractor referral services struggle to capture this valuable customer segment contractor network without a formalized "green" program. Wouldn't partnering with niche green homes online content providers like Elemental would be wiser? Green, whose visitors include a small but affluent eco-friendly homeowner? Another great way to leverage the power of partnerships is through providing online educational content for contractors and design professionals who need continuing education for licensing requirements. Manufacturers often partner with organizations like The American Institute of Architects to provide approved, generic online courses broadly supporting their product categories. In this way, the brand is extending a free service through partnerships with AIA that increase brand value and visibility among their target customers, who otherwise might have to take time off to attend own-person courses. This form of content marketing is a win-win for all involved. You can see examples of this type of educational marketing with the series of studies Holdfast Construction developed for BASF, the Chemical Company. About the Author: Mary Macleod Jones owns Holdfast Communications, a public relations and content provider for the sustainable construction industry in Buxton, Maine.

  • There's SEO Gold in Those PDFs

    Could decreasing your bounce rate be as simple as adding SEO to your PDFs? In the world of Internet search marketing, marketers will often tell you, “Content is King.” But what kind of content is King? As so many rush to make fresh content, we at HoldFast Communications declare, “Move over, King! Quality is now the reigning Queen of Content.” Have you asked yourself how relevant your content is to those searching for your products and solutions? If you really want to know, ask your webmaster about your “bounce rate.” If you don’t know what a bounce rate is, according to Google, “bounce rate is the percentage of single-page visits or visits in which the person left your site from the entrance (landing) page. A high bounce rate indicates that site entrance pages aren’t relevant to your visitors.” It is generally understood that a bounce rate over 40% isn’t great. But have no fear. Decreasing your bounce rate could be as simple as optimizing your online PDF library. The reason is simple. Most of your most relevant and specialized content is withering away in PDFs containing very specific data about your products, like technical specifications, studies, white papers, brochures, and product ingredients. And believe it or not, these details are often your most important selling tools. We’ll just glimpse how to make your PDFs search engine rock stars. Below we show you where you can ‘talk’ to the search engine robots that index your website and explain what your website is about to searchers. By providing valuable metadata and not just letting a robot come up with terms itself, you proactively tell the searcher about your expertise and content. Open that properties tab, and you will see what we mean. Filling these fields in is a start, but selecting the right words matters too for the most effective online content optimization. So give us a call. We’ll share with you how we identify the best words and phrases and explain our overall strategy for turning your online PDF library into an integral part of your Internet marketing strategy. Call us at (207) 712-5606.

  • For Brand Loyalty Please Press 7

    Customer loyalty is an oxymoron. Once disappointed, the most brands can ask for is maybe a second chance. And that's a big "maybe." Case in point: remember when Apple was accused of mistreating Chinese factory workers by an NPR contributor in January 2012? Within a week, the same people who had camped out all night on sidewalks across America waiting to buy the newest iPhone were eagerly tossing Apple under a collective brand bus. Within seconds of the broadcast, thousands of customers shifted their perception from Apple = Innovator to Apple = Corporate Greed. Maybe this is unfair but, the cold, hard truth is that brand trust can’t be bought & sold. It’s more like a glass slipper precariously held out by your customer. Will it fit? Soon we learned, however, that the story was just that; a fabrication concocted by This American Life monologist and entertainer Mike Daisey. By the time Ira Glass issued his on-air apology in March of that same year, 250,000 consumers had signed an anti-Apple petition, and the podcast had been downloaded more than 88,000 times. Obviously, Apple survived, and so did This American Life. I confess, though, I often recall this anecdote whenever I hear Glass’s chipper, sardonic voice or get a message to update my Apple operating system. I trust both brands slightly less than before this happened, but not enough to stop listening to the podcast or buying Apple products. The fact is that both brands had banked a certain amount of trust credits over the years, earned through many years of quality programming and product proof of performance. But most brands aren't Apple and NPR, are they? The cold, hard truth is that most brands need to earn trust each and every time, like a glass slipper precariously being held out by your customer. Will it fit this time?

  • What the Heck is Integrated Marketing?

    Integrated marketing uses diverse methods and venues to influence buyers throughout their complicated customer journeys by finding them online and serving them targeted messages. It's not rocket science, but it's easy to forget that these elements should build upon one another to continue an ongoing dialogue with your customers from before the evaluation stage straight through the post-purchase phase. This approach is critical in sustainability communications, where simplistic or hazy environmental claims can lead to easy attention-grabbing hits. However, using this approach alone, in my opinion, does not lead to long-term brand value but results in a marketplace flooded with confusing "green" claims and jaded and distrustful consumers. And while we all want to take the shortest path to victory, when it comes to sustainability claims, take serious customers seriously; they will be your most valuable brand influencers once converted. The digital levers (e.g., owned, paid, and earned media) may be the same. Still, the content strategy must be evidence-based, including third-party studies, endorsements, and access to transparent and detailed product information. The challenge here is making it enjoyable. Please look at this FilterPave advertisement as an example of how we implemented this approach for our clients. ​ Read more about our method and approach in our blog and see some examples of our work here.

  • Search Engine Marketing: Understanding the 4 Key Types of Content

    Search engines are built to get people quickly and efficiently to websites where their questions will be answered. Search engine marketing is creating and organizing digital assets to drive relevant traffic to brand content. If you believe everything you hear, it seems that “algorithms” are invisible evildoers setting us all up for a dystopian future. The truth, however, is far less dramatic. Algorithms are simply sets of rules and steps taken to solve a repeatable problem, for example, how to direct a searcher to the correct information, and were invented to protect us from a far more dangerous best: digital marketers. That’s right! There is a natural tension between search engine algorithms and search engine marketers because as soon as the internet began, marketers were obsessed with using content to drive business and sales leads. In contrast, search engines like Google focus on directing searchers to relevant content. This is why the details of Google’s famous search engine algorithms are so secretive and constantly being updated. Ethical marketers know enough about this secret sauce to guide their clients’ digital marketing strategy. This includes the integration of tactics that involve optimizing owned, paid, and earned media content. Not All Content is the Same. There are four main buckets of content you should understand to get going on search engine marketing. These are owned, paid, earned content and meta data. Owned media includes your website, your content on partner sites, and your social network posts. Paid content has your media on all the above digital levers, that is, either paid advertising, paid search engine results, boosted posts on social media, paid placements for video content, and ads that run on popular sites. Earned media is a subset of public relations and involves third-party endorsements, mentions, and credits that promote or verify your brand. Finally, we'll go over a little bit about meta data. Content Type 1: Earned Media Examples of earned digital media include positive online reviews, digital newspaper articles, social posts, resource guides, video segments like the famous “unboxing” YouTube segments, and more. It can easily argue that earned media is the most valuable form of digital content for obvious and not-so-obvious reasons. First, earned digital media will funnel traffic directly to your site from trusted and targeted users. These visitors should be treated as hot leads since they come directly to you from a credible authority who has endorsed your brand. When authoritative websites provide a link to your site, search engines notate that as an indication that your site is also a credible source, which translates into increased rankings and Authority Scores. To make the most of earned media, ensure the links that direct users to your resources are correct. Additionally, post news and links to your earned media on your website newsroom, press release footers on the wire, and social media posts and profiles, with links back to the source adding a “what others are, saying” slider on your site. Hence, visitors automatically recognize your brand as a trusted source. Doing this will help to build an ongoing relationship with the earned media publishers who also appreciate and benefit from backlinks. Type 2: Owned Media My clients often glaze over when I start talking about their website code, and I get it. Of course, I’m not a programmer either, but the simple truth is that if you want to attract new customers in the digital world, you’ll need to understand a few simple facts that impact how search engines direct traffic to your content. Google “organic” search results are the results seen after the Sponsored section at the top of the search results. Most of us know you want to be as close to the top as possible, and getting there depends on your matching, high-quality content. Type 3: Meta Data In my experience, clients state increasing traffic to their site as a top goal and key performance indicator upon which my efforts will be measured. And please excuse the mini-rank. It’s almost always the case that when I ask about getting access to the website or identifying critical missing code, I’m politely escorted back into my lane. Usually, the sites have been built and maintained by a web developer who is paid from a separate budget and is not interested in getting directives from another vendor. In addition, I have found that clients are usually intimated by their web admins because they hold the keys to the kingdom and often have written custom code that only they can adjust. This presents a very challenging situation. Imagine being paid to ensure someone gets to work on time, but you cannot use the car. It’s pretty tough. That said, knowing that this may present a challenge to the success of a campaign, I make sure to include the webmaster in conversations as soon as possible. I explained that my coding expertise is limited. Still, as an SEO marketer, I’d access the website’s backend to post new content and make minor adjustments to the scope to include “meta” data. Adding this metadata to a site is an ongoing process and pretty dull, so usually, the webmaster is more than ok with this arrangement. However, keeping it up to date will improve our Google search engine results, and the entire team will share that success. · #Font styles: tell search engines what’s most important on the page. For example, the phrase above “Search Engine Marketing” is in Heading 1; the Title is in Title, and the rest of this section is in body text style. · #Images: should also add descriptive #Alt text. · #Page Descriptions: Each webpage should add a short description to the code when setting up a site, but many don’t. The good news is that they can be added later. · #Keywords and Phrases: Here’s where things get tricky. Adding keywords to your site in page titles, headings, alt text, and body text is important but at just the right amount. It’s better to find keyword groupings that are related. This will not only help Google understands the content of your site more comprehensively, but it will also be easier for visitors to read your content. In short, don’t write for keywords. Make it genuinely organic. · #Link structure – Search engines need to “crawl” your site structure so. Make it easy to find all the content on your site with links that make sense. · Keywords and keyword targeting – You may have heard that keywords aren’t so important anymore. Alas, this is true and not true. When many marketers started writing for keywords, content integrity suffered. This is referred to as “keyword stuffing .”But, don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, write content that makes sense and use synonyms and descriptive text. Write well. In 2018 Google finally launched an algorithm that would give greater value to well-written content. Consider writing thematically instead of narrowly focusing on specific words. For example, if your brand offers solutions for home insulation, include multilayered content in the form of blogs, technical specifications, and videos optimized with transcripts: these images have alt text descriptions and links to 3rd party resources. Also, use your keyword “insulation” in the page title, page description, header text (H1), and at least once in the opening paragraph body text. Type 4: Paid Content and Search We can also pay search engines like Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc., to serve up our paid promotions when specific searches are conducted. In that case, we bid against others who want to be seen for those keywords or phrases. These search results will appear either at the top of the search page or on the right. This is called pay-per-click advertising. Again, it can be very costly or inexpensive, depending on the keywords and phrases you target. Social media-boosted posts are another form of paid digital media that is also very affordable in most cases, except for LinkedIn advertising which I’ve found to be much more expensive. Paid contentis a popular option as well. I look for opportunities on online forums, represented nonprofits, and industry-leading content sites. Sometimes, these publishers are eager for blog content and will offer that for free as part of a sponsorship package. One common tactic which is being discouraged by search engines is buying backlinks. This practice was commonly accepted but has fallen out of favor for many. Here’s a great article from Search Engine Journal that describes the pros and cons. But, for me, buying links is similar to going on a fad diet -- it might work in the short term but will most likely have the opposite effect in the long run. Getting backlinks is good, though. You are much better off earning it the old-fashioned way. Consider asking to write a blog linking to your site or being listed as a resource. Not only will the former approach have a longer-lasting positive impact, but it will also actually help you build genuine relationships with other like-minded brands and their customers. One paid model that can work is pay-per-click (PPC), for example, Google Ads. With this approach, you will only pay for clicks you will pay only when someone clicks on your ad and lands on your website. You can spend just about any amount of money on pay-per-click advertising. How much it costs to run an ad or promote your search results will depend primarily on the competition for your keywords. High-competition keywords (i.e., keywords that many people are searching for and that many sites are trying to be found for) will be more expensive, and lower-competition terms will likely cost less. When you set up a pay-per-click campaign, you can also choose whether you want your ad or promoted results to be shown to users worldwide or only within a specific geographic area. According to Google, if you are marketing a brick-and-mortar business, this ability to tailor by location helps you not waste ad dollars serving ads to users who don’t live anywhere near your business, according to Google.

  • These Things Must Be Done Delicately: Capturing Customer Value Through Digital Transformation

    If your brand needs to regain market share to capture value among digital natives and other digitally-focused consumers, creating a Facebook and Instagram page, buying some Google Ads, and updating your website homepage may help, but it may not. Half measures on disconnected online platforms usually produce mediocre results that are difficult to measure or justify. Pursuing a digital transformation that integrates your brand through the complex customer purchasing journey, on the other hand, can yield measurable results and lead to a winning sales strategy. First, digital transformation involves a profound company-wide commitment to providing customer value digitally throughout their purchasing decision-making process. This entails researching where and when your customer engages with various digital levers, including search, email newsletter sign-ups, social media, third-party news, information, research tools, and visits. In a culture of instant gratification, many grow impatient with this process. Still, gathering and analyzing data to set benchmarks, tracking competitors, and setting goals are foundational to winning campaigns. But, as the Wicked Witch of the West points out, these things must be done delicately. For example, let's look at car buyers, who may have as many as 900 digital micro-moments and only two showroom visits before purchasing (Gevelber, Lisa. 2017). While we can assume car buying and other larger purchases trigger a greater degree of buyer research, the ability for all consumers to quickly gather information and feedback from influencers throughout their customer journey is unprecedented, with micro-moments occurring before the buyer is even actively researching a purchase. Creating a Digital Baseline for Benchmarking Establishing a benchmark is the first step in setting goals and to do this, you will need tools. Some common tools include Google Analytics and SEMRUSH, a site that offers a competitive analysis and real-time Search Engine Optimization suggestions. Additionally, paid search advertising platforms, including Google Ad Words, META, and LinkedIn, offer free analytics that provide snapshots of your ideal customers and how they may interact with your brand digitally. You will also need to start tracking related searches and keywords and set up relaxant Google Alerts and a social media listening campaign. Enough About Me... What Do You Think of Me? Nearly everyone is expressing themselves in today's social media-obsessed culture, and that's good news for marketers who should be listening. Track keywords, brand and competitor mentions, and conversations in newsfeeds and social media platforms. This personalized intelligence allows marketers to create targeted customer experiences that reflect a listening culture that consumers yearn for. Studies show that being heard is a crucial motivator for positive consumer experiences, as echoed in Conduet's 2022 State of the Consumer Experience Report: A Brand Perspective. Here's a snippet from their research findings: “Know Me” – the growth of conversational CX. • Consumers want conversational CX. Human response via digital channels such as chat, text, and email won out to 65% of consumers, compared to 35% for self-service. • “Relate and resolve” is a growing trend among consumers, as 76% prefer dealing with a human to a bot. • 84% of brands believe AI, analytics, and bots are critical in driving hyper-personalized consumer interactions, yet only 8% say they use such technology exceptionally. • 50% of brands have increased focus on training to deliver heightened levels of personalization An active listening campaign can help a brand personalize interactions, customize the content, and allow brand ambassadors to join conversations to manage negative comments in real time with authenticity, helpfulness, and transparency. Brands will also gain critical insights into their competitors' brand images that can fuel product innovation, customer support, marketing strategy, and more. Social media listening is essential to all customer journey phases, including the initial consideration, functional evaluation, post-purchase, and loyalty loop. During the initial consideration phase of a customer purchasing journey, monitoring can track life events, often precursors to purchasing. For example, if you are a real estate broker, knowing the five life events that often happen before a person decides to buy a house can help them set up a social listening campaign that tracks potential buyers before they are even actively house hunting. And then, of course, we must acknowledge the cookie in the middle of the room, although I will be posting on the subject in January. Until then, let's agree that cookies aren't bad or good but tools that can be used and misused. Tune back next month as we explore the ethics around tracking cookies and possible legal changes we all need to know more about. Until then... enjoy this Cookie Law Info snapshot, and leave a comment below. About the Author: Mary MacLeod owns Holdfast Communications and has more than 20 years of experience in strategic communications and digital and sustainability marketing. Certificate Program: Yale SOM Executive Education Digital Marketing: A Strategic Perspective

  • Shouldn’t Planned Obsolescence be Obsolete?

    In 2007, it seemed all good. Then "it" happened in December of 2007. The Great Recession officially hit "home." With previously easy credit as our rocket fuel, many of us were instantly propelled headlong into an orbit of debt. For me, it was that mortgage. Just a babe in ARMS, my interest rate was scheduled to adjust to 24% in months, threatening to suck me into a fiscal black hole for years. Miraculously in 2009, I was able to refinance with only days to spare. I counted myself as one of the lucky few. A few months later, however, as if by design, my new washer, drier, lawn mower, mini rototiller, three printers, fax machine, and copier all stopped working. Was this some cosmic joke? Was there some secret plan to make sure I would stay in debt? And the environmental burden of those "durable goods" being thrown in a landfill…it all made me sick. And then, one evening, while fumbling through my junk drawer for string, wire, tape, and glue to hold these appliances together, I got angry. That's when I heard a resounding, malevolent voice echo from the past, from the bottom of an abandoned well, whisper, "it's called Planned Obsolescence." "Who's there?" I stammered. "I'm the ghost of Bernard London, the author of Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence. Google it," he commanded. That's when things got creepy. In the book, London outlined a plan to "put the entire country on the road to recovery." "Briefly stated, the essence of my plan for accomplishing these much-to-be-desired-ends is to chart the obsolesce of capital and consumption goods at the time of their production." -- Bernard London, Ending the Depression Through Planned Obsolescence He suggests, for example, that "the Government assign a lease of life to shoes and homes and machines, to all products of manufacture, mining, and agriculture, when they are first created, and they would be sold and used within the term of their existence known by the consumer. Then, after the allotted time had expired, these things would be legally "dead." They would be controlled by the duly appointed governmental agency and destroyed… and the wheels of industry would be kept going and employment regularized and assured for the masses." Come on! An economy where people lease their shoes from the Government and where your refrigerator will be declared legally dead is crazy. That would be like living in a continuously looping Habitrail of debt as we do. Of course, the real-world execution is slightly different, e.g., shoes are bought with revolving credit, and refrigerators designed to die within five years never actually get issued a death certificate, but we are close enough, right? I want a new crazy idea to help us move beyond this disposable culture we currently 'enjoy' to create a joyful and sustainable future where quality, craftsmanship, and durability are measured and valued. Why, for example, can't we have a consumer durability index and own things for life? Ok, maybe that wouldn't work, but some new idea has to emerge at some point that frees us from Mr. London's rat trap. Please share your thoughts here. When I return home from buying a new smartphone, I'll check out your new ideas. I dropped the one I bought last year in the snow this morning, and it both shattered and melted simultaneously. Now, that's smart!

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