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When the Best Infographics Are No Infographic at All?

I’m continually amazed by the number of people who skip text and bypass words and text altogether. I came across an amazing inadvertent and automated example on the National Weather Service Chicago website regarding this Sunday’s weather forecast.








As you can see the graphical representation says Sunday will have freezing rain and it will be 43 degrees. Say what? Then it says on Sunday night it there will be rain and the low will be 33 degrees. Huh? This make no sense. For my metric friends, zero Centigrade equals 32 degrees Fahrenheit so it appears that freezing rain will occur while it is above freezing, a highly unlikely occurrence.

The actual text of the forecast is as follows:

  • Saturday Night   Partly cloudy, with a low around 28. South southeast wind around 10 mph.
  • Sunday  A chance of rain or freezing rain before noon, then rain showers. High near 44. Chance of precipitation is 80%.
  • Sunday Night    A 50 percent chance of rain. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 35.

With complete text information we can now see that the temperature will be below freezing on Saturday night and that there is a possibility of freezing rain Sunday morning.

But remember this simple example the next time you are watching a mind-numbing Powerpoint presentation on some esoteric subject.  Ask yourself, does this make complete sense? Is proper acumen and judgment being applied?

Frequently it is not. But if human judgment is not actively present and questioning the presentation of certain graphics, they can lead to misapplication of resources and priorities.

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Will Hurricane Sandy (1-175-485) Again Demonstrate Need to Enhance Saffir-Simpson Scale?

Hurricane Ike killed 112 (per Wikipedia) in the United States in 2008, most due to the storm surge. At the time I wrote a blog post advocating an enhancement to the Saffir-Simpson Scale to improve the risk assessment and public communication tool. With Hurricane Sandy bearing down on the New Jersey coast, I thought it would be a good time to revisit this old post. As many of you know, I almost studied meteorology in college and have maintained an active, detailed and lifetime fascination with severe weather events and severe weather warning communication processes.

Before I get into recapping the idea, I would like to point out some of the unique features of this life threatening storm:

– The sheer size of Hurricane Sandy has tropical force winds extending 485 miles from the center in the latest advisory. Hurricane Katrina, though massively more intense in terms of hurricane wind speed, had tropical force storm winds only 205 miles from the center per NHC Hurricane Katrina advisory #28.

– The sharp angles of the shape of the New York and New Jersey coast landfall potentially may have unprecedented adverse impacts in regards to the severity of tidal flooding and storm surge.

– The predicted sharp left turn to the west is highly abnormal for a hurricane at this northerly latitude and may impact the water and storm surge projection models in unanticipated ways.

Now let’s review what I wrote in that 2008 Hurricane Ike blog post. In the aftermath, I advocated a change to the Saffir-Simpson scale to more clearly communicate information already communicated in a verbose way. As you may recall, I advocated a change to show Saffir-Simpson Scale number / Miles of Hurricane Force winds from the center / Miles of Tropical Force winds from the center as one aggregated metric at the top of the advisory for public to better understand the impacts. For Hurricane Ike this was 2-120-275. For Hurricane Sandy this is currently 1-175-485. Based on current trends, Hurricane Sandy may well reach category 2 on the Saffir-Simpson scale prior to landfall which would make it 2-175-485.

In the National Hurricane Center Hurricane Sandy advisory 29, the National Weather Service did not even use the Saffir-Simpson scale in the advisory. It is not clear why. Potentially it is their unprecedented, advance planning for migrating the storm away from National Hurricane Center forecast control?

Certainly there are many other complicating factors that affect storm surge such as water depth, slope of coast, etc. but the width of the hurricane force and tropical storm force wind fields are already included in the advisory and changing the aggregation of the data would make it easier for the public to comprehend and media to immediately communicate. As such I repeat my 2008 request to the National Hurricane Center to adapt and change the Saffir-Simpson Scale in the manner above.

There are also many financial services and business operation risk models of the late twentieth century that also need adjustment to prevent disaster. Most of the risks are not currently assessed fully. It is not about big data, it is about high levels of common sense and business acumen guiding management to think differently. These issues affect business and society potentially as much if not more as Hurricane Sandy, but without the benefits of intense media focus of natural disasters.

Hurricane Sandy

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Pat LaPointe of Marketing NPV Marketing Strategy Enagement : BMA 2010

When I first saw the schedule for the 2010 BMA conference, I immediately noticed that Pat LaPointe from Marketing NPV was on the schedule. Was immediately excited about that as I had not seen him speak before but had heard many positive things.

For those of you who don’t know Pat LaPointe, his bio on his website states the following:

Pat LaPointe – Managing Partner

At MarketingNPV, Pat LaPointe directs the development of client solutions for CMOs in the areas of skills, structure, processes, and tools to improve marketing measurement through greater alignment and accountability. His book Marketing by the Dashboard Light: How to Get More Insight, Foresight, and Accountability from Your Marketing Investments is a pioneering work on the topic of marketing dashboard development.

Prior to launching MarketingNPV in 2003, Pat was an equity partner and senior vice president at Frequency Marketing Inc., a consulting and software company known for design and operation of large-scale customer retention and loyalty programs. Pat also directed the operation of a marketing department at Bell Atlantic (now Verizon), creating and implementing customer acquisition and development programs for both B2B and consumer markets. He started his career in advertising in the Y&R network and at Ketchum, where he managed large client portfolios in all aspects of marketing strategy and communications.

Pat is an MBA graduate of Stern School at NYU and holds a B.Comm. from McGill University in Montreal.

Gary Slack introduced Pat as someone who helps CMOs and CFOs in the Fortune 100 better measure their marketing. Pat started his talk by telling a funny and likely inappropriate joke. Happy to retell it privately.

So how do you measure engagement?
Some engagement methods have more traction and have better acceptance.

Traditional Problems In Measuring Engagement:
See a stimulus > Think/Feel Differently (Research) > Buy Something (Pray for correlation)

Behaviorist’s View of Engagement – Referrals lead people towards purchase funnel:
Challenges#1: Engagement is not Linear – these things do not follow an order. Awareness, Consideration, Preference, Purchase, Retention, Repurchase
Challenge #2: Interaction Effects are Very Real – there is a basket mix effect – last touch versus complex reality
Challenge #3: Value isn’t always transactional (Me: more and more I’m not sure this is the case)
Forrester’s 4 I’s Engagement Model: Involvement, Interaction, Intimacy, Influence

Eric Peterson’s engagement calculator provides brand impression, engagement metrics.

New definition – Pre-transaction, then purchase
Pre-transaction screening – the scores are linked to what we think will create value
Pre-transactions can be either positive or negative and scoring models can be created to create useful measurement of marketing activities across multiple channels.

Marketing Effectiveness = change (direction * velocity) t+1 vs expectations (Me: What if the expectations are highly flawed?)

Measuring engagement in 4 simple steps
1) What does your business objectives (hint: awareness is not an objective)
– What are your hypothesis about the behavioral pathways?
– How are you attempting to influence them?
– Ask “So what?”

2) Create a methodical testing process:
– Break the big problems down into smaller component parts
– Use experiments to test your hypothesis

3) Look for leading indicators of eventual purchase behavior
– Use analytics to verify how these audiences drive customer behavior
– Important Protect and Defend the Credibility Chain

4) Develop and refine drivers to leverage drivers

If you follow these actions you can make a credibility chain!

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Marketing Channel Business Strategy Reallocation Management: Where Are You?

The other day Google (GOOG) had it’s earnings call, Google stated that a primary agenda for 2010, in addition to mobile, was display advertising. Yes, you read that right, display advertising.  Display? Yahoo 2.0? After the call one had to think about how non-targeted and potentially wasteful advertising spend could potentially be harmful to corporate profitability as some people might try display that aren’t appropriate for display (and could do far better just creating quality content to be indexed in organic search). The promise of the Internet comes from the potential to change organizational structures to be closer to the customer in the way that Peter Drucker would want to increase customer utility and reduce the cost of marketing and sales. I think we have all underestimated the amount of time these changes will take and clearly question whether our society is picking the right leaders to lead these changes.

Obviously one must consider that without true reform of advertising models away from CPM driven page view models how display in 2010 can do nothing to further the goal of lowering costs of marketing and sales for companies and improving our standard of living. CPM can only maximize revenue of an ad network with some residual benefits to publishers. A few days ago I considered writing something about this, but thought this was part of something larger than just Google and their display initiatives in 2010.

Surely, less than 48 hours later, Jason Calacanis started a discussion about comScore that has the Blogoshpere abuzz. Michael Arrington also chimed in (as did a bunch of other people) in his post, Jason Calacanis Punches Comscore In The Face. Comscore Punches Back. Fred Wilson Drags Us Into It. $SCOR” rel=”bookmark” href=””>Jason Calacanis Punches Comscore In The Face. Comscore Punches Back. Fred Wilson Drags Us Into It. $SCOR.The buzz around Jason and his conversation is ultimately about symptoms of the current ecosystem, not the root causes of the future end game.  While the conversation about the current state is certainly an interesting conversation to observe, it’s not the conversation I wish to take to the next level. We need to have a different conversation. There is so much more to achieve and limited marketing resources of companies need to be put to work effectively. There are advertising models of the future to consider where offline, mobile and Internet will collide and will someday make this entire conversation look primitive.

Sure enough reading this post brought me back to the conversation about Google and the worthlessness of poorly targeted and untimely display banner ads. You see there was not one but two large banners on TechCrunch that stood out as irrelevantly served by Google. What were they? They were display banners for a company I had interviewed with to be the CMO of in Spring of 2009 that I would have likely have increased the revenue significantly by now.  Unfortunately most CEOs don’t yet fully understand the magnitude of the amount of change  that is necessary to transform a company successfully for marketing on the web while improving customer satisfaction and the corporation’s profitability. I had researched them and their competitors back then. I was never a potential customer of the service. So now, a full nine months later, here I am looking at this completely irrelevant ad on TechCrunch of all places (which is completely unrelated to the vertical). Wasteful. Pathetic. Sad. Not something a rational business leader following the rules of being a Gen X CMO where search marketing becomes the top of the strategic process.  The first decade of the Internet got us to the batters box to start the game of corporate business strategy transformation, I look forward leading that conversation into the first inning during the next few years. The magnitude of the change and the amount of transformation needed is massive, whether it is a small company or a member of the Fortune 500.

You should read those comments in Michael Arrington’s post and think about their motivations – extremely carefully. You’ll also find a link to Jason’s original post there if you wish to read the full details. The future of not only the Internet, but also the future of business organizational structures and marketing strategy budget direction hangs in the balance.

So my question for Jason Calacanis, Fred Wilson, Michael Arrington and EVERYONE ELSE is the following, “Is it time to stop pretending that offline branding models simply converted online is the future of the advertising? If a world migrated budgets from CPM banner ads to CPA/CPL and other emerging forms, who would really care about unique visitors besides site owners seeking an ego boost?

Bonus question for Fred Wilson: Wouldn’t your energy be better spent on funding ideas that move the conversation in the direction of innovation of advertising instead of arguing with Jason about a company you exited long ago? (If you are up for it, I’d like to create those realities with you in start ups in that future arena.)

In the end measurement of the type discussed in Jason’s post only matters in an advertising world based on page view based(CPM) or time sponsored impressions. As in my example above, considerable display advertising occurs in an irrelevant way after the fact. For example, I bought a car last September, I’m still seeing increased banners on the models I considered now – after the purchase. Women planning weddings likely have seen related retargeted banners long after the wedding has occurred, possibly even after the divorce is filed in some cases!!! We must do better.

The convergence of offline, online, search and mobile marketing will require entirely new processes to effectively manage them as it becomes a real-time individual decision marketplace. To me, it will have similarity to the changes I made in the 1990’s at BlackRock, where we created new data, new structures, new standards and created better information for us to create strategic advantages.  I actively network with some outstanding nascent start ups, sadly many are ignored as many VCs look for traffic or who is involved rather than focus on revenue models, vision, market size and evidence that there might be paying customers for such a new , disruptive model.

The economy right now is bad, but to state that it is just an economic event is way oversimplifying it. It’s prolonged and drawn out due to the structural effects of the Internet not being managed to corporate advantage effectively. Stated simply, corporations and our society is not allocating resources in an effective manner as it fails to migrate budgets and marketing strategy to the highest ROI activities which attract relevant customers. It’s time for scarce, new and often misunderstood breeds of executives that understand these concepts to be allowed to realign corporations big and small, new and old to these new realities otherwise we will see more corporations destroyed “by doing nothing”. There is certainly a significant cost to tapping new leaders, with new skills to lead organizations into new frontiers in terms of realignment and retraining. However, the costs of doing nothing are far greater to our society as not allocating budgets to the most efficient channels and allowing those decisions to be made by people who understand these new realities is far greater.

All I can ask the both the blogosphere and the world business community is to please stop the bickering about these legacy models so we can move onto the real issue and work ahead – realigning our corporate business strategy and our society to the realities of Industrial Revolution 2.0. It starts with board of directors, CEO, CFO and COO executives asking their CMO and marketing partners the right questions. The journey will be fun.

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Professor Eric Clemons: Time for Some New Senior Vice Presidents?

Danny Sullivan made a great reply to this Eric Clemons’ previous post on TechCrunch today. As you know, I’ve been pretty quiet here on my blog lately. I’ve been busy on the phone, organizing speaking, planning a book and talking to people about really changing the world either as an executive and/or as a consultant while quietly executing some search projects.

In the “cage match” post, there is one phrase that got me out of my silence because the ignorance was too much for me to hold my tongue… Eric Clemons said:

“Mr. Sullivan argues that in all his years thinking through and working through issues in internet advertising he has never heard any company or any individual complain about paid search. In contrast, I have been hearing this complaint from senior vice presidents in travel companies for years, and this year the chorus has been joined by retailers and manufacturers”

Dear Mr. Clemons,

Continue reading Professor Eric Clemons: Time for Some New Senior Vice Presidents?

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Barney Harford Now Orbitz CEO – Welcome to Chicago

For the past few years, I thought that there might be a new entrant to Chicago’s Internet scene. It was exciting to me because Chicago could certainly use some geographic diversity in it’s leadership. For a long time, it looked like that person would be Mark Cuban, but it now appears that he will not be the high bidder for the Chicago Cubs. That is kind of a bummer as it would have probably made Wrigley Field a playground for the who’s who of the Internet people like Michael Arrington, Jason Calacanis, Gabe Rivera and many venture capitalists. BTW, you are still welcome guests irregardless.

They say that when one door closes another one opens and apparently Barney Harford is the gentleman that was actually meant to darken the doorway. He’s had extensive experiences in Asia and elsewhere for Expedia and more recently as an advisor to and eLong. As mentioned in the article linked to above, I strongly believe that geographical diversity is important to high performing corporate cultures and I praise the Board of Directors for this choice. It is my hope that this will effect Chicago’s landscape in a positive way far beyond Orbitz. Time will tell.

Continue reading Barney Harford Now Orbitz CEO – Welcome to Chicago

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Hurricane Ike Suggests Need to Modify Saffir-Simpson Scale Hurricane Measurement Metrics

Estimates of damage from Hurricane Ike and the reported death toll continue to rise far beyond what would be expected from the last Saffir-Simpson Scale reading of “a category 2 hurricane.”

Hurricane Ike’s larger than category 2 impact suggests need to modify Saffir-Simpson Scale hurricane measurement and communication metrics. It is heartbreaking to see and hear the stories of people who wouldn’t evacuate before the areas on the Texas coast because Hurricane Ike was “only a category 2 hurricane”. The reports and pictures from airborne helicopters indicate massive hurricane property damage and, unfortunately, loss of life from Hurricane Ike. I dedicate this post to these victims.

This begs the question, could this loss of life been reduced with better communication of risk to the people in the areas of projected impact, causing them to evacuate?

Places like Galveston, Bolivar, Crystal Beach, Gilchrest, High Island, etc. had lower evacuation rates than during Hurricane Rita. This could have been much, much worse if it hit a more densely populated area. But the loss of any life is undesirable (and potentially is preventable).

A friend of mine who lives on the Gulf Coast has repeatedly suggested to me that there is a need to have “less media hype” and “more factual metrics” when hurricanes approach. As you know I think about metrics a lot in terms of the Internet and business processes and I started thinking about this issue and the implications of it.

The last National Hurricane Center report before Hurricane Ike made landfall in Texas contains the following two paragraphs:



I’m not certain how many years ago the National Hurricane Center started reporting Hurricanes in this format with the “hurricane force winds extend outward from the center ### miles” and “tropical force winds extend outward ### miles”, but I find that information useful as there is a significant correlation to size of the hurricane and the impact of the storm surge and geographic area that are affected. This is therefore extremely useful data, but it’s locked up in giant blobs of text that don’t allow it to be communicated effectively.

I’d like to therefore propose and suggest that the National Hurricane Center make the following modification the to Saffir-Simpson scale to the following new format:

Saffir-Simpson Scale number – hurricane force wind miles from center number – tropical storm force wind miles from center number

Hurricane Ike would have therefore been the following at landfall:

It is my opinion that this would be a much more useful as the overall radius of the hurricane force and tropical force wind fields would be communicated effectively and consistently instead of in inconsistent references. One could argue that you should use the circumference to make it more dramatic, but not all tropical cyclones are perfectly symmetric so I prefer usage of the existing communicated metric radius.

This humble blog post is clearly just the first of many conversations to openly discuss hurricane scale and metrics and creating this needed reform. The reform itself is more important than the exact final form of this reform prior to the start of the 2009 hurricane scale and metrics season. I look forward to seeing comments and other blog posts.

I look forward to someday having a clearer metric that can save more lives. Thank you for your participation in making this a reality!