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Announcing Kaleido Insights, a new research/consultancy firm

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I couldn't be more pleased or proud to announce the launch of Kaleido Insights today.

 

This new boutique research advisory firm is the brainchild of myself and three of the most brilliant, incisive, and generous collaborators I've ever had the pleasure to work with: Jaimy Szymanski, Jeremiah Owyang, and Jessica Groopman. Together we've co-authored dozens of research reports and collaborated on countless client engagements. Now, we're getting the band back together with a new methodology for looking at how businesses can thrive in an atomosphere of unrelenting tech disruption.

 

Our first Kaleido research report is available on our new website.

 

Hello world! We look forward to working with you. 

 

Our press release follows:

 

 

New Research and Advisory Firm Kaleido Insights Launches with Release of Original Research to Help Corporate Leaders Act On Technology Trends Shaping the Future

 

Three Macrotrends Impacting the Journey to 2030: Super Humans, Fluid Organizations, and Enlightened Ecosystems now available

 

San Francisco, CA and New York, NY -(MARKETWIRED) -- Kaleido Insights, a new boutique research and advisory firm, announces its launch today. Founded by four of the nation’s top analysts, the firm focuses on helping corporate leaders around the world transform the “kaleidoscope” of technological disruption into clear, actionable strategies. In conjunction with the firm’s launch, Three Macrotrends Impacting the Journey to 2030, a collaborative research report authored by founding partners Jaimy Szymanski,  Jeremiah Owyang, Jessica Groopman and Rebecca Lieb, is also released.  

 

“There is so much pressure on today’s leaders to stay ahead of the ‘next big thing’ that is set to disrupt their business model, and it can be hard for them to see the potential implications of multi-faceted consumer, enterprise and ecosystem trends,” said Owyang. “That’s where Kaleido Insights comes in. We help them distill what matters now, and in the future, amidst the chaos.”

 

Kaleido Insights offers rigorous, best-in-class research and strategic advisory services to innovation leaders across industries and functions. This includes the C-Suite and those charged with leading innovation, future planning, M&A and analyst relations functions.

 

Working with Fortune 500 businesses, technology leaders and start-ups, and nonprofit organizations, Kaleido Insights guides strategy development across:

  • Customer experience (CX) and digital transformation

  • Product and service automation

  • Data- and ecosystem-driven business models

  • Marketing, content, and media

  • Organizational change and readiness

 

“In addition to our boutique status and access to founding partner advisory, our research-based approach sets us apart,” says Lieb. “We don’t just give opinions; we’re a proven team with original research at our foundation. That’s incredibly valuable to business leaders looking to differentiate. A first glimpse of it is revealed in the flagship research we deliver together today.”

 

What Makes Kaleido Insights Valuable and Unique?

  • Deep partner coverage expertise is varied, yet connected. This offers clients a rich combination of research advisory across key trends shaping their worlds.

  • Research is currently open to the public for free download. Kaleido supports transparent, open models.

  • Primary research takes both a human and technology perspective.

  • Leadership is diverse and equal: Kaleido is a partnership of seasoned analysts that reflects increasingly diverse leadership at today’s best organizations.

  • Advisory model is grounded in rigorous original research. This provides organizational leaders with the ability to trust the authenticity of Kaleido’s research and advisory that they count on.

  • Their actionable, outcome-focused mission enables organizations to foresee, decipher and act on technological disruption with agility. Kaleido’s original research, trend analysis, corporate leadership network, and pragmatic recommendations focus on providing leaders with what they need to create and execute strategies to adapt to the consumer, business model, and ecosystem impacts of disruptive technologies.  

 

Three Macrotrends Impacting the Journey to 2030, Kaleido Insights’ introductory research report, sets the stage for a series of additional reports under development. “It’s easy to go write about the next bright shiny object. Instead, our research agenda reflects the most important impacts you may have yet to identify for your customers, your business, and your ecosystem––from the market’s most disruptive technologies,” explains Groopman.

 

About Three Macrotrends Impacting the Journey to 2030

Three Macrotrends Impacting the Journey to 2030 identifies Super Humans, Fluid Organizations and Enlightened Ecosystems as three trends transforming modern society, culture and business. The report introduces these trends to readers and provides insights into the technologies that enable the journey, followed by recommendations on how organizations can create a clear vision for innovation.  

 

The Three Macrotrends Impacting the Journey to 2030 report can be immediately accessed directly from Kaleido Insights’ new website. Over the coming months, Kaleido Insights’ analysts will also be sharing and discussing the report with the organizational leaders at several private events and third-party forums.

 

“We want to hear directly from corporate leaders and change agents at these events. What are their challenges, and what impacts are they feeling from the three research trends we’ve identified?” says Szymanski. “Our client needs ultimately drive our research vision, and we want to create as many opportunities for collaboration as possible.”

 

Those interested in speaking to a founding partner, learning more about Kaleido Insights and/or securing a spot at one of their Q4 events should contact info@kaleidoinsights.com.

 

About Kaleido Insight

Kaleido Insights is a boutique research and advisory firm that focuses on transforming the “kaleidoscope” of technological disruption into clear, actionable strategies for innovation. Its four founding partners are analysts with deep expertise, guiding clients to envision clear impacts on their future business models; customer experience design; marketing; content strategies; and product automation roadmaps.  

By constantly keeping pulse on how humans, businesses, and ecosystems are impacted by technological change, Kaleido helps organizations find sanity and strategy in chaos. Kaleido advisory relationships, speeches, webinars, and workshops are grounded in research rigor and impact analysis. Its analysts also utilize quantitative survey panels, forecast development, investment analysis, ethnography, qualitative research interviews and secondary research approaches.

 

 

 

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German Language Interview, Berlin

Following keynote at the Landesinstitut für Schule und Medien Berlin-Brandenburg, Sept. 28, 2017

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Why Content Matters (No Matter What Kind of Marketer You Are)

No matter what kind of marketer you are, content matters.

The reasons for this are manifold. Yes, there’s content marketing, which has long been called the “new black” in the marketing arsenal. Content marketing has risen to prominence for a slew of very, very good reasons. It’s customer-centric, rather than sell-centric. It’s about you rather than me, and it’s the marketing of attraction rather than interruption.

Content has also become popular due to the democratization of media. Everyone can do it (though doing it well is another story entirely). Blog? Podcast? Video? All you have to do is own a phone.

But there are other, more strategic reasons why content is paramount in marketing. Let’s examine why.

The eclipse of advertising

Digital advertising: banners, takeovers, video and other formats are plummeting in efficacy. Ad fraud is rampant, as are ad blockers. Marketers are challenged to reach consumers in new ways, and in ways that delight rather than anger them.

Enter content marketing, which informs, educates, entertains, provides utility and is there when you want it rather than when you don’t.

Traditional advertising has evolved into a commodity, swimming in an abundance of media buy options, thanks to the rise of digital, mobile and social technologies. Advertising was once the “boss” of marketing channels and tactics because it cost the most. Now, brands respond to new customer expectations with relevant content at every stage of their purchase decision journey.

Sophisticated marketers are exploring other marketing avenues that offer greater control, while advertising remains costly even as returns diminish.

Converged media

Content is what populates all media channels. It doesn’t just fill the need of “owned” media, such as your website or blog, but also is critical to earned media.

What would Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat and LinkedIn be without content? Vacant platforms visitors would have no need to ever visit.

Paid media (advertising) is also content-dependent. It’s called “creative” in that context, but make no mistake about it — ads are a form of content, too. And as paid, owned and earned media combine together and dance new dances to create new forms of marketing, such as native advertising (paid + owned media), a viable content strategy only becomes that much more important.

The culture of content

Content isn’t just for marketers. Content originates across the organization, primarily in public-facing functions such as sales, HR, customer service, product development and in the executive suite.

The culture of content is arising not just because brands are publishers, but because employees are publishers, too. Some will shrug this off this as noise rather than signal, but the proliferation of channels, platforms and devices is further enabling employees to speak on behalf of the brand.

Add to that requests from teams in social media, sales, thought leadership, real-time marketing, recruitment and customer service, and the demand has never been higher for continual content creation, refinement, repurposing and reformatting.

Content can help elevate numerous functions, from social selling to diverting calls from a call center to most cost-efficient digital channels. Smart organizations evangelize this message for cost savings, employee empowerment, thought leadership and other benefits.

Global content

International organizations are challenged to globalize their content initiatives. If content informs all aspects of marketing, then sharing, collaboration and efficiency are critical to scaling these efforts for efficiency, consistency and cost savings.

Attention must be paid to what types of content can be repurposed across channels and cultures, what content must be created and published locally, and what local successes can be amplified, repurposed and shared in other territories and by other lines of business.

Real-time marketing

All marketing initiatives are no longer locked and loaded in advance. Real-time marketing has become a critical challenge for many organizations to achieve relevance, provide customer service and offer relevance and direction in the face of breaking news and events. All of this brings with it new content challenges, but also great rewards: relevance, newsworthiness and other top-of-mind associations.

Yet preparing for and executing real-time marketing requires a finely honed content strategy, training, triage and close collaboration with legal and other departments outside of marketing.

Contextual campaigns

Beacons, sensors, the Internet of Things — content is not only everywhere, it will soon be everything: our appliances, clothing, location and vehicles. Marketers are already collaborating with IT and product groups to create content around how we live, what we’re doing and where we are when we do it.

Content is moving beyond marketing to be part of the way that we interface with the world around us.

For the last decade I’ve been researching these (as well as other) trends in content marketing and content strategy. I’m proud to announce my latest book on the topic, Content: The Atomic Particle of Marketing. It dives deeply into the trends I’ve been following in this column. If you read it, I’d love to hear your reactionsFor the last decade I’ve been researching these (as well as other) trends in content marketing and content strategy. I’m proud to announce my latest book on the topic, <a href=” amzn.to/2henUbH” Content: The Atomic Particle of Marketing</a>. It dives deeply into the trends I’ve been following in this column. If you read it, I’d love to hear your reactions

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New Book Available for Pre-Order

Content: The Atomic Particle of Marketing by Rebecca Lieb

My advance copies arrived yesterday, so I know my most recent book, Content: The Atomic Particle of Marketing, finally exists in the physical world.

Release dates are June 3 in Europe, June 28 in the USA. I'm as surprised as I am pleased that the title already climbing the rankings in several Amzon business categories.

Thanks for your support if you purchase a copy, and thanks even more for sharing your thoughts and reactions to these last few years of research.

 

 

 

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No Content Strategy Is an Island

As we’re (hopefully) all aware by now, content strategy is the foundation of content marketing. But content strategy requires its own foundational elements, too. Without them, that strategy is very, very difficult to architect.

Creating a content strategy obviously must precede content marketing, but your brand must have some marketing fundamentals in place to enable that process to occur. Time and time again I’ve run up against this obstacle with my clients. They’re often smart enough to know not to go ahead and just “do” content without that all-essential strategy, but they’re nevertheless lacking some of the foundational strategic elements a content strategy must hook into.

I’ve identified four essential marketing elements that must precede a content strategy. Am I leaving anything out?

1. Brand

What is a brand? There are various elements in the concept of “brand.” One is what a prospect thinks of when they consider your products or services. Another is the promise your organization makes.

Brand has to do with perception, and companies work long and hard to decide what they want that perception to be, and how to achieve it. Without brand strategy, content strategy becomes unmoored.

I’m currently working on a content strategy engagement for a divisional group of one of the world’s leading financial conglomerates. The overarching business has an established brand and brand strategy, but the brand of the division in question is still in development. Without knowing what the organization wants to be, or how it will represent itself in the marketplace, it’s difficult to come up with strategies that support this utterly central marketing pillar.

2. Messaging

Like brand, messaging is another core element of an organization that underpins content strategy (and most of the rest of marketing). What does the business want to say and convey? What does it not want to address? How will it approach its delivery of messages? Obviously this applies to content, as well as many other forms of communication.

3. Positioning

Has the organization defined where it stands in its competitive landscape? What sets it apart from other banks (or stores, or insurance companies or pharmaceutical manufacturers)? What are its unique strengths? What are its shortcomings? If you asked its staff or clients what was great about the organization, as well as what it could be doing better, how would they reply?

No company stands alone. Everything is relative. So knowing the pros, cons, ins and outs of an organization’s position is an essential content strategy framework.

4. Values

What are the company’s core values? What does it want to promote? Some organizations highlight their innovative side, others corporate responsibility and giving back to the community. Some highlight their people. Values can, of course, be a combination of a number of assets and attributes, but without firmly rooting values to practices, content strategy becomes difficult.

“Innovation” is a value one company I’ve worked with wants to promote. That’s great. But in order to do that, the company can’t just aspire to be innovative; it must be able to point to products, people, processes — something that will provide ongoing fodder for content around the topic of innovation.

It’s hard to push back and ask clients to show you how they walk the walk (rather than just talk the talk). But that’s exactly what a good content strategist will do.

Good content isn’t created out of hopes and dreams. It must be grounded in reality and in fundamental marketing principles.

Just as content strategy is the starting point for content marketing, the basics of branding, messaging, positioning and values must first be in place so content can flourish. The same applies to advertising, communications, social media and every other marketing practice.

This post originally published on MarketingLand

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The Rise of Dubious Content Marketing Advice

For over a decade now, I’ve had a Google News alert for the term “content marketing.” I set it up around the time I delivered my first keynote on the topic and started to write my first book on the subject.

For years, it was a lonely little feed, updated mostly when a small handful of early content marketing-obsessed colleagues (Ann Handley, Lee Odden, Ardath Albee, Kristina Halvorson, Joe Pulizzi and Robert Rose come to mind) blogged or posted on the topic. The feed was informative, illuminating, thought-provoking and just downright useful for my research and advisory work on the topic.

No more.

Now I’m seriously considering deleting the feed, which has become a sterling example of spoiling-the-commons junk advice on content marketing from self-anointed experts, gurus, divas, mavens, swamis and supreme potentates.

My feed is now filled with link-bait. Nearly every headline contains a number or promises a list, because common wisdom dictates that particular tactic encourages click-through (4 Reasons Why; 6 Reasons Why; 5 Ways to Make; 10 Make-or-Break Skills; and 7 Questions to Ask are all headlines on page one of this morning’s feed).

The writing is often appalling, editing and proofreading non-existent.

Ignoring the ‘why’ of content

But writing and click-bait aside, there’s a commonality in the bottomless pit of content marketing advice and “thought leadership” my feed has become. These articles, columns and blog posts are overwhelmingly prescriptive and highly tactical. They almost without exception start with “content marketing” and disregard the much more fundamental question of content strategy.

Their point of departure is often about how to reach a specific audience, or how to create content for a specific channel. What they almost universally disregard is the “why” of content: actual business goals.

One recent article I randomly clicked on assured readers that the first and foremost audience to target with content is to “existing customers.” That’s certainly a valid audience for many businesses, but it most definitely isn’t a recommendation that’s universally valid.

What if the company’s priority is attracting new clients or customers? More qualified leads? Shortening the time that those leads take to convert? Creating content for different stages in the customer journey?

What if goals aren’t even sales-oriented? For example, perhaps the need is to demonstrate thought leadership in the industry, to create brand favorability.

Then there are all those “content marketing” how-tos that are channel-, rather than strategy-oriented. Lately, these have been Snapchat-heavy, due to the company’s recent IPO. But just because Snapchat is attracting attention this week doesn’t mean it’s for everyone. (Moreover, Snapchat is more of a channel and a tactic than a strategy.)

These types of prescriptive, formulaic, devoid-of-strategic-oversight articles are what give content marketing a bad name. We’ve entered the eye-rolling phase of content, when noise overwhelms signal.

And we’ve seen it all before. Ten years ago, this happened to social media. The carpetbaggers moved in, and suddenly marketers branding themselves as social media experts were crawling out of the woodwork.

I wrote about one of these social media wannabes in August 2009. Here’s an excerpt:

This social media “expert” launched a blog in July 2008. She managed three entries last calendar year, and an equal number so far this year. Six entries in 13 months on a blog with no comments, no categories, and no keywords? No thank you. Over to Twitter, then. Our social media workshop leader has been on Twitter for a scant five months! She’s following 19 people, and has 22 followers. She’s posted 26 times since joining (yes, counting tweets like “testing from my blackberry”). Some of those are references to articles she’s published online, but without links that would help you to actually find and read them.

This species of social media fraudster is perfectly representative of the type of “expert” who is quick to migrate to the next shiny new object. We had them in email, we had them in search, then social, now content.

I can’t yet say where they’ll turn up next, but I will end this little rant with a resounding caveat emptor.

Brands seeking service providers need to conduct due diligence. And put strategy ahead of tactics.

This post originally published on MarketingLand.

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Watching the Future of TV

Watching the Future of TV Outcomes Eyeview Rebecca Lieb

As a recovering television executive,* I've been keeping an eye on my former industry.

Even more so now, as digital catches up and begins to overtake the broadcast model.

So I was delighted when my friends at Eyeview asked me to conduct some research on Addressable TV for the first issue of their new magazine, Outcomes (PDF magazine download). I got an opportunity to interview many trailblazers in the space including Mitch Oscar, Bill Harvey, and Tracey Sheppach.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts if you care to read the piece.

 

*I formerly headed global marketing for USA Networks International, which morphed into Universal Television Networks and before that, RTL Television in Germany, the largest non-US private network.

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Trump's Disparagement of Mainstream Media

I recently discussed Trump's unprecedented hostility toward the mainstream media with TRT World.

Here's the video.

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How Digital Advertising Will Change Under the New Administration

I just sent the following email to an Austin, Texas-based colleague:

Hey ______,  Are you aware that an ad for your company, with your name on it, appears on Breitbart’s home page? Screen shot attached. Best, Rebecca

I also tweeted out the alert, copying Sleeping Giants, a coalition “trying to stop racist websites by stopping their ad dollars.”

This issue — programmatic ads that appear on racist, sexist and otherwise extreme websites — is going to be an enormous one in the coming year. As is ad fraud.

We’ve already seen the trend developing. One of the most high-profile examples occurred late last year, when Kellogg’s learned its ads were appearing on Breitbart.com, in violation of the company’s corporate values and unbeknownst to the brand itself. Kellogg’s announced it would no longer advertise on the site, which prompted Breitbart to call for a boycott of the brand (a probable first in not just digital, but the entire history of advertising. When has a spurned media outlet ever enacted such a scorched-earth revenge against an erstwhile client?).

The issue isn’t just one of extreme political views and the even deeper polarization between Red and Blue, left and right that currently divide the nation.

Online advertising is already under siege. There’s ad fraud, ad blocking and ad skipping. Click-through rates hover around an abysmal 0.1 percent. Major advertisers, such as Kraft Foods, are rejecting up to 85 percent of marketplace ad impressions. The Association of National Advertisers engaged the help of investigative firms to probe fraudulent agency practices.

And now this.

We have a problem: Fake news and adjacency

“This” is not meant to imply a political argument. Instead, two other issues, (certainly related to the current political climate) are at play. The first is the much newer and highly publicized issue of fake news. The second is an issue as old as advertising itself: adjacency.

No advertiser wants their ads to appear next to news that’s detrimental to their product or that damages their brand. That’s why so many standard advertising contracts have adjacency clauses. Plane crash, no survivors? That page (online or off) is not where Delta, United or American Airlines wants to lure you into the happy skies.

New York Times readers remember this well. Following the events of 9/11, the paper instituted a separate section that ran ad-free to cover news of the disaster and subsequent recovery. If there’s an advertiser that wishes to promote its products directly adjacent to a seemingly never-ending stream of news about death, destruction and terror, I have yet to make that company’s acquaintance.

Fake news is a new wrinkle in the mix, one could call it adjacent to the adjacency issue. Again, no advertiser wishes to be party (or appear to endorse) lies, misinformation and propaganda. Like buying, tuning into or subscribing to a news source, advertising on that same source is an implicit endorsement of the outlet.

Vogue is a fashion authority. The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post convey a certain gravitas to their advertisers. Brands whose ads appear — however inadvertently — on fake news sites may as well be peddling X-Ray Specs in the back pages of a comic book. Or worse.

Another dimension of this newly burgeoning problem is the recent eruption of a bumper crop of hate: xenophobia, racism, homophobia, anti-Semitism, the list goes on. In fact, the inspiration for this column came from a recent headline on a legitimate news source, DailyBeast.com: “Alt-Right Leaders: We Aren’t Racist, We Just Hate Jews.” As of this writing, my browser is showing a Best Buy and Verizon ad next to the piece. Good luck, guys. I’ve just lost my appetite for faster DSL or a new flat-screen TV.

Again, this loops back to adjacency, even if the authority of the news source isn’t in question.

How the new climate will affect digital advertising

The new climate of fake or offensively virulent news will affect digital advertising and online media in the following ways in the short term.

  1. Already, more than 500 advertisers have pledged to block Breitbart.com from their media plans. This list will only grow. And as advertisers bow to pressure from consumers, expect ad tech players and agency trading desks to follow suit, shedding fake and offensive sites.

  2. Platforms like Facebook are under pressure to assess news stories for veracity before promoting them. Advertisers too will be called to task in the same way. Both human and machine vetting and intervention will be worked on feverishly this year.

  3. Programmatic advertising, already suffering, will descend another peg or two until these issues are at least partially resolved. Abysmal click-through rates don’t cause consumers to rise in insurrection, but supporting (or appearing to support) hate and divisiveness is another matter indeed.

This post originally published on MarketingLand

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Discussing Native Advertising Trends

I sat down to discuss trends in native advertising with my friends at the Native Advertising Institute during their recent conference in Berlin.

Overall, I'm seeing enormous movement away from classic advertising, a push strategy, and more adoption of 'pull' marketing techniques. Native advertising, of course, is one strong indicator of this trend. 

The NAI wrote a short piece on our talk.

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Rebecca Lieb

Rebecca Lieb is a strategic advisor, consultant, research analyst, keynote speaker, author, and columnist.

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