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Eight Best Practices for Contextual Campaigns

Content moving beyond screens into the “phygital” world of beacons, sensors and the Internet of Things has been a focus of my most recent research.

Together we’ve looked at some of the benefits brands such as Nestlé, GE, Marantz, and Disney are reaping from campaigns that go well beyond “the right message to the right person at the right time.” They’re adding additional contextual elements such as purchase history, weather conditions, location and demonstrated consumer interests to create messaging and campaigns that are personalized to a degree never before possible.

Yet doing so is an immense challenge to the enterprise. Context requires getting plenty of ducks in a row (even ducks in departments other than marketing).

I asked major brands already active in the field for their best-practice recommendations for gettingcontextual marketing off the ground. Here, in aggregate, are their recommendations.

Assemble the right teams

For pilot projects, initiatives often start with just one line of business (e.g., email, customer service, social or mobile), then spread more broadly through the organization.

Education, knowledge-sharing, agility and empowerment are essential to spark thought and experimentation.

Content strategy

As with every other form of marketing, content is foundational to context. For contextual campaigns, content strategies must be significantly expanded to address different contextual elements. This must encompass not only goals and KPIs, which can be myriad, but also the many additional situations, conditions, offers, customer profiles conditions, locations, device interfaces and other specifics that go into communication and messaging.

Content strategy must also be linked to product strategy for many contextual initiatives, and it must address design and user experience to a higher degree than in other marketing scenarios.

Anticipate and script responses

The real-time nature of contextual campaigns requires outbound and inbound scenario mapping, then scripting content to address numerous potential situations and reactions, both to offers and the campaigns themselves.

Here’s an example of a social media triage process:

triage

When D+M (Marantz’s parent company) is called out for being slightly creepy with proactive customer service push messaging in response to consumer behaviors with their devices, the scripted response is, “You would expect this level of support from BMW. Why not from us?,” which the company has found to be a successful way to allay customers’ feelings of surveillance. This applies equally to potential consumer cross-domain sensitivities.

Real-time ability

Real-time and context go hand-in-hand. Location data, for example, cannot suggest a customer visit a venue when it’s closed at 11 p.m. Iced tea is an inappropriate offer for a snow day. My earlier research outlines 12 steps to prepare for real-time readiness.

Many brands already have what I’ve referred to before as “always-on war rooms” in which well-trained analytics and social media teams continually monitor digital sentiment and react and optimize their messaging in real time. The sentient world will rapidly become part of this intense, pressurized marketing function.

Permission and opt-in

Even more than with email and social channels, contextual communications cannot be pushed on unwilling or unreceptive consumers. In addition to offering value to make messaging welcome, permission is a critical component of the brand/consumer dialogue, as is an opt-out mechanism, especially for brands leveraging data across domains (e.g. in-home, in-car, in-store and so on).

The four components of permission communications every brand must consider include:

  • education
  • brand accountability
  • consent and agency
  • value/WIIFM (What’s in it for me?)

Ecosystem of internal & external partners

Consider new partnerships, both internally and externally. Contextual campaigns touch areas beyond marketing, and the data inputs and outputs can be of value for a broad variety of stakeholders.

This value can and should be used as a justification for spend, not just from marketing budgets but also from budgets of other lines of business.

Technology vendors

Understand what tech vendors bring to the table, as well as their limitations. A large player can act as a backstop but might limit experimentation.

A small, nimble startup might be better for a pilot than a national implementation. Determine who will be responsible for the chain of technology — for example, a chain of 1,000 retail locations, each with 10 beacons.

Continuous education and training

In a quickly evolving sector, it’s essential to keep abreast of tools, technologies, use cases, data and best practices.

This post originally published on MarketingLand.

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Contribution to a New Book: The New Advertising

The New Advertising: Branding, Content, and Consumer Relationships in the Data-Driven Social Media Era

Together with many peers I admire and respect enormously, such as my frequent partner-in-research Jessica Groopman and Publicis Chief strategist Rishad Tobaccowalla, I've contributed to a new book out just this week. 

The New Advertising: Branding, Content, and Consumer Relationships in the Data-Driven Social Media Era published this week from Praeger. It's a hefty two volumes, the second of which includes a chapter I contributed based on my research on real-time marketing.

 

 

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Why Contextual Campaigns Provide Value Across the Enterprise

Together we’ve looked at why context is digital marketing’s next frontier.

Since then, I’ve delved further into the topic, publishing research that looks at the value of marketing in the “phytigal” world we now inhabit, where things are as connected as devices are. Beacons, sensors and the Internet of Things (IoT) are moving marketing past the screen to the objects, places, and even the conditions (weather, holidays, sales) we occupy and experience in the real world.

Contextual campaigns go well beyond “the right message to the right person at the right time.”Location, for example, plays a role. Automotive dealerships are using beacons to determine which customers visit the showroom versus the service department, enabling them to connect contextually in the right way, with the right messages, based on hyper-granular location data.

All of this is super-cool, of course, but what are the actual benefits of contextual campaigns, not only to marketers but also to the organizations they work with — as well as to the consumers they interact with? My research reveals at least 18 benefits, only some of which are directly related to marketing.

Contextual Campaigns Ecosystem of Value

Marketing benefits

Contextual campaigns confer some very obvious benefits to marketers. More targeted and individualized communications can result in amazing ROI.

“The more context there is, the higher the ROI,” Disney SVP Gunjan Bhow tells me. In partnership with theater chains and retailers like Walmart, Disney has been targeting consumers with relevant offers. They recouped the costs of integrating numerous back-end systems to enable the initiatives (both their own and their partners’) in just three campaigns.

Context also boosts campaign attribution and can be a great contributor to customer loyalty. It enables precision in rewards and incentives; MGM Resorts triangulates location data together with purchase history to send the right offers to individuals in their properties.

And of course, there’s the cool factor. It won’t last forever as the practice grows more common, but context can produce buzz at present, as well as amplification on shared media channels, leading to differentiation in the market.

Unsurprisingly, contextual marketing begets contextual data, a massive (and complex) benefit to marketers, as well as to the organizations they work for.

Organizational benefits

Data about how, when, why and where consumers interact with brands and their products goes far beyond the marketing department. Enterprises can use this information to make decisions about how they operate. (For example, do sales of a certain product spike under specific conditions or with certain consumer segments?)

These insights also can be used to develop new products and update existing ones. Marantz is developing new types of speakers for specific locations, based on numerous consumers naming their speakers “bathroom” and “garage.” This led to developing waterproof and more rugged models of IoT-enabled electronics.

Organizations also have visibility into areas that were previously black holes, such as the supply chain. Nestlé is looking forward to the day when it can send trucks to restock only those store freezers that need more ice cream, saving man hours, fuel and the environment in the process.

Companies are also considering using data to generate new revenue streams from contextual campaigns. Another example from Marantz: It now has a plethora of data from all the streaming services in aggregate. Would Apple Music, Amazon and Pandora be willing to pay for that type of consumer data?

Consumer benefits

Unless there’s a benefit to consumers, forget about using contextual campaigns. Without clear benefits (and, of course, opt-in), context can come across as creepy and Big Brotherish.

So, how can context benefit consumers? Improved experience is a huge benefit. Helping consumers to use a product or, as Home Depot does, find an item on their shopping list when they’re in-store, provides a distinct advantage.

Customer service reaps other big benefits. Manufacturers can “see” when a printer is out of ink, or if a user has rebooted a device numerous times in a short period, then proactively reach out to help.

Finally, there’s simply being helpful and useful in a general sense in a way that’s relevant to the brand. Sportswear and equipment retailer REI offers a digital concierge service to America’s National Parks, helping their customers find the right hiking trail or learn of weather or other important conditions.

Linking context to the brand and your organization’s overarching strategy is key, not just using technology for its own sake. And with contextual, don’t forget that it’s not just the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me), but also what’s in it for my organization, my customers and my prospects.

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New Book: The New Advertising

The New Advertising Praeger

Together with colleagues I respect and admire, such as Rishad Tobaccowalla and Jessica Groopman, I contributed to this handsome double tome, The New Advertising, just published by Praeger.

 

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Discussing my new research with Jeff Julian at CMW

Jeff Julian and I sat down for an interview around my new research at Content Marketing World last week. Here's our talk.

 

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New Research: Contextual Campaigns

Contextual Campaigns: Content, Context and Consumer Connections

Digital marketing has moved beyond the screen.

Today I've published new research, Contextual Campaigns: Content, Context and Consumer Connections in a Post-Screen world.

The report, the result of some 20 interviews with senior digital executives at companies like Disney, GE, Nestlé, agencies and technology providers, looks at marketing, and at content marketing, in what some call the "phygital" world. Beacons, sensors, the Internet of Things. Content and consumer connections are everywhere and can permeate almost literally anything.

"The higher the investment, the higher the ROI," says Disney's Gunjan Bhow of camapigns that are geo-targeted, based on consumers' purchase history, and carefully orchestrated with partners in theatrical exhibition and retailers like Walmart. These integrations and partnerships are incredibly complex, but incredibly rewarding. Consumers are will soon expect communications from brands that take into account not just "the right message to the right person at the right time," but also the right place. Under teh right conditions (is it raining, for example?) and based on their own preferences.

For brand this can lead to richer and deeper customer relationships, increased sales, new lines of revenue and visibility into previously black-hole areas such as the distribution chain. It creates massive amounts of new and valuable data. Consumers, meanwhile, can benefit from better experiences that go beyond mere "personalization."

My research looks at risks, rewards, case examples and first steps into the contextual journey. Read it, and if you enjoy it, please pass it along to colleagues. And please, let me hear your thoughts and experiences in this arena.

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Why Context Is Digital Marketing's Next Frontier

Since the dawn of digital marketing, practitioners have hailed personalization as the ultimate in sophistication.

Calling customers by their names and knowing a lot about them — their ages, genders, birthdates, interests, purchase histories — enables marketers to deliver more relevant, meaningful content that helps win new conversions and engender their long-time loyalty.

Beyond one-to-one marketing

But personalization is no longer the be-all and end-all, as it’s now being overtaken by technologies that allow for the establishment of even more profound relevance and connection — both in marketing and in the overall customer experience.

These technologies provide marketers with insight into context — a largely untapped element that can provide such an in-depth understanding of customers that marketers may then begin to anticipate people’s needs, wants, affinities and expectations. These insights — which may take into account the device in use, the channel, the location and the particular brand — can then be put to work to power improved marketing in every situation.

Context, in other words, takes into account not only the Who, but also the When, Where, Why and How. Simply put, it’s deeper targeting and more on-point messaging.

It’s about so much more than just who

My soon-to-be-published current research looks at marketing beyond the right message, to the right person at the right time. Contextual marketing goes further by considering a variety of factors: the platform consumers are using; their physical location (perhaps, using beacon technology, down to the store-shelf level); real-time information such as atmospheric conditions (Is it raining?), or even geospatial movement (whether they are in a vehicle, and if that vehicle is stopped at a red light, for instance).

These types of campaigns aren’t just fantasy, they’re reality. Maille Dijon mustard used beacons to target customers who had food-related apps installed on their phones in supermarkets. Waze teamed with Taco Bell to send a coupon to drivers who were near a restaurant, but only when drivers were stopped at a red light (safety first!).

I recently talked to an audio technology manufacturer using Internet of Things (IoT) data to target offers to their customers based on the data related to how those customers actually use the product. That company boasts a five- to seven-percent conversion rate from its email marketing campaigns. This when email open rates often run in the minus-one-percentile range.

How to think about context

Contextual marketing raises questions around contextual content. What type of coupon should a customer receive? When, and for what offer? MGM Resorts makes these determinations contextually — sending offers to guests’ smartphones based on where they are on the resort property (which restaurant, shop, show or casino), as well as in the context of their individual loyalty member status, past purchase history and stated interests.

Context can also drive the strategy behind information and other types of content, whether it’s via smart packaging (Think nutritional information, which one CPG giant is looking into) or apps that are content-centric and location-aware, such as REI’s smartphone app that provides a brand-relevant concierge service for American National Parks.

Context in marketing can only be employed with the use of powerful integrated technologies. Its components range from semantic technologies to machine learning and predictive analytics, customer data, product/service data, flexible, dynamic content and journey-mapping.

Without a doubt, context is complex. Moreover, it is growing in importance, not only because it’s increasingly technologically feasible and effective, but also because newer technologies (the IoT and beacons, for example) will enable additional layers of context to meet consumers’ growing expectations for contextually relevant experiences and messaging from the brands they interact with in an increasingly digital world.

Start with baby steps

How best to get started in contextual marketing? Think small, say the overwhelming number of executives I’ve interviewed for my research. Begin with small pilot projects. Think about the data you have and how to leverage it. Often, brands find partners to team up with: retail outlets, cinemas, dealerships or other physical locations.

These partnerships, or even solo campaigns, can require a lot of back-end platform integration to join up disparate data sources — CRM, location, content and myriad other campaign elements — but, when planned effectively, the ROI can be great, and it can arrive very quickly. An entertainment conglomerate that teamed with a theater chain to send video offers to moviegoers saw ROI in only three months, and that after a significant platform build.

Teams, technology, privacy and permission concerns are other significant factors in contextual campaigns, as is a solid foundation in content strategy. But there’s perhaps nothing more important that creating a value exchange, especially given that you’re asking a customer to let you engage with them anywhere at any time. Without your offering consumers something of value — monetary, convenience, information, experiential — there’s no reason for them to listen. Or participate.

The time to consider contextual campaigns is now. Already, brands like Disney, Nestlé, GE and Unilever are developing programs. Consumers will soon expect brands to be there when they’re needed, not just in cyberspace, but increasingly in the “phygital” world we now inhabit.

This post originally published on MarketingLand.

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Scaling Content Marketing to a Global Level

Enterprises are only just starting to incorporate content marketing as a discipline into the mix, and as a result, they’re quickly realizing content must permeate the entire organization. This applies globally just as much as it does regionally. Yet scaling content up to a global level brings with it a host of challenges.

Creating a global content marketing strategy is absolutely essential, but at the same time, it’s exponentially challenging. One large global organization asked me to help develop a global strategy, but to do so with two separate teams and in two separate client engagements that effectively bisected the globe (and as a result, the strategy) in two separate meridians.

It was a start.

I just worked with a major global non-profit to develop a content marketing strategy road map that will be applied across no fewer than 31 countries as diverse as South Sudan, Guatemala, the Philippines, the US and the UK.

Without a conscious effort at orchestration, time and money are wasted, employees become frustrated, efforts are duplicative and customer experience suffers, not to mention consistency in brand and messaging.

The need for content is universal, but each region, country and locality in which a brand operates has specific needs that are unique to their language and culture, and often other requirements, such as legal. You can divide these needs into three buckets that are core components of any content marketing strategy:

  • teams
  • tools
  • channels

Teams: Structure your global teams for centralized leadership and local autonomy

Creating content marketing teams and governance is essential. Content marketing requires centralized leadership, but also a substantial degree of local authority and autonomy.

If there’s a parallel editorial model, it would be that of a major international news organization. The New York Times, CNN, the BBC and their ilk maintain bureaus in major regions and capitals across the world.

How leadership is appropriated, however, varies greatly. Very few organizations have formal content marketing departments or divisions. This is no less true of global enterprises which often assign content duties to marketing teams, social media groups or communications and PR staff.

My research has identified six real-world content governance models, all of which are as relevant to global content management as they are to running content strictly on a local or national basis.

Figure3

Content is a team sport, and, as I’ve stated previously, coordinating content on a global scale is sort of like running the Olympic games. Each regional needs to have teams, those teams must have captains, and they must have training, knowledge of the universal rules of the game and the equipment needed to play it.

At the same time, each team will always fly its own flag and proudly wear its own colors.

Tools: Choose compatible tools that serve a global team

The content marketing software landscape is rapidly evolving and shifting. Selecting tools comes with additional considerations and concerns when they must serve global teams.

Does the tool support multiple languages? Diverse alphabets? Can it handle country- or region-specific barriers, such as firewalls or local privacy and data-protection regulations? Will licenses differ on a country-by-country basis? How easy (or difficult) will it be to train and onboard far-flung users? Can it be integrated with other marketing and enterprise software already in use (or planned for deployment) on a global or regional level?

Research on the content software landscape I recently conducted finds 40 percent of marketers say a lack of interdepartmental coordination is leading to investment in disparate, incompatible toolsets — and that’s just on a domestic level. Global requirements demand sharing, collaboration and efficiency.

In 2013, Unilever invested in a single tool to consolidate and coordinate content creation and publishing efforts across just three brands in the dozens of countries in which it operates (not to mention use and collaboration by hundreds of internal and external content stakeholders: staff, agency and vendor partners). The brand realized $10 million in savings in just one year. If that’s not an argument to pay close attention to the efficiency the right tools can create, I don’t know what is.

Channels: Use location-appropriate content and channels

What content should be created? Where should it be published, in what form and for which audience? Publishing on Facebook simply isn’t the same as engaging with social audiences on VK.com, Line, Mixi or Weibo.

Then there are various regional holidays to consider, local sporting events (in most of the rest of the world, “football” means “soccer”), festivals, superstitions, political and news events. If you ignore these differences, you’re an outsider, not a potential partner or a credible source of information.

Local input, knowledge and culture are essential. It’s not enough to translate content into a local language or to push content created at headquarters out to regional divisions.

In fact, often, local content surfaced in far-flung markets can bubble up and be expanded into fodder for headquarters or other markets.

Conclusion

Every organization committed to effectively using content in the marketing mix (and after all, there can be no marketing without content) must consider how to scale efforts, as well as how to establish governance, staffing, tools and technology to create compelling content in the right channels to deliver desired results. This is no small task for even a local mom and pop.

On a global scale, the complexities of creating a global content strategy can often seem daunting. A strategic approach, combined with a step-by-step process, will lead to content that’s effective globally, regionally and locally.

This post originally published on MarketingLand

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Content Marketing and the Silo Issue

Once upon a time (circa 15 years ago), digital marketing had a great big silo chip on its shoulder. “Digital needs a seat at the grown-up table,” the lament went. Traditional media got all the dollars, the love, the attention. Digital, meanwhile, was relegated to the sidelines. Maybe it was a nice-to-have, but never a must-have.

Boy, has that situation ever changed. Spending in digital has surpassed many traditional channels as digital has commandeered the lion’s share of eyeballs and time-spent metrics. No one’s debating digital’s primacy anymore.

But silos? That’s a bigger problem than ever. Digital, which once claimed to be the overlooked silo, used that time to develop more of its own silos than you can shake a proverbial stick at: data, measurement, email, search, social, display, media buying, retargeting, reputation management — the list goes on and on.

In fact, so many digital silos have sprouted up in a comparatively short period that now the grousing is contained under the digital umbrella. Search and email feel relegated to the sidelines. There isn’t enough communication between comms and social media. Assets aren’t shared.

A new silo issue is cropping up in digital marketing that I’m seeing on a recurring basis in companies that I work with. It’s a content marketing issue.

I’ve written in this space in the past about the challenges organizations face when they try to integrate content marketing into the enterprise. Content departments are beginning to emerge, but they are the exception rather than the rule.

While search, social, email and analytics have very rapidly become dedicated disciplines, content remains a bit of a stepchild in most firms.

That’s where the silo issue crops up. In a rush to “claim” content and, in theory, to ensure control of the content that’s produced for marketing purposes, I’m seeing wars (or at least turf battles) break out over who controls content.

These land grabs might be between marketing and the creative department. Product often wants a say. IT might claim a good deal of primacy, because, after all, content demands software and other IT resources.

It’s critical, of course, that organizations develop a culture of content to involve employees, vendors, customers and partners in the content marketing process. However, this is an overwhelminglyinclusive process. When turf wars erupt over who “owns” content, the process is, by nature,exclusive.

Overcoming silos (and turf wars)

The only way to battle exclusiveness is with inclusion. No one ever said it would be easy, but bringing parties (and factions) together is critical for alignment. Easier said than done, right?

A tactic that helps is a collaborative workshop as a prerequisite to content strategy. Representatives of all the interested parties (or corporate divisions) assemble for a full or half day to discuss content marketing.

It’s a forum in which everyone has a voice; where needs, wants and reservations can be articulated; and where a set of goals can be surfaced and, perhaps even more importantly, prioritized.

When I run workshops with the companies I work with, we begin with a crash course on content marketing: what it is, what it can achieve, how it aligns with and affects different divisions in the enterprise, and what the requirements are (e.g., staff, software and so on).

Once a common understanding and vocabulary are established, it’s then much easier to review individual and collective goals. Needs and wants, workflow issues, staffing imbalances and more surface as a result of collective, collaborative conversations.

In larger organizations, a critical part of this process is often conducting deep stakeholder interviews in advance. For really large global enterprises, this can be accompanied by a stakeholder survey (when it’s not practical to conduct one-on-one interviews with dozens of staffers in far-flung regions).

Presenting these findings to the assembled workshop group is a great way to level-set and to identify needs, gaps and priorities that exceed the scope of the gathering at hand.

Siloization nevertheless tends to be a lingering problem. I’d love to hear from readers: How are you aligning people and organizations around content efforts in ways that minimize friction and competition? 

This post originally published on MarketingLand

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The Morality Clause in Digital Marketing

If you very honestly, in your heart of hearts, don’t want a digital marketing initiative to succeed, should you take on the project?

The issue is a constant one, of course, and hardly limited to digital, but nothing brings it into sharp relief quite like an election year. Perhaps that’s why discussions about the ethical dilemmas inherent in digital marketing assignments and clients have been cropping up with increasing frequency over drinks and lunches, at conferences and in my private meetings between digital executives.

The topic? That job (or project, or client) you walked away from — or didn’t — when it becomes a question of ethics, beliefs or political opinion.

Just last week, a friend and colleague told me about walking away from what, by any standards, was a crazy sum of money offered by the Koch brothers for a digital marketing project. Like, really crazy money.

“I could have remodeled my mother’s house for only one day of work, but I talked to my husband about it and finally had to say no,” she confided over a cocktail.

When marketers set aside their personal beliefs

Digital marketers don’t always say no to the causes and to the candidates they don’t believe in.

Back in 2004 — which seems like recent history but was when digital was only beginning to go really mainstream — I knew a San Francisco-based digital executive giving his all to George W. Bush’s second campaign. This was someone whose personal politics perfectly matched his demographic (that of a San Francisco-based digital marketing executive).

Over lunch at the city’s Embarcadero Center one day, he confided that he took on the assignment “because digital needs this push.”

That’s not dissimilar to the left-leaning NYC executive who, eight years ago, managed a substantial portion of Sarah Palin’s digital campaign. Personal beliefs and personal politics were conveniently set aside.

It’s been a fraught year, politically speaking. The most recent stand-taking has been against North Carolina’s HB2 “bathroom bill.” In additional to celebrities like Bruce Springsteen and Ringo Starr, dozens of companies, many in tech, have registered their disapproval, and most have enacted or threatened sanctions against the state.

More recently, Microsoft has stated it will not this year, as in years past, donate money to the Republican convention.

These aren’t easy decisions for companies large or small. I’ve seen smaller agencies and individual marketers alike struggle over the past couple of years, deciding whether or not to join forces with a national fast-food giant (Will this set a good example for my kids and the values we have as a family?); a multinational agrochemical giant; and a national franchise that also happens to be a major donor to religious groups opposing same-sex marriage.

It’s also been a year of stunning corporate advocacy and stand-taking, such as Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff’s high-profile tweet that the company would suspend travel to Indiana following the passage of anti-gay legislation in that state, followed up days later by offering employees in that state a relocation package.

Marketers need to take a stand

Tech companies are clearly taking a stand — but are the marketers their technology enables? This election cycle is the first in years in which I don’t personally know any agencies or marketers who have taken on clients despite the fact that they espouse agendas diametrically in opposition to their own personal ethics and values.

The strength to say “no” and stand up for your convictions — whatever it is you believe — is a sign of maturity. Twelve years ago, my acquaintance hoped to demonstrate the maturity of digital by setting aside his views and saying  “yes” to George W. Bush. Now, digital has evolved to the point that such a thing isn’t necessary.

When enterprises like PayPal, Apple, Google, HP, Salesforce, IBM, Microsoft, Yahoo and a host of others choose to walk away from, rather than engage with, states and politicians that don’t reflect their, or their employees’, values, they’re demonstrating integrity, but something more as well.

They’re exhibiting independence and self-determination.

Personally, I’ve walked away from perfectly good money from what to me were unjustifiable sources: the pro-gun lobby and a group dedicated to dismantling Planned Parenthood. (Given my own solidly blue state and female demographic, it remains a point of wonder that I was even approached by these organizations.)

Because at the end of the day, it’s not just about the money if you’re a marketer. You have to ask yourself, “What if the marketing actually works?”

This post originally published in MarketingLand

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Rebecca Lieb

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

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