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Do You Know Your Branding Basics? Think Again



Do You Know Your Branding Basics? Think Again

There is no topic in business and marketing bigger than the topic branding. 

When you Google the term “why is branding important,” you’ll find an abundance of resources that stress the importance of understanding and investing in branding for your success. In the majority of these resources, there are also vague references to terms like brand value, brand equity, and consumers’ minds and hearts.

You’ll find the topic seems to somehow encompass everything from mission, vision, and values, to colors, fonts, and messaging. The topic somehow does everything, doesn’t it?

As you continue to investigate, you’ll discover that Investing in branding really matters. In today’s digital, post-covid marketplace, brand leaders all seem to know that harnessing the power of world-class branding is critical for success. But how?

Every day you can read stories about the missteps of recent brands like Twitter, who under the leadership of an unguided leader, unhinge years of brand equity, meaning, and value, completely missing the customers they exist to serve. Twitter’s brand was so engrained into culture that even the word “tweet” was added to the dictionary. We immediately know the missteps of bad branding when we see it, don’t we?

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I’ve seen firsthand and can attest to branding’s power, personally and professionally, for both good and bad. Working as a Brand Scientist, I’ve had the opportunity to work with over 150 major brands in 65+ categories, putting 500+ SKUS into the marketplace, and collaborating with small startups from $30K to $30B bluechip companies. It’s one of the things I’m most passionate about, love discussing, and love sharing knowledge on. 

While most marketers will tell you that branding is important, only a few know why.

For the customer, branding is a tool that helps them navigate choices in the category, create perceptions, and influence behavior.

As a company, there’s nothing more important than influencing behavior to drive sales, and branding does exactly that.

Branding ultimately makes it easier to sell, easier to buy, and easier to build brand equity in your category.

Yet, who is branding for, and when do you do it? 

Branding is for Everyone

It doesn’t matter what age and stage your business is either. Whether you’re a—

  • a founder with an idea, trying to get a proof-of-concept and raise capital
  • a nascent and budding brand launching into the marketplace
  • a pubescent growing brand launching new products and trying to get category growth
  • a middle-aged, established brand constantly working to scale and become an authority or
  • a declining legacy brand trying to stay relevant, redefine its mission, and stay in the game and need to pivot quickly,

There’s nothing more critical to the success of your business than strong branding that connects with your consumer, helps deliver the product/service experience, and creates a relationship.

Wow. This topic somehow does everything, doesn’t it?

The Dark Side of Branding

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But guess what—there’s a dark side to branding too. Maybe you’re familiar.

While the topics of branding and everything it contains feels shiny, beautiful, and lucrative, there’s nothing quite as subjective, nebulous, and frustrating as branding.

To quote the kids at the end of each episode of Reading Rainbow, ” –”Don’t take my word for it.” 🎶 bah dum bum 🎶

Here are a few people we could ask more about this.

Here are a Few People We Could Ask

If you’re curious about the dark side of branding, just ask CMOs, agency leaders, and business owners about their experiences with the process and why it’s lost its lackluster.

Ask the CEOs and CMOs about their experience and the daunting task of rebranding. They would tell us about the difficulty in trying to communicate with senior-level stakeholders, internal teams, and customers while managing everyone’s voices being heard. They’d share about the incredible efforts it takes, the pressure it creates, and the expectations of getting it right. How long is that supposed to take? One month? One year? How do you get it right?

Ask the Agency Leaders

We could ask agency leaders when they’re faced with the task of educating and selling branding packages to their clients. They would tell us about the challenges of trying to communicate the need for effective branding to their clients. They also share how they struggle to get clients to pay a premium price for the service and how much the customer struggles to even understand.

They’d tell us about how they cringe and never want to put the clients’ ugly brandmark on the slick, new, beautifully-responsive, cutting-edge website. They could share with us how the client wants the old branding with the new website and doesn’t see any disparity between the two. What do you do?

Ask the Business Owners

We could also ask small business owners who are trying to navigate their marketing when faced with the task of brand/rebrand. Ask them about the three wildly different quotes with three extreme price points from three completely different perspectives from three completely different agencies.

They’d tell us that when talking to marketing agencies, they get several proposals ranging anywhere from $2500 to $25,000 and beyond, feeling unjustified and dishonest. They would share with us how It feels unsettling, frustrating, and slightly deceptive, but they’d also tell you they often pick the middle package.

Aren’t they supposed to be comparing apples to apples? If so, then why such a price difference? And why such a difference in approach? Why don’t branding proposals ever feel remotely similar? What’s that all about?

Ask the Rest of the Us

Lastly, ask those of us who have hired agencies to create a marketing plan for us. We’d tell you about how the agencies return to create a brand style guide and provide services that weren’t what you signed up for.

We could discuss the horrible taste left in our mouths by the majority of professional fellow marketers and their branding process in general.

What’s Happening Here?

It seems like there’s a breakdown happening.

Our professional definitions aren’t the same, and it shows.

We would all agree there tends to be an incredible disagreement among professionals on the definitions, the quality, and the execution of branding. Not only are our definitions of branding vastly different, but our levels of understanding, meaning, and expertise are all at different levels. This certainly doesn’t help.

We would all agree there tends to be an incredible disagreement among professionals on the definitions, the quality, and the execution of branding.

Not only are our definitions of branding vastly different, but our levels of understanding, meaning, and expertise are all at different levels. This certainly doesn’t help.

Although marketing professionals out there are trying to do a good job, these definitions are simply not good enough. Just look at the results. Maybe you identify with one of these people above? What frustrations have you had?

Branding. What is it Then?

Branding is kind of like love.

Just track with me for a minute…

We know it’s important, and we want to see it flourish everywhere, but when it comes down to it, no one ever has offered a set definitive standard on what “it” (love) actually is.

To quote bell hooks, “ Everywhere we learn that love is important, and yet we [get] bombarded by its failure.” Similarly, I’d modify the quote to say that “everywhere we learn that [branding] is important, but we get bombarded by its failure.”

The examples about the dark side of branding summarize a snapshot of the hundreds of stories I’ve heard over the years. Every day I hear hurt business owners, frustrated marketing practitioners, and disheveled agency leaders who are furious with their experience with branding, where it’s gone wrong, and where it’s missed its proverbial mark.

Furious at the experiences with those who are performing it. Furious with the results later that don’t measure up nor create the intended results.

You better believe it puts a lot of pressure on the next guy to come along. That’s usually me.

Even if that’s not been you, we both can agree we’ve seen some pretty bad branding out there. Stuff that completely misses the assignment. We KNOW it’s supposed to be good, but it doesn’t measure up.

Yet, when it’s good branding, do we notice it? How do you know? How can you break down the formula to emulate?

We’d like to think we do. Perhaps that’s the secret? Is good branding truly invisible?

Bad Branding is Everywhere.

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Like the adage, ” Bad design is everywhere, good design is invisible.”

“While we know good branding is important, no one can seem to agree why. If we could all agree on what good branding is, we’d all have it, right?”

While we know good branding is important, no one can seem to agree why. If we could all agree on what good branding is, we’d all have it, right? If this was true, we wouldn’t be taking the latest workshops, reading the latest books, and fervently trying to apply frameworks to our marketing ecosystem again and again, would we?

Modern Snake Oil

I’m not alone in this either.

Please say you know what I’m talking about.

The latest New York Times best-selling author gone marketing guru comes along, you get on their list, you attend a webinar, you get their book, buy their course, and maybe even go to their workshop. 

You think This is the one.”

You spend countless hours and dollars are spent overhauling your marketing. 

You simplify and re-teaching your teams the mantras, and the new philosophies: 

“The way of the purple cow, the immutable laws, the hero framework, the simplified message, the passion conversation, the 6 keys, the decoded message…” They go on and on.

Then what happens? It seems to be working.

Or it seems to.

Everyone gets excited. We have forward momentum. The team gets excited, our marketing has clarity, and it seems like everything is moving forward. This is what we needed, surely.

What are We Getting?

It works OK for a while. But then technology, the economy, the customer, or the market changes, and it all falls apart. Then back to square one.

But, like the weight-loss programs or Sex Panther cologne, the results aren’t typical. 20% of the time, it works every time.

Akin to the Emperor’s New Clothes, you wind up with a solution that’s not based on your business. You wind up with one of a few things:

  1. Something based on trends—what is hot right now, someone’s opinion of clever, sharp, and “now.” Everyone else is doing it?
  2. Something based on their “experience”—how could they be wrong? They’ve been doing this for a long time? They must be right!
  3. Something based on personal choice. Whether it’s your choice, the designers, or the client’s (e.g. “I like blue, I hate circles”), the preferences are subjective. They’re also not based on your business. What could go wrong?
  4. Something that’s a combination of the three. That’s a recipe for disaster.

Most professionals walk away from this experience, wondering, “Maybe it was just me.”

“Maybe I didn’t try hard enough.”

Maybe we didn’t “implement the hero’s journey framework into the archetype correctly,” and “simplify the avatar enough based on the messaging model.” The cow needed to be more violet.

Let’s Ask One More Person to Ask About the Dark Side of Branding

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There’s one last person we need to ask about the Dark Side of Branding.

Maybe this is you. Let’s ask all those left behind in its wake.

Let’s ask the workshop-attending, course-purchasing, guru-following students of the modern, digital age

I would ask these marketers about the workshops they’ve attended, the conference tickets they’ve purchased, the masterminds they’ve joined, and how many different frameworks they’ve learned over the years. I’d ask about the tools they’ve had to implement into their marketing system. The constant up and down of the team morale, and the constant pressure of asking internally “Am I doing this right?”

Then, like the ADHD squirrel-loving, marketing addicts we all are, we move on to the new, the newer, the newest, marketing framework. The shiny, Shinier, SHINIEST, thinking, “This must work, it’s new—it’s cutting edge, right?”Man, belief sure does outweigh truth sometimes. Why is that?

Stop Learning from the Back of the Bus

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As a kid in middle school, the back of the bus was where the cool kids sat. They had a palpable authority that drew you towards them. You coveted them. These kids were cool and we wanted to know what they had to say. More importantly, we wanted to belong and  be PART OF THE CONVERSATION, part of the club. We simply wanted to be around them, learn from them or even become cool, if only via proxy.

The back of the bus is one of life’s first media platforms, the original social network. This is where you learned about the birds and the bees, cuss words, and other things that adults didn’t tell you (or so we believed). All the things you probably got in trouble for as a kid could be traced back to the influence of the back of the bus. 

For some reason, no one taught us about these topics directly in an age-appropriate, authoritative way. If they did, it was tossing you the Children’s Encyclopedia Brittanica—which was not very approachable either.

“When it comes to learning about branding, it seems like we’ve all been learning from the “back of the bus.”

When it comes to learning about branding, it seems like we’ve all been learning from the “back of the bus.”

I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of the infomercial-style marketing gurus out there making a buck and not having any skin in the game on my behalf. They’re the cool kids on the bus for sure, but not there when we get in trouble either.

When your business is on the line, where are those experts?

Nowhere. Not in your dugout.

They’re not in the trenches of your business, that’s for sure. Instead, they’re teaching everyone else their framework—which THEY made up. Of course, they’re doing the best they know how, but still aren’t very authoritative. It only was because you thought it was, putting all your eggs in someone else’s basket.So we know good branding is important, but no one can seem to agree. Which brings us to a really big question. What is good branding?

So What is Good Branding?

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Don’t you wish there was a science to the madness?

Don’t you wish there was something authoritative, true, and foolproof?

Something that you can count on, can measure, analyze, and know for certain?

I’d like to offer you a hopeful reprieve from the constant madness.


As a Brand Scientist at Quantum—an evidence-based Branding Agency based in Nashville, Tennessee, I spend my days working on the science of what makes effective branding as effective as possible. Similar to a coffee master or sommelier, I’m a resident expert for brands on their branding using science as the lens for growth.

I do this by breaking apart, analyzing, critiquing, and helping build better brands through a proven process based on science.

It’s my job to help brands diagnose, assess, and create the most effective branding possible. I use the evidence-based metrics of scientific areas of study. I call this BrandScience™ the proven science of how brands grow and sell.

When I recently appeared on the DigitalMarketer podcast with Mark deGrasse, he asked me to come back and record a follow-up episode. He also asked if I’d be willing to share my empirical view of what branding is with the DigitalMarketer community. In doing so, start a dialogue of how we each can make our areas of marketing most effective.

Why Does BrandScience Matter?

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There are so many types of marketing out there. Digital, social media, content, e-commerce, email, paid traffic, paid search, analytics and data, optimization and testing, copywriting, or community just to name a few.

“Regardless of the marketing you do, one constant thread binds all these forms of marketing. These marketing activities are only as successful as their implementation of branding within them.”

Regardless of the marketing you do, one constant thread binds all these forms of marketing. These marketing activities are only as successful as their implementation of branding within them.

This means, if your branding isn’t of superior quality, no amount of marketing efforts can help It.

Most of us know that we must deploy effective branding, but how? We think we know the why: To make our companies grow, drive profits, and help make sales, right?

What if that’s the wrong answer? What if—by not knowing what you don’t know— you’re missing incredible, low-risk opportunities to help your brand grow?

What if you could get where you want faster than you are now?

I’m excited to share my knowledge of the science of branding in a series of articles with you. It’s my goal to help you understand the impact effective branding can have. Most importantly, I want you to get further, faster.

  • What if you could get to where you dreamed about sooner?
  • What if you launched that new product and it sold like hotcakes?
  • What if you could grow and scale your business into being the leading authority in your product/service category?

This is all possible with effective, evidence-based branding.

No matter if you’re a Founder, C-Suite leader, agency leader, marketing practitioner, small business owner, entrepreneur, solopreneur, or agency leader—there’s something about branding that will help you right now.You’ll be amazed by how real, practical, concrete, and succinct we get in our exploration of branding. We’ll look at what it is, why it’s important, how it works, and how to ensure you’re doing it correctly—scientifically speaking.

Get Ready for a 5-Part Series on Branding

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In this series, we’ll be looking at what exactly branding truly is, from a definitive approach based on science. The stuff we’re talking about is REAL, not made up.

“In this series, we’ll be looking at what exactly branding truly is, from a definitive approach based on science. The stuff we’re talking about is REAL, not made up.”

My friend Nathan—who is a librarian and university news collection curator asked me specifically “Are you using the word evidence-based in your article?” (Yes, Nathan, five times and counting).

There are currently 13 different areas of evidence-based metrics I use in the deployment of BrandScience. I’m always searching the depths of neuroscience, marketing science, cognitive psychology, and the worlds in between to help ensure YOUR BRANDING is more effective.

These are evidence-based proven metrics and evaluative tools that ensure that we’re talking about the real thing— not mythological padawan frameworks and violet bovine principles from the latest workshops or people from the back of the bus.

What Can I Expect?

There are a few topics that you can expect to read about (e.g. colors, fonts, etc) and some other ones that may surprise you. Like “Sequence of Cognition” and “Semiotics.” We’ll even discuss insights relating to the human mind, as well as  reimagine some classic terms like “customer avatar” and “content strategy.”

Together we’ll look at things like:

  1. What is Branding?: How it Scientifically Works
  2. The Biggest Branding Myths You May Be Making
  3. What Is Branding Truly Supposed to Do?
  4. When Do You Build Your Brand?
  5. How Do I Bring My Brand’s A-Game?

These are just a few questions that scratch the surface of the world of BrandScience.

What’s In It for Me?

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Once, a professor told me that adult pedagogy (learning) isn’t the same as children, and instead, that adults only listen to WIFM Radio.

I’d never heard of this.

“Please tell me, what is WIFM? I’ve not heard of this station.”

He said ” “What’s In It For Me?” Meaning, most of us only learn when we want to, have to, or need to.

Since you’re part of the DigitalMarketer community, I hope this is an opportunity to learn because you WANT TO. If you need to or have to, that’s ok too—so we’ll make sure no one is left behind.

Regardless of why you’re tuning in, I’m glad you’re here. Here’s why.

As a result of reading this series, you’ll learn some incredible BrandScience Foundations that will allow you to:

  • Make it easier for your marketing to be effective, helping you become top of mind in customers’ minds.
  • Make it easier for your team to deploy your marketing
  • Understand the laws that govern brand growth so you can deploy them every day
  • Learn effective brand strategies that drive sales and marketing together.

Are You Ready to Find Out How Branding Scientifically Works?

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Are you ready to find out how branding works scientifically so you can implement it in your brand? I hope so!

If so, buckle up, and prepare for a wild ride. I can’t wait, can you?

Yes, this is wild.If you don’t believe me, check out the DigitalMarketer podcast episode #338.

This episode is an incredible primer for everything we’re going to dive into in this series. It’ll give you a taste of the excitement I have. Not to mention, a glimpse of the results that it can create for you and your brand.

I can’t wait to share with you truly what effective, authoritative branding is that you can implement in your business immediately.You can even get a head start on your journey, by watching this video here.

P.S. What questions do you have?

What are your biggest branding challenges?

I hope to answer them and many more in each of these articles. And I hope to spark a lot more questions too.

Send me your biggest challenges, questions, and thoughts by hopping on over to my Link Tree

There you can email me directly with your biggest challenges as we address them together in this series.

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Comparing Credibility of Custom Chatbots & Live Chat



Building Customer Trust: Comparing Credibility of Custom Chatbots & Live Chat

Addressing customer issues quickly is not merely a strategy to distinguish your brand; it’s an imperative for survival in today’s fiercely competitive marketplace.

Customer frustration can lead to customer churn. That’s precisely why organizations employ various support methods to ensure clients receive timely and adequate assistance whenever they require it.

Nevertheless, selecting the most suitable support channel isn’t always straightforward. Support teams often grapple with the choice between live chat and chatbots.

The automation landscape has transformed how businesses engage with customers, elevating chatbots as a widely embraced support solution. As more companies embrace technology to enhance their customer service, the debate over the credibility of chatbots versus live chat support has gained prominence.

However, customizable chatbot continue to offer a broader scope for personalization and creating their own chatbots.

In this article, we will delve into the world of customer support, exploring the advantages and disadvantages of both chatbots and live chat and how they can influence customer trust. By the end, you’ll have a comprehensive understanding of which option may be the best fit for your business.

The Rise of Chatbots

Chatbots have become increasingly prevalent in customer support due to their ability to provide instant responses and cost-effective solutions. These automated systems use artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) to engage with customers in real-time, making them a valuable resource for businesses looking to streamline their customer service operations.

Advantages of Chatbots

24/7 Availability

One of the most significant advantages of custom chatbots is their round-the-clock availability. They can respond to customer inquiries at any time, ensuring that customers receive support even outside regular business hours.


Custom Chatbots provide consistent responses to frequently asked questions, eliminating the risk of human error or inconsistency in service quality.


Implementing chatbots can reduce operational costs by automating routine inquiries and allowing human agents to focus on more complex issues.


Chatbots can handle multiple customer interactions simultaneously, making them highly scalable as your business grows.

Disadvantages of Chatbots

Limited Understanding

Chatbots may struggle to understand complex or nuanced inquiries, leading to frustration for customers seeking detailed information or support.

Lack of Empathy

Chatbots lack the emotional intelligence and empathy that human agents can provide, making them less suitable for handling sensitive or emotionally charged issues.

Initial Setup Costs

Developing and implementing chatbot technology can be costly, especially for small businesses.

The Role of Live Chat Support

Live chat support, on the other hand, involves real human agents who engage with customers in real-time through text-based conversations. While it may not offer the same level of automation as custom chatbots, live chat support excels in areas where human interaction and empathy are crucial.

Advantages of Live Chat

Human Touch

Live chat support provides a personal touch that chatbots cannot replicate. Human agents can empathize with customers, building a stronger emotional connection.

Complex Issues

For inquiries that require a nuanced understanding or involve complex problem-solving, human agents are better equipped to provide in-depth assistance.

Trust Building

Customers often trust human agents more readily, especially when dealing with sensitive matters or making important decisions.


Human agents can adapt to various customer personalities and communication styles, ensuring a positive experience for diverse customers.

Disadvantages of Live Chat

Limited Availability

Live chat support operates within specified business hours, which may not align with all customer needs, potentially leading to frustration.

Response Time

The speed of response in live chat support can vary depending on agent availability and workload, leading to potential delays in customer assistance.


Maintaining a live chat support team with trained agents can be expensive, especially for smaller businesses strategically.

Building Customer Trust: The Credibility Factor

When it comes to building customer trust, credibility is paramount. Customers want to feel that they are dealing with a reliable and knowledgeable source. Both customziable chatbots and live chat support can contribute to credibility, but their effectiveness varies in different contexts.

Building Trust with Chatbots

Chatbots can build trust in various ways:


Chatbots provide consistent responses, ensuring that customers receive accurate information every time they interact with them.

Quick Responses

Chatbots offer instant responses, which can convey a sense of efficiency and attentiveness.

Data Security

Chatbots can assure customers of their data security through automated privacy policies and compliance statements.

However, custom chatbots may face credibility challenges when dealing with complex issues or highly emotional situations. In such cases, the lack of human empathy and understanding can hinder trust-building efforts.

Building Trust with Live Chat Support

Live chat support, with its human touch, excels at building trust in several ways:


Human agents can show empathy by actively listening to customers’ concerns and providing emotional support.

Tailored Solutions

Live chat agents can tailor solutions to individual customer needs, demonstrating a commitment to solving their problems.


Human agents can adapt to changing customer requirements, ensuring a personalized and satisfying experience.

However, live chat support’s limitations, such as availability and potential response times, can sometimes hinder trust-building efforts, especially when customers require immediate assistance.

Finding the Right Balance

The choice between custom chatbots and live chat support is not always binary. Many businesses find success by integrating both options strategically:

Initial Interaction

Use chatbots for initial inquiries, providing quick responses, and gathering essential information. This frees up human agents to handle more complex cases.

Escalation to Live Chat

Implement a seamless escalation process from custom chatbots to live chat support when customer inquiries require a higher level of expertise or personal interaction.

Continuous Improvement

Regularly analyze customer interactions and feedback to refine your custom chatbot’s responses and improve the overall support experience.


In the quest to build customer trust, both chatbots and live chat support have their roles to play. Customizable Chatbots offer efficiency, consistency, and round-the-clock availability, while live chat support provides the human touch, empathy, and adaptability. The key is to strike the right balance, leveraging the strengths of each to create a credible and trustworthy customer support experience. By understanding the unique advantages and disadvantages of both options, businesses can make informed decisions to enhance customer trust and satisfaction in the digital era.

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The Rise in Retail Media Networks



A shopping cart holding the Amazon logo to represent the rise in retail media network advertising.

As LL Cool J might say, “Don’t call it a comeback. It’s been here for years.”

Paid advertising is alive and growing faster in different forms than any other marketing method.

Magna, a media research firm, and GroupM, a media agency, wrapped the year with their ad industry predictions – expect big growth for digital advertising in 2024, especially with the pending US presidential political season.

But the bigger, more unexpected news comes from the rise in retail media networks – a relative newcomer in the industry.

Watch CMI’s chief strategy advisor Robert Rose explain how these trends could affect marketers or keep reading for his thoughts:

GroupM expects digital advertising revenue in 2023 to conclude with a 5.8% or $889 billion increase – excluding political advertising. Magna believes ad revenue will tick up 5.5% this year and jump 7.2% in 2024. GroupM and Zenith say 2024 will see a more modest 4.8% growth.

Robert says that the feeling of an ad slump and other predictions of advertising’s demise in the modern economy don’t seem to be coming to pass, as paid advertising not only survived 2023 but will thrive in 2024.

What’s a retail media network?

On to the bigger news – the rise of retail media networks. Retail media networks, the smallest segment in these agencies’ and research firms’ evaluation, will be one of the fastest-growing and truly important digital advertising formats in 2024.

GroupM suggests the $119 billion expected to be spent in the networks this year and should grow by a whopping 8.3% in the coming year.  Magna estimates $124 billion in ad revenue from retail media networks this year.

“Think about this for a moment. Retail media is now almost a quarter of the total spent on search advertising outside of China,” Robert points out.

You’re not alone if you aren’t familiar with retail media networks. A familiar vernacular in the B2C world, especially the consumer-packaged goods industry, retail media networks are an advertising segment you should now pay attention to.

Retail media networks are advertising platforms within the retailer’s network. It’s search advertising on retailers’ online stores. So, for example, if you spend money to advertise against product keywords on Amazon, Walmart, or Instacart, you use a retail media network.

But these ad-buying networks also exist on other digital media properties, from mini-sites to videos to content marketing hubs. They also exist on location through interactive kiosks and in-store screens. New formats are rising every day.

Retail media networks make sense. Retailers take advantage of their knowledge of customers, where and why they shop, and present offers and content relevant to their interests. The retailer uses their content as a media company would, knowing their customers trust them to provide valuable information.

Think about these 2 things in 2024

That brings Robert to two things he wants you to consider for 2024 and beyond. The first is a question: Why should you consider retail media networks for your products or services?   

Advertising works because it connects to the idea of a brand. Retail media networks work deep into the buyer’s journey. They use the consumer’s presence in a store (online or brick-and-mortar) to cross-sell merchandise or become the chosen provider.

For example, Robert might advertise his Content Marketing Strategy book on Amazon’s retail network because he knows his customers seek business books. When they search for “content marketing,” his book would appear first.

However, retail media networks also work well because they create a brand halo effect. Robert might buy an ad for his book in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal because he knows their readers view those media outlets as reputable sources of information. He gains some trust by connecting his book to their media properties.

Smart marketing teams will recognize the power of the halo effect and create brand-level experiences on retail media networks. They will do so not because they seek an immediate customer but because they can connect their brand content experience to a trusted media network like Amazon, Nordstrom, eBay, etc.

The second thing Robert wants you to think about relates to the B2B opportunity. More retail media network opportunities for B2B brands are coming.

You can already buy into content syndication networks such as Netline, Business2Community, and others. But given the astronomical growth, for example, of Amazon’s B2B marketplace ($35 billion in 2023), Robert expects a similar trend of retail media networks to emerge on these types of platforms.   

“If I were Adobe, Microsoft, Salesforce, HubSpot, or any brand with big content platforms, I’d look to monetize them by selling paid sponsorship of content (as advertising or sponsored content) on them,” Robert says.

As you think about creative ways to use your paid advertising spend, consider the retail media networks in 2024.

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

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AI driving an exponential increase in marketing technology solutions



AI driving an exponential increase in marketing technology solutions

The martech landscape is expanding and AI is the prime driving force. That’s the topline news from the “Martech 2024” report released today. And, while that will get the headline, the report contains much more.

Since the release of the most recent Martech Landscape in May 2023, 2,042 new marketing technology tools have surfaced, bringing the total to 13,080 — an 18.5% increase. Of those, 1,498 (73%) were AI-based. 

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“But where did it land?” said Frans Riemersma of Martech Tribe during a joint video conference call with Scott Brinker of ChiefMartec and HubSpot. “And the usual suspect, of course, is content. But the truth is you can build an empire with all the genAI that has been surfacing — and by an empire, I mean, of course, a business.”

Content tools accounted for 34% of all the new AI tools, far ahead of video, the second-place category, which had only 4.85%. U.S. companies were responsible for 61% of these tools — not surprising given that most of the generative AI dynamos, like OpenAI, are based here. Next up was the U.K. at 5.7%, but third place was a big surprise: Iceland — with a population of 373,000 — launched 4.6% of all AI martech tools. That’s significantly ahead of fourth place India (3.5%), whose population is 1.4 billion and which has a significant tech industry. 

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The global development of these tools shows the desire for solutions that natively understand the place they are being used. 

“These regional products in their particular country…they’re fantastic,” said Brinker. “They’re loved, and part of it is because they understand the culture, they’ve got the right thing in the language, the support is in that language.”

Now that we’ve looked at the headline stuff, let’s take a deep dive into the fascinating body of the report.

The report: A deeper dive

Marketing technology “is a study in contradictions,” according to Brinker and Riemersma. 

In the new report they embrace these contradictions, telling readers that, while they support “discipline and fiscal responsibility” in martech management, failure to innovate might mean “missing out on opportunities for competitive advantage.” By all means, edit your stack meticulously to ensure it meets business value use cases — but sure, spend 5-10% of your time playing with “cool” new tools that don’t yet have a use case. That seems like a lot of time.

Similarly, while you mustn’t be “carried away” by new technology hype cycles, you mustn’t ignore them either. You need to make “deliberate choices” in the realm of technological change, but be agile about implementing them. Be excited by martech innovation, in other words, but be sensible about it.

The growing landscape

Consolidation for the martech space is not in sight, Brinker and Riemersma say. Despite many mergers and acquisitions, and a steadily increasing number of bankruptcies and dissolutions, the exponentially increasing launch of new start-ups powers continuing growth.

It should be observed, of course, that this is almost entirely a cloud-based, subscription-based commercial space. To launch a martech start-up doesn’t require manufacturing, storage and distribution capabilities, or necessarily a workforce; it just requires uploading an app to the cloud. That is surely one reason new start-ups appear at such a startling rate. 

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As the authors admit, “(i)f we measure by revenue and/or install base, the graph of all martech companies is a ‘long tail’ distribution.” What’s more, focus on the 200 or so leading companies in the space and consolidation can certainly be seen.

Long-tail tools are certainly not under-utilized, however. Based on a survey of over 1,000 real-world stacks, the report finds long-tail tools constitute about half of the solutions portfolios — a proportion that has remained fairly consistent since 2017. The authors see long-tail adoption where users perceive feature gaps — or subpar feature performance — in their core solutions.

Composability and aggregation

The other two trends covered in detail in the report are composability and aggregation. In brief, a composable view of a martech stack means seeing it as a collection of features and functions rather than a collection of software products. A composable “architecture” is one where apps, workflows, customer experiences, etc., are developed using features of multiple products to serve a specific use case.

Indeed, some martech vendors are now describing their own offerings as composable, meaning that their proprietary features are designed to be used in tandem with third-party solutions that integrate with them. This is an evolution of the core-suite-plus-app-marketplace framework.

That framework is what Brinker and Riemersma refer to as “vertical aggregation.” “Horizontal aggregation,” they write, is “a newer model” where aggregation of software is seen not around certain business functions (marketing, sales, etc.) but around a layer of the tech stack. An obvious example is the data layer, fed from numerous sources and consumed by a range of applications. They correctly observe that this has been an important trend over the past year.

Build it yourself

Finally, and consistent with Brinker’s long-time advocacy for the citizen developer, the report detects a nascent trend towards teams creating their own software — a trend that will doubtless be accelerated by support from AI.

So far, the apps that are being created internally may be no more than “simple workflows and automations.” But come the day that app development is so democratized that it will be available to a wide range of users, the software will be a “reflection of the way they want their company to operate and the experiences they want to deliver to customers. This will be a powerful dimension for competitive advantage.”

Constantine von Hoffman contributed to this report.

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