I’m actually surprised we don’t hear about more of these incidents. I’m assuming they happen all the time, but the effect is either so small most advertisers don’t see it or they are fixed so fast advertisers never recognize them. It’s getting easier and easier to put it all on autopilot, but the incentives actually work against advertisers.
the Meta irregularity from this weekend highlights a risk in wholly automated advertising creative production: that the incentive structure for ad platforms is simply too misaligned with the best interests of advertisers to empower those platforms to manage the digital advertising process end-to-end.
I’ve been reflecting on Fahren, the good and the bad, and I’ve been considering culture for a couple client engagements, too. Culture is both an enabler and a killer, tailwind and headwinds. But, it’s always got to be worked on. You can change it, but you can’t ignore it.
If Facebook is starting to seem like the DeathStar, and Google is too Borg-like, ifTikTok’s state-ownership worries you, then its time join a rebellion of sorts. One of the ways to fight the power of the big platforms is to use low-tech tech, preferably open source stuff. But, being a rebel sometimes takes work. There’s a commitment involved, and the payoff is, more often than not, a sort of moral victory.
One way to work against the tyranny of the algorithms is actually pretty simple. And, the payoff is clear and often delightful.
Get your news via RSS. Not sure what RSS is? Never heard of it? You’re not alone.
But though RSS is remarkably useful, it can be daunting to the uninitiated, and it lacks the slick marketing and cultural footprint of the social-media giants.
Riverside.fm has a great, free write up, too. But, basically, RSS is tech to standardize “feeds” of news items from a site. The feeds are in an open format, making it easy to share/syndicate content from one site to another in a trusted, dependable, open way. Its foundational tech for podcasting (podcasts get to your podcast app via RSS Feeds in most cases).
RSS never got past cult-favorite because there was never a killer app for it. Its background tech, not the app you download. More importantly, news sites could never really make money on RSS feeds (the ads that showed up in feeds were awful an untrackable). Moreover, the RSS feeds made it so that users never even had to get to your site. The tech was, in some ways, anti-revenue. So, it never got the love it should have because it was not in the Publishers’ best interests.
But, it’s still out there. There’s delightful world of publishers to find and discover through their RSS Feeds. And, its a fun way to fight the power of the big platforms.
I asked ChatGPT: “I am a software engineer working in an agile team. Explain the difference between a Product Manager and a Product Owner”. Got a pretty good answer:
As a software engineer working in an agile team, it’s important to understand the roles and responsibilities of a Product Manager and a Product Owner. While there may be some overlap, there are distinct differences between the two positions:
Product Manager: A Product Manager (PM) is responsible for the overall strategy and vision of a product. They focus on the big picture and are involved in product development from ideation to launch. PMs are responsible for conducting market research, identifying customer needs, setting goals and objectives, creating a product roadmap, and prioritizing features based on customer feedback and market trends. They work closely with cross-functional teams, including engineering, design, and marketing, to ensure that the product is aligned with the company’s overall goals and objectives.
Product Owner: A Product Owner (PO) is responsible for the development and delivery of a specific product or feature. They work closely with the engineering team to ensure that user stories and requirements are well-defined, and the team understands what they need to build. POs prioritize the backlog and work with the engineering team to ensure that the right features are built at the right time. They are also responsible for testing and accepting user stories and ensuring that the product meets the acceptance criteria. POs work closely with the Product Manager to ensure that the product or feature is aligned with the overall strategy and vision.
In summary, the Product Manager is responsible for the overall strategy and vision of the product, while the Product Owner is responsible for the development and delivery of a specific product or feature. The Product Manager is focused on the big picture, while the Product Owner is focused on the details of the development process. However, both positions are crucial for the success of a product, and they should work closely together to ensure that the product is aligned with the company’s goals and objectives.
I admit I fall into a subsection of the culture that is skeptical (at best) of TikTok and the way brands are getting built there. I know companies are selling a lot of stuff. But, are they building actual brands? You know: Where the name has equity, and creates preference and good will in the minds of consumers, enable product innovation, extensions and pricing favorability.
I’m a fan of brands that are designed to last: Brands with a goal to be around in 50 years, with a strong company culture as a foundation, delivering high integrity products, serving an actual need, and a focus on contributing more than “net profit “good deals, great prices” to the community where they work. This sort of brand building takes time, commitment beyond ROI, and faith that consumers will become fans and eventually loyal customers.
I’ve recently started buying GoMacro Bars as I ramp up my training for some summer bike rides. The bars are great food for when I’m on the bike and need something to fuel the next two hours of riding. And, the bars are great pre-ride food to get me ready ahead of the training effort.
GoMacro is growing in a really competitive space: Nutrition Bars. The “job to be done” for this product is two fold: High integrity (good nutrition profile, high quality ingredients, great taste) snack, and a trusted/quality energy bar for workouts. The space is very crowded with Mega brands (like Nature Valley and Kind bars) and a lot of specialty bars with both functional benefits (allergen free, vegan, organic, sustainable, diet-specific, etc) and great taste.
So, if you want to succeed over the long haul you need to be great on the product, but you also need a differentiated way to communicate your brand, your story and your product information.
Tell the Origin Story
GoMaco does a great job of telling their story via Instagram and their site. It’s a cool backgrounder on where the product came from and the company’s reason for being in business.
GoMacro’s origin story is heartwarming and compelling. A mom with a cancer diagnosis, a mother-daughter duo creating a plan to use food for health, a company from a small town in rolling farmland of Wisconsin. The roots of the company are woven through their product development, their marketing and the way they interact with their community.
But, the story is not getting told in any of their TikTok. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to tell complex stories in Reels and TikToks? Does the slow music, soft focus, considerate pace get dropped by the algorithm? Or, is it just a mismatch between editorial intent (tell a meaningful story) and the point of the platform (stop/watch time)?
Values-driven Point of View
The values that drive the company and their efforts are woven through their marketing efforts and embodied in their product choices, with a focus on Ingredients with Integrity:
No additives and preservatives
GoMacro does a pretty good job of communicating the product differentiation across their social channels, including TikTok. I mean, who doesn’t love to see organic peanut butter chips getting made (though “homemade” sort of stretches it a bit). This seems like a good match between the format and the content and the editorial intent.
Commitments in Action
The company brings their commitments to life across a number of interests on their other social platforms and website:
The rural lifestyle / farming as meaningful, vital work
An active, outdoor lifestyle of motion and wellness
Food as a pathway to wellness and health
Their TikTok is filled with videos of the product being used out in nature, while being active, etc.
The company is actively supporting the communities where there are shared values. They do this through active investment and flowing dollars to relevant programs. These deep connections are getting communicated well on their site, on instagram and on YouTube, but they aren’t showing up as much on TikTok. These sorts of stories probably don’t really drive dwell/watch time, the way other, more platform-friendly content does.
Reflect the Best Aspirations of Your Buyers
Great brands are aspirational. That is, they reflect the best aspirations of who the consumers want to be. Consumers see themselves, at their best, in the brand. The brand does use TikTok to reflect their buyer. Or, at least their desired buyer: Young, active, “greenish” buyers who are investing their food dollars as self-care. FWIW, there are no images of dads on bikes anywhere to be found (Perhaps an untapped, unknown audience for them?)
While they are running a pretty straightforward ambassador program, it’s a good start to demonstrate shared interests and support for the lifestyle aligned with the brand. But, it’s not clear how those ambassadors are being used within brand content, but the brand shows up a ton elsewhere, paid and unpaid.
It’s a Vibe, but I’m not a Platform Native
I’m not a heavy enough user of TikTok to have deep, intuitive sense of how brands are effectively using the native content to build the brand. It’s one thing to shoot for virality (#donotattempt). But, in terms of building your brand equity, the best practices are still sort of emerging. My gut instinct is that the “vibe” is the thing and in order to deliver on that, you’ve got to be deeply fluent on the platform. The GoMacro team seems to deliver.
There has been chatter for years that Google is a monopoly and should be broken up. Optimists (free market champions and probably, shareholders) primarily looked at the search side of the business to make their case, arguing that there is plenty of competition on all sides, and a breakup wasn’t warranted.
But the most recent action by the Justice Department is pretty serious and straightforward, arguing that Google rigged their ad markets to maximize profits, damaging the publishers that overwhelmingly us Google tools to sell adspace on their sites. And, it goes further, arguing it’s time to break up Google.
The whole legal document is pretty interesting for nerds like me (I’m on page 80), but the Emerson Collective-backed Techpolicy.org has a great summary / explainer.
DOJ shows how, due to Google’s ability to manipulate ad prices, publishers ended up at the mercy of a monopoly that once promised them prosperity in their transition to the web.
For those of us swimming in digital media for years, this level of deep-code chicanery won’t be a huge surprise. Digital media has always, from day one, been sketchy and fast. The deeper you go into the middle world of the ad tech and data stack, the shadier it gets. So, I’m not surprised at the bid rigging that’s been in place, just sort of shocked that the impact hasn’t been bigger.
From the outside, it would seem relatively straightforward for Google to spin out a couple pieces of their ad stack (i.e. AdX) to make some space between their tools and take themselves out as the middleware. Meanwhile, i would imagine there are some marketers giving a second thought to their reliance on Google.
I realize these sorts of cases aren’t always done for legal or business reasons, that there’s a strong political motivation here. And, I’m not a big fan of what Google is becoming. But, i’m also not sure what problem this particular piece of regulation is really solving and who really benefits.
There is going to be an explosion of tools based on AI to create and deliver your synthetic content in the future. While it might be overwhelming, we have to watch as the new tools come online. Luckily, there are folks who are keeping track of this stuff for us.
This article from Ars Technica provides some deep, techy background on the path from the computer lab to the current state. Helpful context for understanding how the future might unfold.
Like every other human looking at digital screens, I am pre-disposed to get swamped in the stream of headlines and images. The UX people and product managers are engineering the experience to make me want to click or tap or swipe. It’s easy to get into the flow and just go with it and then you realize, 10 minutes later, you’ve been wasting time. I know that, but my way of fighting back is to ask myself, before I click or tap or swipe, “Is this really what I should be spending my time on right now?” It’s a small step, a little guardrail.
If you’re in the digital marketing business, you’re probably already overwhelmed with stories about AI and the fast-growing set of tools that can be used to generate content . Who needs to write anything anymore when we can simply paste a prompt into Chat GPT3?
Every marketer knows the pressure to generate more and fresher content. The press to get stuff out on all the feeds is real, and paying actual humans money is expensive over time. So, it makes sense why marketers would be curious about ways to deliver more content with less time, money and energy input. AI sounds awesome!
AI is, as of now, a tool like a hammer. It’s a powerful assist to human work. But, you can do a lot of damage with a hammer if you don’t use it well.
So, where are these AI engines getting trained to create all that content for your site or your emails?
The algorithms are getting pointed at the rest of the web, where gajillions of paragraphs are out there in the open, ready to be used as the template or input.
Get ready to see more and more articles like this one: A Writer Used AI To Plagiarize Me. Now What? In this case, it’s an everyday person getting dragged into a sketchy Substack ploy. Someone wants to “get rich” on substack, but doesn’t want to do the work, so they’re using AI to generate the content for them. But, in this case the AI pretty much just plaigerized. Or, the writer did and blamed it on AI. Either way, worrisome.
This is going to happen to a brand soon, if it already hasn’t. Some brand will use AI to make an ad, and an author will claim copyright infringement.
Good marketers that are interested in building and maintaining equity will want to tread very, very carefully here.