Digital Trends 2020 | Content for Tangent

Digital Trends 2020: Master the Art of Value Creation

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‘It began in the smoke-filled gaming rooms of South Korea in the late 1990s… farmers collectively earned hundreds of millions of untaxed dollars.’

The Economist, 2019

The farmers in question weren’t agriculturalists. They were gamers who spent hours playing ‘MMORPG’ games (think World of Warcraft) for the sole purpose of collecting ‘gold’ – digital currencies traded for useful items – which they could sell to other players for real-world cash.

The practice now props up the economy of Venezuela, much to the chagrin of the games’ developers, some of which ‘sell virtual gold themselves, and dislike competition’.

There’s a lesson here for your digital strategy.

Many businesses often fail to spot revenue opportunities in their own ideas.

That’s nothing new; think of Alta Vista, and the numerous other pre-Google search engines that disappeared.

But in 2020, brands will come under unprecedented pressure to master the art of digital value creation.

Some pressure will come from the ground up.

Former digital bit-part players have matured into driving forces. Content publishers, influencers and startups are evolving novel, scalable business models off the back of monetized digital experiences. Consumers are speaking with their wallets.

From the top down, appetite for ‘growth investing’ has waned.

Behind the scenes of high-profile IPO embarrassments (or lack thereof), tech unicorns are now diverting into R&D around new profit centres, with promising early results.

Established businesses are watching closely. Banks, in particular, are making smart investments designed to defend and grow their existing market shares.

As pressures build through 2020, one thing is certain.

If you don’t start mining your own gold, somebody else will.

Virtuous circles in the creator economy

2019 saw huge gains for the creator economy: small publishers fulfilling a public appetite for branded content, and the various businesses spinning off it.

Unlike some early digital publishers which struggled to turn a profit, many are now managing to monetize in innovative ways.

Youth culture media platform Complex earned its reputation off long-form, advertiser-friendly entertainment. Its ‘Hot Ones’ show spun out a $10m hot sauce business. It also has a show called ‘Sneaker Shopping’, and is rumoured to be launching a sneaker marketplace in 2020. Complex now turns over $200m.

A newer business, Kyra TV, is tracking $10m this year: a threefold increase on 2018, off the back of diversifying into brand integrations, social commerce and talent management for influencers.

You only have to read the comments on PAQ, Kyra’s YouTube fashion show, to see that a Netflix show is a likely next step, as are new commerce lines and more influencer events.

These businesses are interesting for two reasons.


A screenshot from Kyra’s PAQ Ralph Lauren 100th Episode Special

One: what I call the Media x Marketing x Enterprise business model, whereby an audience-and-creator network, profitable in its own right, provides a springboard for complementary business.

Two: they produce the greatest value at small scale….

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Whitepaper for Currency Alliance

There was a mix of good and bad, for loyalty in 2019.

Much of the bad has derived from a lack of belief or understanding from CEOs, who constrain budgets, and prop up short-term earnings with value that ought to flow to customers.

The widespread devaluation of loyalty currencies during the past few years brings this into sharp focus.

Despite such obstacles, however, many determined loyalty professionals have carved out real gains. This has mostly been via low-investment, tactical approaches that increase ROI, and by educating the C-suite regarding long-term strategic value.

That same growth-hacking approach – a trademark of Silicon Valley firms – has led to some important advances for the entire industry to observe. But there remain some fundamental things that loyalty programs need to achieve to weather the looming storm that open banking, mobile payments, aggregation models, and other marketplace dynamics will bring.

In this ‘perfect storm’ of change, the sheltered existence, that many leading loyalty programs have enjoyed for three decades, will come to an end.


Read the full article on the Currency Alliance blog

Sustainable Printing | Content for Park

What do you mean, ‘sustainable printing’?

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Collaboration with your printer is key to meeting sustainability goals.

Requesting a “sustainable” production from your printer is a bit like requesting a “nicer” haircut from your barber.

No problem. Where would you like us to start?

In the last couple of years, sustainability has become a boardroom buzzword. And like many buzzwords, it belies the extent of its implications.

Most people probably think first of sustainable materials such as recycled paper.  But paper is a complex issue in and of itself – and this only part of the story.

In the printing industry, due to the wide variety of materials and processes involved, and our complex supply chains, many long-established norms have been overhauled as we’ve sought to rein in our environmental impact. The process is still ongoing.

Client-side, ‘sustainable’ is not a fixed term. A production considered sustainable by one business may be unsatisfactory to the next.

For some businesses, emissions are the prime focus. For others, it’s reducing carbon footprint, for others it is reducing landfill through use of recyclable materials or materials that can be recycled. Increasingly, today, the agenda is led by plastic and petroleum products.

For us, this is all in a day’s work.

A good printer should be prepared to discuss and consider a client’s business goals and marketing objectives in order to come up with the perfect formula. Sustainability is just one more dimension to be factored in.

For the best chance of success, bring your CSR goals and budget to the table right at the beginning, and arrive armed with questions to test the limits of your printer’s sustainability credentials.

Environmental certifications: no easy solution

If you’re shopping around for a new supplier, it may be tempting to rely on industry certifications. But while some industry certifications can be used to create a shortlist of suppliers, they won’t give the answers you need.

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Whitepaper for OLIVER

Whitepaper: the ISBA In-House Agency Survey

This is an excerpt of an interview with key stakeholders in the whitepaper project. Read the full article on

OLIVER: In-house agencies took a beating in May when PepsiCo was forced to pull its Kendall Jenner ad.

Was the agency model really the culprit?OLIVER isba front cover

Debbie Morrison, ISBA: “Let’s get real here: this could have happened with any agency, external, in-house or on-site. To blame the agency model is naïve in the extreme and implies that only external agencies are connected to the real world and popular culture. This was purely and simply a judgement miscall.”

Adele Gritten, Future Thinking: “This sort of thing usually happens because a brand misunderstands its audience.
Whatever your model, if your agency doesn’t have the right insights or you’re not feeding those insights into your marketing strategy, you will end up in situations like this.

The problem was amplified in Pepsi’s case because it tried to tap into the zeitgeist, but failed to recognise its place within it.”

Sharon Whale, OLIVER: “It’s also important to remember that every iteration of each agency model – in-house, on-site and external – takes a slightly different form.

It’s possible PepsiCo’s own specific setup did allow a mistake to slip through, but eight brands in our survey are creating their own TV advertising in-house; four completely off their own bat.

tv stat in text






There’s no reason an in-house agency can’t be creatively and strategically excellent, with the right level of rigour and push-back if properly built.”

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Security & UX Design | Article for Tangent

Safe & Simple: Can UX Design Protect Us from Hackers?

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Digitalization has made some things in life simpler, but not security.

A joint-press release by MasterCard & Microsoft, who have recently launched a collaboration over online payments and identification, said:

“Currently, verifying your identity online… places a huge burden on individuals, who have to successfully remember hundreds of passwords for various identities and are increasingly being subjected to more complexity in proving their identity and managing their data.”

Beyond being inconvenient, this complexity is proving positively dangerous – and yet, neither brands nor consumers seem capable of tackling the problem.

Today’s consumer has little patience for the faff of multi-device, multi-interface, multi-page verification processes, thumbing codes into cumbersome mobile keyboards and endless password resets.

Businesses, meanwhile, are still figuring out how to profit from customer data, and the scale and costs of data hacks are escalating. The Marriot-Starwood breach this year was the second-largest in history, with 500m customers affected The largest-ever attack – on all 3bn Yahoo accounts – ended up costing $47m in litigation expenses.

More worryingly, a trend towards card-not-present transactions, and a general, deepening dependence on our digital identities, leaves consumers ever more exposed to crime.

If simpler security protocols do not become widespread, consumers and merchants alike may sleepwalk into cybercriminals’ hands.

Horses to water

Consumers are cybersecurity-conscious, but disinterested in managing the risks.

PwC’s 2017 survey found that “87% of consumers say they will take their business elsewhere if they don’t trust a company is handling their data responsibly”.

And yet…

 “Almost one in five people has faced an account hacking attempt but … only a third create new passwords for different online accounts and a worrying one-in-10 people use the same password for all their online accounts.”

A lack of understanding seems to be an issue.

Two Indiana University academics surveyed 500 American adults to understand why two-factor authentication – theoretically, a fairly effective security protocol – is not more popular.

Most consumers, apparently, simply didn’t see the urgency.

One of the researchers said of the participants, “We got a lot of, ‘My password is great. My password is plenty long enough.’”

Even Adam Cooper, who helped set up Verify, the UK government’s online identity system, confessed of his experience of online security processes that “I am baffled most of the time. I just click OK.”

This shows that if we are to work towards a more cyber-secure world, consumers are unlikely to be much help.

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Loyalty Personalisation | Content for Currency Alliance

Loyalty programs once enabled relatively personalized marketing.

From a standing start of zero customer data some 20 years ago, brands became able to incentivize desired behaviors in highly-predictable customer segments.

They did this by embarking on ‘no-brainer’ partnerships: where the customer journey is so linear (think airline + car rental) or the customer frequency so high (think grocery store + fast-casual dining) that a brand partnership creates obvious value.

Value, that is, to a minority of highly-frequent, high-spending customers.

Today, practically all these higher-spending customers are already enrolled in ‘no-brainer’ loyalty coalitions. Comprising perhaps 20% of your customer base, they form one of the ‘big, molasses segments'[i], now widely considered totally insufficient for modern marketing.

To the majority of less-frequent customers, these partnerships are not only impersonal, but many are downright irrelevant. If you don’t fly often, you probably also don’t stay in a lot of hotels.


It is with these less-frequent customers that the biggest profits lie…


Read the full article on the Currency Alliance blog

Financial Services Campaigns | Content for OLIVER

This is an excerpt of an article which held position #2 in Google search for ‘financial services marketing’ for over a year.

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Here at OLIVER, we sit up and take note when a brand deploys an innovative marketing approach to tackling their most pressing business problems.

In the financial services sector, these are:

  • content creation: distilling complicated products and services into bite-size chunks for today’s easily-distracted audiences
  • the personal touch: winning audiences’ trust in high-value decisions
  • customer retention: giving fickle Gen Z-era consumers genuine reasons for loyalty.

So based on these three criteria, we’ve thrown together a list of financial services content marketing campaigns that we think merit a little round of applause.

Kabbage: Help Your Customer Grow

There’s nothing revolutionary about the way that Kabbage does content marketing; it’s just done really well.

Where you’d normally expect to see “Blog” at the top of the site, you see the “Resources” tab. It’s a goldmine of useful information for small and medium size enterprises – some based on Kabbage’s core business of lending and finance, but others which are simply useful and interesting to their target audience. “How to be More Productive at Work” and “How to Choose a POS System” are just two examples.

Neatly categorised, attractively presented and regularly updated, this website has reasons aplenty for people at small businesses to keep coming back to read, research and download.

This audience might have no intention of applying for a loan – but if they ever did, Kabbage would be at the forefront of their minds.


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Member Org Tech | Article for Tangent

Growing pains: why bigger memberships demand smarter tech

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In 2015, a change in government policy saw a surge of over 5,000 new members of the British Medical Association, approximately 80% of whom were junior doctors.

tangent chart

By 2017, that figure had fallen back almost to 2015 levels.

The example is an extreme one: few organisations will ever enjoy a 9% leap in funding in only one year; but there is a lesson here for all member orgs.

What went wrong?

Member bases are uniquely affected by cultural shifts, and the factors that motivated one member to join may be very different from the next.

To retain biggest, broadest possible base of subscribers, member orgs should seek to understand and cater for diversity in their member base.

Organisations leading the way in this effort are doing so with the right balance of strategy and tech.


Digital content has proven a powerful force in the member org space.

The rise in veganism, for instance, may partly be down to the sharing of food pictures on social media.

“20 or 30 years ago, people would have described vegans as extreme and unnecessary… It was suddenly being associated with the celebrities, with the successful people, with the beautiful people.”

The Vegan Society has swollen ranks to 10k members of the back of this shift, and its Instagram feed now borrows tricks of the trade.

A more interesting case study comes from the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB).

Since 2006, a rise in the number of millennial business owners – an age category “increasingly less likely to be affiliated generally” – saw the FSB suffer a 23% fall in members.

The organisation appears to be pulling off a remarkable turnaround.

In 2017, First Voice, the FSB magazine, went digital, with paid media slots, gated content for new members, a live newsfeed for up-to-date content.

In that time, the organisation has enjoyed recent growth in retention rates, from 82% to 86.7% over three years, and more new members under 40 recruited than ever before.


Content ought not to be viewed as a one-way exercise; indeed, every digital touchpoint is an opportunity to improve understanding and refine your approach.

The Guardian newspaper – a private business with characteristics of a member org – A/B tested 30 different member recruitment messages, and scored 1300% growth in one year.

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Loyalty Infographics | for Currency Alliance

Some people talk about loyalty coalitions as if they’re a single concept.

In fact, there have been two distinct iterations of the loyalty coalition model – and a third, game-changing alternative is now emerging.

We created these infographics as a quick-reference guide to the fundamentals of each model, to help marketers fully understand how they operate, and to find the approach that works best for their customers.

Loyalty Coalition Model V1.0:

Examples: Nectar, Air Miles

Click the image to expand


Read the full article on Currency Alliance



Cybercrime | Written for OLIVER

This is an abstract; read the full article on OLIVER.

In 2017, big tech contracts will be won and lost on cybersecurity.

This is because the repeated instance of high-profile cyberattacks is being now taken increasingly seriously by brands.

PwC found that 53% of people across all sectors say they’ve become more fearful of cybercrime over the past two years, compared to 48% in 2014.


And when cyberattacks take place, heads roll.

JPMorgan reassigned their CSO Jim Cummings following a data breach off the back of a social campaign. Target fired its CIO and CEO after their own scandal in 2013.

This represents a big opportunity for B2B tech marketers.

Steve Morgan, founder and Editor-In-Chief at Cybersecurity Ventures, offers this tip on selling to a CSO / CISO / CIO:

skip straight the pain”. 

Read the full article.


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