Saturday, November 6, 2021

Why It's Important to Invest in Brands

Last week Volvo Cars had a successful IPO on the Nasdaq Stockholm exchange and was valued at $23 billion. That is more than 10x what China's Geely bought it for in 2010 from Ford for $1.8 billion. Personally I think Volvo cars look so much better since Geely took over. They are no longer boxy-looking, safe "tanks" on the road. The product lineup looks quite stylish these days and is better positioned as a luxury brand. It just goes to show that Volvo was mismanaged under Ford and how a brand can be turned around with proper investment and strategic focus. 

A similar outcome can be seen from another Ford divestiture. In 2008, Tata Motors, an Indian automotive manufacturer based in Mumbai, bought Jaguar and Land Rover for $2.3 billion. They had cost Ford $5.3 billion! Today, both brands and their product lineup looks so much better. I personally love the look of the understated Jaguar XF sedan, F-Pace SUV, and the flashier F-Type. 

Jaguar F-Type

Outside the automotive sector, look at ThinkPad. IBM sold ThinkPad to China's Lenovo in 2005 when it was going through one of its many restructurings in the 2000's. ThinkPads were highly regarded by executive road warriors back in my days. I was recently shopping for a new work laptop. And guess what? I ended up getting a Lenovo ThinkPad after researching a few options. I was glad to see Lenovo maintained the high quality of the product, the red mouse nub 😊, and the brand.  

Here's the deal. Very few Chinese and Indian companies own global brands, so the acquirers above really valued a chance to own these 3 global well-known, high-end brands. They nurtured them because they were viewed as strategic brands within their portfolio, invested in their product development where their prior parents didn't, and let them run mostly autonomously, especially from a brand perspective. They did a fantastic job not alienating their brand loyalists and I would argue did a good job expanding the brand audience. 

Bottom line: troubled storied brands starved for attention within large enterprises can be turned around with proper product innovation and brand support. 


Sunday, May 30, 2021

Why Sharing Varies Across Streaming Accounts

I don't share streaming accounts, but I know people who do, especially Netflix, for years. I started to think about why some services seem to be shared more than others.

Long known for having a lax policy on cracking down sharers, Netflix surprised users in March when some users logged into a shared Netflix account and saw a message that read, “If you don’t live with the owner of this account, you need your own account to keep watching." Though CEO Reed Hastings later downplayed that they were “tightening the screws" on sharers anytime soon and said it was just part of their ongoing tests. While they can easily IP detect where you're logging in from, they don't really police it. One side benefit I love of this is when I travel, some hotel smart TVs now have an easy option to login to your Netflix account and it logs you off automatically when you check out. This is so nice instead of watching random stuff and channel surfing on cable, which seems so outdated today! 

Compare that to my Hulu + Live TV subscription. Hulu is one of the strictest services. Per Hulu, if you use a living room device while connected to a different Wi-Fi network than what you set as your Home network, you’ll get an error message stating you’re not at home — in this case, you'll have the option to update your Home network if needed. You can change your Home network up to four times per year. So this really deters anyone from sharing with others. But this is also a pain for legitimate users like me who would love to watch my Hulu shows while traveling at a hotel. But unlike the convenient Netflix scenario described above, you can't do that with Hulu.

No one I know shares their Amazon Prime Video subscription. This is likely because if they're anything like us, Amazon is our "super" account for all kinds of services tied to our login -- Shopping, Kindle, Echos, Music, Photo (Did you even know Amazon has a great photo backup service!?!). I don't care if the recommended shows algorithm is thrown off from sharing. But as it relates to Shopping, the last thing I want is someone else ordering stuff charged to my Amazon account! I've never had any issues logging on to my Amazon account on multiple devices in various cities. I haven't noticed Amazon Prime Video integrated into hotel entertainment systems, but I think it's a matter of time, given how fast they are growing.

Disney+ is so focused on user growth, as witnessed by their low price point and generous 4 simultaneous logins, they also are very lax on sharing it seems, like Netflix.  Even with their recent price increase, $8/mo is one of the best deals in town, given their huge library of content from Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, and their own Disney studios! Sign up for 1 year and it's less than $7/mo. So who really needs to split such a low fee?!?! This is one streaming service I hope to see at hotel TVs soon. I can sit back and watch anything Star Wars or Marvel anytime from anywhere! =)

Travel tip: Lots of hotels, especially higher-end hotels or those that have updated their TVs, allow you to plug into a HDMI port with a Roku, Chromecast or Fire TV stick. So I pack one with me when I travel now just in case to access my favorite streaming services, except Hulu + Live TV. Some with newer smart TVs even let you Chromecast or send what's on your mobile phone directly to the TV!


Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Improving Marketing Attribution

With all the talk of a cookie-less world and the major iOS 14 update from Apple this week that will limit tracking users, I thought I'd share some key things you can do to improve marketing attribution.

Campaign Tracking Parameters

This is an essential setup for campaign tracking and, sadly, most marketers and analysts don't give it the attention it deserves. This leads to "garbage in, garbage out" and leads to less insights. Whether you're using UTM parameters for Google Analytics or setting up campaign tracking codes for Adobe Analytics, the process is similar and it's all in the upfront planning. Ideally, all marketing-driven traffic to your website should have clear tracking parameters based on a well-planned measurement strategy and campaign tracking taxonomy.

What do I mean by that? Let's take UTM parameters for example. The most common UTM parameters are utm_source, utm_medium, utm_campaign, utm_content, utm_term. I recommend creating consistent naming conventions for each UTM parameter so that different teams or agencies who manage different marketing channels (e.g., email, paid search, social) are not doing their own thing.   That will make the web analyst's job really painful. That could mean agreeing that utm_medium represents channel and for paid search this is always "sem" or "cpc".

Also, UTM parameters are CaSe-SeNsItIvE! So "CPC" and "cpc" would be treated as 2 different values. That brings me to the next suggestion.

I have found the most success where a single internal person(s) owns a centralized table of all campaign codes in use for all channels. So let's say your social media agency wants to launch a new campaign, they would submit a new campaign request to this lucky internal individual who would then assign the UTM parameters that meets the campaign's needs.

Lastly, if you are trying to stitch your marketing spend data with your conversion data in web analytics at the channel and campaign level, it is critical that the campaign name in the native ad platform (e.g., Google Ads, Facebook Ads) is the exact same text string as the UTM parameter values or else it will not be 1:1 matching.

This is all part of data plumbing I've previously described.

First-Party Cookies + CRM

Most of the hype and stress among marketers today is around the fate of 3rd-party tracking cookies for advertisers and the Google/Facebook duopoly. But first-party cookies are not going anywhere soon.

When a user visits your site, be sure to drop a first-party tracking cookie that ties to your CRM system. Just so you're not relying on your web analytics tool (e.g., Google Analytics) because that data is aggregated and sometimes sampled. This allows you to capture and analyze user-level data in your CRM system for attribution. The best way to do this is via a unique identifier that is passed between your CRM and web analytics tool at the point of conversion.

By the way, if you have not used the User Explorer report in Google Analytics to analyze an individual user based on GA's ClientID, it's worth checking out! It also tracks the same cookied user across multiple sessions. Combine this data with your CRM data and it helps triangulate the source and the customer journey of your new customer.

User Explorer in Google Analytics

User Survey - Just Ask!

This is the Occam's Razor answer. If you want to know how a new customer arrived at your site, just ask him/her directly! There's a few things I've learned over the years. 

Don't ask this question until after the conversion event to minimize friction in the customer journey. 

Most people like to also make the question optional. However, if you ask the question after the conversion event, I like to make the survey question mandatory.

In my experience, most people actually provide a thoughtful response even though it's mandatory. I see very few cases of people putting gobbledygook just to get pass this question, especially if there was another form field that was important to the user to also submit on the same page (e.g., to get a special offer).

Should you make this question open-ended or a drop down list? While it may be harder to analyze unstructured data, I like to start off with an open-ended text box to see what users actually type. Then in time, once I'm confident of the range of answers, then I'd institute a drop down menu of choices.

Sending a follow-up email is another option, but I often see a much lower completion rate than if you ask them right after they convert. Plus, they may not recall exactly how they discovered you if you ask later.

So, there you have it. 3 great ways to learn what part of your marketing is driving results. Good luck!


Friday, February 26, 2021

Why Google Firebase/GA4 is Not Ready for Prime Time

By now, you've undoubtedly seen Google's announcement about the public release of Google Analytics 4, Google's latest iteration that replaces "App+Web". 

Personally, I'm still not a fan of their App+Web property rolled out last year. I agree it's important these days to be able to combine website and mobile app behavior data, but the flexibility that comes from custom Events and the limited standard Event reporting in this new version of Google Analytics still leaves a lot to be desired, compared to Google Analytics "Universal Analytics" version (GA UA).

This past summer, I worked with my client on implement tracking using Google Firebase for a new mobile app, which also led us to setting it up as a Google Analytics "Web+App" property. At the time, that in turn led us to using a different version of Google Analytics than GA UA that some called Google Analytics for Firebase (GA4FB), which is pretty much GA4 now. If all these crazy "Google Analytics" names are confusing to you, you're not alone!

Google says GA4 is the future and will eventually deprecate the current GA UA version. So I was quite excited about learning more about Firebase and GA4FB. Based on my hands-on experience the past few months, Google still has a lot of work to do on GA4 to even get it to parity in terms of standard reporting features and functionality, not to mention ease of use, with GA UA. 

I'm going to share some of my learnings with Firebase and GA4.

Validating Tags for Mobile Apps 

I prefer to validate mobile app tags with actual physical iOS and Android devices, not emulators. I commend Google for creating a way to validate custom Event (and Parameters) tags in real-time on mobile apps within Firebase. In the past, this was very difficult to do, compared to QA'ing website tags with browser extensions. In Firebase, there are 2 ways to go about this.

1. DebugView - From the left panel in Firebase, you'll see DebugView. First, you'll need to follow these directions to put your device into Debug mode and then select your device Debug Device from the drop-down list in upper left. This is a nice precise timelime-driven way to watch events as they fire. You can check parameters on the right. Annoyingly, this was very unstable and unreliable -- often my iOS and Android devices didn't even show up on the Debug Device list. Events also didn't always show up after waiting for 30 minutes. That leads me to the second option.

DebugView Event Timeline

2. StreamView (since renamed to Realtime) - StreamView was a little bit more reliable if you are able to isolate your device by OS and city. In a Staging environment, this wasn't hard to do, especially if you were 1 of the few testers online or tested outside regular business hours (which I often did). Unlike DebugView that had detailed timestamps for events, StreamView does not have such precision and just lists all the events that fired in the past 30 minutes:

StreamView Events List

StreamView would sometimes frustrate me too when events did not show up after 30 minutes, albeit less than my DebugView issues. So that would force me to re-test again and hope that the data showed up.

Also, both methods above do not let you validate data stored in arrays, such as the standard e-commerce parameter Items. This meant one can not QA things like what products users viewed, added to cart, or bought. The only solution was to build some custom queries in Google BigQuery and then some tables in Google Data Studio that mimicked enhanced ecommerce reports in GA UA. 

I also discovered this great YouTube video to help install ADB on Windows for validating Android tags. You can run ADB from a command prompt to get very detailed logs for troubleshooting. From c:\adb folder, run these commands:

adb devices
adb shell setprop
adb shell setprop log.tag.FA VERBOSE
adb shell setprop log.tag.FA-SVC VERBOSE
adb logcat -v time -s FA FA-SVC

Here's what a log snippet looks like:

name=inbox_view,params=Bundle[{user_id=207067, ga_event_origin(_o)=app, ga_screen_class(_sc)=Shop, ga_screen_id(_si)=8545328432333857419, ga_screen(_sn)=Home]

To stop listening, run: adb shell setprop .none.

Custom Events on Steriods

One of the major benefits of Firebase is the flexibility for custom event tracking. While GA UA has 3 standard parameters for custom events, namely Event Category, Event Action, and Event Label, Firebase lets you name Events and Parameters anything you want. However, this requires more tag planning and work for developers. I like to create a tagging document like this for developers, as well as marketers, so everyone is on the same page:

Firebase Tagging Document

Note there are limits on the number of custom events and parameters you can have in GA4/Firebase. Another reason why it's good to create a data dictionary like the tagging document above so you can try to re-purpose parameter names and minimize the use of custom events by leveraging standard events from Google. For example, here's some standard events.

Data is collected differently so you really have to rethink your data model, especially Parameters for Event tracking. 

Limited Reporting and Data Stuck in GA4/Firebase

The reporting interface takes a little bit of getting used to from GA UA and not all standard GA UA reports are in GA4 yet. For example, enhanced ecommerce reporting took months (back when it was App+Web) to show up. 

There is also a new self-service custom reporting tool called Analysis Hub that reminds me a lot of Tableau that lets you select your own dimensions and metrics to build tables. Note: Analysis hub still won't let you report on arrays!

GA4 Analysis Hub

But would I really need and miss is a way to get data out of Firebase and GA4 to create custom dashboards elsewhere, especially in Google Sheets. I ❤️ Google Analytics add-on in Google Sheets! But unfortunately, Google has not released a GA4 add-on for Google Sheets.

The only option is via BigQuery if you're up for writing SQL. And then you can connect to Google Data Studio or any other environment that works with BigQuery.

At the time of this post, third-party data connectors, such as Supermetrics and, that I spoke to said they were working on a GA4 connector and hope to release a beta product soon. My money is on these guys instead of Google and Google Sheets.


GA4 feels like a premature product that was released way too early. But while familiarizing oneself with GA4 can be frustrating, it's time to go kicking and screaming into the future with Google. 


Saturday, December 5, 2020

How Can Disney+ Only Be $6.99 per Month?

Hulu announced it will be raising the price of its Hulu + Live TV plan this month by 18% from $54.99/month to $64.99/month. Even with this higher subscription revenue, plus its advertising revenue, it's struggling to be profitable. One can't help but to wonder how the heck can Disney make money on its $6.99/month Disney+ streaming service???

And how can the best deal in town afford to spend so much money to produce theatrical motion picture quality hit shows like The Mandalorian

The answer is they do not have to make money on its streaming business because it can be a loss leader. Disney has long made money on its theme parks and product licensing deals based on its characters and movies. 

If you've been holiday shopping, everywhere you look there are "Baby Yoda" and The Mandalorian merchandise in apparel, toys, housewares, bikes, and even Epic Games' Fortnite released an update this past week that features The Mandalorian

To see the power of this Disney money-making juggernaut, look what just happened since yesterday with The Mandalorian. 

Lego and Disney released the Razor Crest set #75292 this past summer. It's the main character's signature space ship. At $129.99 MSRP, this is not a cheap toy and has probably sold briskly. 

On yesterday's episode, the Razor Crest was surprisingly destroyed into smithereens by the Empire (sadly it had just been repaired 2 episodes prior)! 

By yesterday afternoon, stores sold out and prices soared on Amazon, eBay and other 3rd party sellers to over $170! If it was a stock, that's a 30%+ price jump! Sold Out

Razor Crest Price Tracker

Also appearing on The Mandalorian yesterday was Boba Fett, who many believed was killed 27 years ago in Return of the Jedi. Searches for "Boba Fett" immediately shot to #3 on Google Trends yesterday.

Google Trends: Boba Fett #3

And even Boba Fett's Slave I space ship (released over a year ago) experienced an overnight price spike of 33%, rising from $120 to $160. 

Lego Slave I Price Tracker

Not only will Disney and others prosper from the sale of the Razor Crest (and Slave I), but now there is an opportunity for Disney to sell even more Star Wars merchandise when Jon Favreau and Dave Filoni outfit The Mandalorian with a replacement ship that I'm sure is already in the works. 


Saturday, April 11, 2020

Covid-19 Digital Playbook

With shelter-in-place (SIP) and a likely recession due to the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic, now is the time to double down on digital marketing and sales!

With store closures, many retailers, such as Nike, are reporting Black Friday sales levels and conversion rates! And I've been seeing similar results for my clients.

In fact, in its recent quarterly report, Nike's CEO said it was able to engage its fans via its app and other digital channels while they were quarantined at home, and their free exercise services translated into strong digital sales that helped offset store closures.

Some brands or OEMs who previously had channel conflicts from wholesale/retail partners or their own brick-and-mortar stores suddenly see their direct-to-consumer channel as the only game in town during SIP.

That makes this a critical time to dig into your website and mobile app analytics!

See what part of the site is getting the most traffic, what's selling now that wasn't before, what is the makeup of the customers who are shopping now vs. before, where are users dropping off or hitting UX roadblocks?

For many of my clients, I've seen a spike in mobile web and mobile app traffic especially throughout the day and not just during commute hours. No surprise as people are home due to SIP. Also, historically, lots of office workers shop on their work desktops during the weekdays. It's not uncommon to see high conversions on Mon mornings before lunch as workers tackle their "to do" list after a relaxing weekend. But suddenly they don't have access to those work computers and must go online on their phones. So make sure your site is optimized for mobile, now more than ever!

Re-evaluate all your advertising

Online ad prices, especially banner, native, and video ads, that run on publisher sites are dropping as supply outstrips demand because advertisers have pulled back on spend because of SIP (e.g., travel industry can't really promote bookings), recession fears, and brand safety concerns (i.e., brands don't want their ads to show next to coronavirus content, especially on news sites). However, if you are less brand sensitive or develop a more targeted blacklisting strategy, you can make out like a bandit for your media buys. For example, Facebook CPMs have fallen to their lowest levels in 2 years.

Facebook CPM Falling (Source: Gupta Media)
It's also a good idea to assess the competitive media landscape. You may discover some competitors have pulled back on their paid advertising in search, display, social, video, or mobile apps. Time for you to grab market or mindshare, likely at lower ad prices as mentioned above. For some of my retail clients where Amazon used to compete with them on search, there's been less competition. Not that Amazon doesn't have the money to bid against them, but more likely because Amazon has more than its hands full now from organic traffic with everyone turning to the online retailer during SIP. (More on that below.) So check your Google Auction Insights reports. On the flip side, depending on your industry, you might see quite the opposite competitive pressure and everyone is getting more aggressive to capture as much demand as possible right now. Think about the fiercely competitive online video conferencing space right now where you have Zoom, GoToMeeting, Microsoft Teams, and Webex duking it out.

I expect performance media campaigns to see less budget cuts than branding campaigns.

Also, make sure your ad messaging is on target and appropriate for these times. For example, yesterday morning I heard a local radio ad that asked "Taking your kids to school? Listen to us in the car." Really? Schools have been closed for a month during SIP! Someone at the station clearly sleeping behind the wheel.

Take stock of and promote your most relevant product and service features during these times.

By now, as a consumer, every company has probably sent you an email and driving you to their Covid-19 landing pages to explain how they are reacting to the pandemic and SIP. And most importantly, what special services they are offering during these uncertain times.

So, as a brand, what are you going to promote?

If you have interest-free payment plans or "layaway" plans like Afterpay, it's time to promote that. Amazon features it prominently on higher ticket price items (see below). Some auto companies have rolled out 0% interest, 72-month auto loans even!

Amazon's interest-free payment plan

Right now consumers are very concerned about supporting small businesses who risk going under. For smaller businesses who are reaching out to their community for help, now's a good time to setup and promote online gift cards. Square, which is quite popular with small businesses, has even created a Give & Get Local site to make it easy for local merchants to promote their e-gift cards to consumers. I've seen when merchants promote this in email campaigns, consumers are buying them to keep their favorite businesses afloat, hoping to patronize them later when we get through this. Facebook is also offering small businesses grants.

Offer curbside pickup following social distancing best practices? Promote that. Are your shipping and delivery times still unaffected? If you compete with Amazon, you may have an advantage now against the Prime shipping program as Amazon is swamped with traffic and orders, forcing them to prioritize some items over others. I don't blame them. I was about to buy an item that was eligible for Prime shipping. But at checkout, it said it won't ship for 1-2 months! That's crazy. #abandoncart

Amazon delayed shipping warning
Sports retailer Sports Basement has been sending out emails that promote online events to help customers stay fit, such as live workouts with a trainer via video conference and healthy recipes to try at home (side note: there has been a spike in baking and home cooking with SIP). And of course, discounts for shopping online! Similarly, REI has 6 Ways to Mix Up Your At-Home Workday. Both are great examples of brands staying true to their brand positioning while producing relevant, engaging content for their customers.

Sports Basement workout tip
Also, make sure you are monitoring online chatter using social media tools. How are consumers reacting to your company's response? For many brands, they are dealing with significant customer service complains on social media, online chats on their sites, and of course their call centers. But also use this data to see what's trending? How do you weave your brand into the conversation? The key is to be authentic, empathetic, and not too salesy.

Get the word out!

When you've identified relevant content to share with the community, it's time to put the CRM team and tools to work! Leverage that email database you got! For small businesses using Square, Square is offering Square Marketing, its basic CRM program I previously reviewed, for free right now. Yelp is also offering some of its premium marketing services for free for small businesses. Take advantage of these tools! Most are very easy to use without a huge learning curve.

Of course, take it to social media channels. Remember when just a few weeks ago, the government and consumer privacy advocates wanted to take down Facebook and Big Tech? Now, consumers are spending more time than ever on Facebook and almost every single social network has seen engagement shoot through the roof! When you do post, do some #hashtag research to maximize visibility.

And this goes without saying, but make sure your website can handle increased traffic, especially if you're a retailer and your stores are closed. You might also consider a code freeze like most online retailers normally do Nov-Dec. Don't risk rocking the boat when it's the only sales channel you got right now!

Lock-in long-term behavior changes

Lastly, all this time at home and SIP has forced consumers and businesses to change their behavior, largely favoring online activity, and you should take advantage of making these behaviors long term habits. Just to name a few benefactors -- online video conferencing, online banking/mobile app banking, online grocery delivery, esports, virtual medical professional services like SteadyMD or Talkspace, not to mention multi-channel retailers who have struggled to get in-store shoppers to go online or use their mobile app. Post-SIP, all these industries will benefit from an injection of new users; the key will be to keep as many as they can as paying customers for years to come.

My Covid-19 Digital Playbook:
  1. Dig into your web + app analytics data for insights
  2. Re-evaluate your media buys and messaging
  3. Develop relevant content for Covid-19 behaviors due to SIP and be useful to consumers
  4. Be active on social media and email channels
  5. Be prepared for how to exploit long-term behavior changes after we get through this to capitalize on your short-term wins
Now I only wish there was a digital solution for haircuts because I need one badly! =( And I don't just mean an AR filter for my video calls or socialpost!

Stay safe and sane out there...


Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Examples of Bad Blogger Outreach

A while back, I wrote about "How I Became a Data Plumber" that talks about the work I do for clients to help audit their existing ad tech and mar tech systems and devise a better data strategy in order to improve their end-to-end reporting and optimization from marketing and sales efforts.

Little did I know that it would lead to one of my posts with the most comments ever. Sadly, all of it was spam =(

We all know the SEO practice of getting backlinks to improve search engine rankings. Blogger outreach is one way to do that. However, those that employ black hat tactics like commenting on articles blindly #FAIL poorly.

I felt compelled to share examples of these pitiful attempts for backlinks. Most appear to be from offshore users who clearly did not read my post closely. I wasn't talking about the normal plumber you hire to fix a leak. But these examples below are from such regular plumber services. I won't give them the satisfaction of getting any visibility from their cheap hacks so I've redacted their names and web links.

Without further ado, here's some good laughs...

James from AZ writes:
Thanks for your suggestions. Everyone homes needs a reliable and trustworthy plumber. Learn from the experts about how to find a plumber. Residential plumbing services Arizona

Nency from UK writes:
I am happy to find this post Very useful for me, as it contains lot of information. I Always prefer to read The Quality and glad I found this thing in you post. Thanks Plumber _____.

Brittany writes:
Awesome article! I want people to know just how good this information is in your article. It’s interesting, compelling content. Your views are much like my own concerning this subject. Professional Plumbing Installations

Scott writes:
Great share! Usually I never comment on blogs but your article is so convincing that I never stop myself to say something about it. If you you are looking for bets plumbing service or solution then you can check out here _____

At least the above were kinda related and were in the plumbing industry.

These examples are just blatant, gratuitous self-promotion with nothing to do with the topic I wrote about!

Riva from India writes:
Wonderful Blog!!! Waiting for your upcoming data... thanks for sharing with us.

Software Testing Training in Chennai
software testing course in chennai
software testing course
software testing training institute in chennai
Software testing training in Guindy
Software testing training in Tambaram
Python Training in Chennai
Big data training in chennai
SEO training in chennai
JAVA Training in Chennai

Gino writes:
really enjoyed very much with this article here. Really it is an amazing article I had ever read. I hope it will help a lot for all. Thank you so much for this amazing posts and please keep update like this excellent article.thank you for sharing such a great blog with us.
merge pdf online free

PK writes:
We’re eager to see your comment. However, Please Keep in mind that all comments are moderated manually by our human reviewers according to our comment policy, and all the links are nofollow. Using Keywords in the name field area is forbidden. Let’s enjoy a personal and evocative conversation.

Wait, what?!? Weren't YOU the one who commented on my site and not the other way around?

And this one makes no sense at all!

James from UK writes:
Being an internet marketer I know how beneficial it would be to add my plumbing services in the Search Frog Australian directory and be found by the potential customers much easily.

This comment was left on my post "The 3 C's of Social Media Marketing Tools" and not even my "How I Became a Data Plumber" post. Go figure.

The same social media marketing tool post also received this comment:

Looking for paper cloth bags manufacturing machines? Then we are the best for you, who suit your expectations. We have huge experience on this field. We are 100% dedicated to find you paper cloth bags manufacturing machines.
We are dedicated to manufacturing and sales of a wide range of paper cloth bags manufacturing machines.
You can find here your best one.
If you want to know more, Please check out _____

Thanks! If I ever come across a client who needs paper cloth bags manufacturing machines, I know just who to call Winking Face Emoji (Apple/iOS Version)


Sunday, November 24, 2019

Ford Making a Branding Mistake with Mustang Mach-E

A week ago, Ford unveiled its new 2021 Mustang Mach-E.

Mustang Mach-E (photo: Ford)

I think Ford is making a huge branding mistake naming its first all-electric, sport crossover SUV the Mustang Mach-E.

Also, I think this new all-electric vehicle from Ford's new EV architecture does warrant a silver bullet brand name, with the opportunity to lift the overall Ford brand, like what the Audi TT did for Audi or Miata did for Mazda. In fact, Audi created a new brand name called E-tron, which is in a similar all-electric SUV class as the Mustang Mach-E.

Yes, I get why Ford wants to make muscle cars attractive and relevant for more socially-responsible and eco-conscious Millennials. But eroding an iconic brand is blasphemous and not the way to go!

For 55 years, Mustang has consistently stood for Ford's 2-door pony car, representing power, acceleration, exhilaration, and your hair blowing in the wind. I can see Ford management's desire to leverage the speed and performance from the Mustang brand to its new high-performance electric SUV. But from a brand extension perspective, this is a "double jump". (Ok, I coined that term so you won't find that in marketing or branding books...yet.)

Here's what I mean. Ford is taking the "Mustang" brand into both the (1) electric vehicle space and (2) crossover SUV space.

  1. Electric Vehicle space: The Mustang brand could probably extend into the electric vehicle space with a branded technology name associated with it, as long as it was still a high-performance sporty vehicle. Similar to how Ford used EcoBoost for its turbocharged, direct-injection gasoline engines and there already is a Mustang EcoBoost Premium model. Or how Toyota adds an "h" to the model numbers of its Lexus hybrid versions of their vehicles, such as the Lexus RX450h. 
  2. Crossover SUV space: But using the same brand name across class sizes (e.g. compact car, sports car, truck, SUV) is extremely unusual as attributes for purchase consideration varies between auto buyers for different classes so it is very difficult for the same brand name to embody the brand benefits across classes. It is even harder when the brand is very well-known in one class size. In this case, the Mustang brand stands for sporty 2-door muscle car and I don't think extending it into SUV space is a good idea.   

I have long praised Ford for its brand architecture on its SUV model names, all starting with "E" and sounding like "ex", such as Explorer, Excursion, Escape, and Expedition. All these SUVs and words represented outdoor, active lifestyles. So one idea could be that Ford creates a new SUV brand with this "E"-lliteration =)

The "Mach-E" name may have been sufficient to add to a new model name like a branded technology or variant to indicate electric, high-performance, as "Mach 1" has been used on past high-performance Mustangs. So perhaps a new model name that starts with "E" to follow Ford's SUV alliteration and indicate it's an SUV, followed by Mach-E to indicate electric, high-performance. (E.g., E_____ Mach-E.)

I get Ford needs to out gun Tesla and its upcoming small Model Y compact SUV. But I don't think diluting the Mustang brand is the right path.


Wednesday, November 20, 2019

How to Switch Disney+ Plans

Last week, I reviewed my first 24 hour impressions with the new Disney+ service.

During the free trial, I decided this is pretty good and worth keeping. Then I had to decide if I wanted to commit to a full year and save a few bucks or pay monthly. After a long deliberation, I decided to go for the 12-month $69.99 plan!

Little did I know it was going to be impossible to switch my payment plan from monthly to annual (and vice versa) during the free 7-day trial after I had selected monthly $6.99 plan at sign-up. I was not thinking about the 12-month option at such an early stage in the purchase consideration cycle and thought there would be a simple toggle in my account later that I could just switch plan options easily. WRONG!

I tried from a web browser, mobile app on Android and iOS, iPad, and via Roku on my TV. From the Account page, it would show my "Monthly" plan section under Subscription, but no way to change it. And I wasn't interested in switching to the Disney+/ESPN+/Hulu bundle!

Account page's Subscription section
Clicking on Billing details was my only option from this screen and that only offered 2 options:
  • Switch to Disney bundle, like on previous screen, or
  • Cancel Subscription
Billing Details page

I also tried to search in the Disney+ Help section. Nada! I tried to initiate a live chat with Disney+, but after waiting in the queue for over 1 hour, I gave up. So I tried to call them and the IVR warned me the average wait time would be about 90 mins!

Horrible customer service experience so far! I get it's due to its popularity, but it also speaks to perhaps Disney wasn't quite ready for launch and did not fully anticipate all customer needs.

Then I did what any sensible, desperate consumer would do -- Google it! Surprisingly, I couldn't find anything either in Google or YouTube.

Anyways, I finally figured out a solution and thought I would share it to save others the same headache. Here's how to switch your Disney+ plan:

  1. Cancel your free trial before the period ends and your credit card is charged based on the existing payment plan shown in your Account
  2. Wait until your service is actually cancelled
  3. Disney+ will email you a "We are sorry to see you go" email when they cut you off with a "Restart Subscription" link
  4. Click on the email link to reactivate your account
  5. You will get a Welcome Back! screen that let's you switch plans!

Switching Disney+ Plans During Re-activation
From what I can tell, the same steps are required to switch your plan not just during the free trial, but also when you're a paying customer because the Account page looks the same as above now that I'm a subscriber. Disney+ says any changes to your account won't take effect until the end of the current billing cycle and they do not offer partial refunds. That likely explains why they never thought through this use case very well. #FAIL

Hope that helps!


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

[REVIEW] First 24 hours with Disney+

Unless you've been living in a cave for the past year, you probably heard about the launch of the new online streaming service from Disney called Disney+ yesterday. Disney is estimated to have spent $20 million in advertising for the service. I signed up immediately and here is my first impressions after 24 hours of use.

First of all, signing up was super easy.


From the home page, there is lots of ways to browse and explore Disney's vast library of content.

  1. Search - This keyword-based search feature is prominent in the global nav on all devices 
  2. By Featured "Brands" - For lack of better words, when I say "Brands", I am referring to Disney's major studios or franchises, namely Disney, Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars, National Geographic. (How did Nat Geo make it to this list? Maybe Disney did some consumer research and found this to be a popular content channel). You can see this on the home page below the home page promotional carousel (see screenshot below, located below Mandalorian promo)
  3. By Collections - To help you explore, they have created "collections" for popular franchises or characters. For example, an obvious one is Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga Collection, which includes all 8 Episodes of the motion pictures. They even have a Darth Vader Collection if you seek the "dark side" that includes the main Star Wars movies Darth Vader has been in, along with Star Wars Rebels cartoons and LEGO animations he's also been in. I was also happy to see a Spider-Man collection, which was a custom set of cartoons and some movies Spider-man has been in (more on that below). 

Disney+ Home Page (Desktop)

Disney+ Collections


After years of holding out from all the major streaming and download services, Disney+ has finally made all the Star Wars movies available online, except Solo, which it says is coming July 9, 2020. (No biggie since I thought that was a bad Star Wars movie. But you will find Rogue One, which I loved!)

I had to watch the much-hyped Star Wars: The Mandalorian show. Not bad so far. I'll give it time for the storyline to unfold and character to develop. The production quality is very high, like a full feature Star Wars movie! This appears to be a weekly series and the whole season is NOT available at once for binge watchers. Call me old school, but I actually prefer weekly releases so I can enjoy it over a few months =)

There is also a confirmed Kenobi: A Star Wars Story series coming to Disney+ next year starring Ewan McGregor again and set between Episodes III and IV!

While it appears all the Star Wars movies (except Solo) and the animated TV series, such as Clone Wars and Rebels, are available for streaming today, that's not the case for Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) movies.

I'm in the midst of re-watching all 23 MCU movies in chronological order (not theatrical release date order). Only 16 of the 23 MCU movies are available today. What's missing:

  • Incredible Hulk (2008) - Not found. This was kinda, but not really, part of the MCU series in my book anyways
  • Spider-man: Homecoming - Not found
  • Thor: Ragnarok - Available 12/5/19
  • Black Panther - Available 3/4/20
  • Avengers: Infinity War - Available 6/25/20. Oddly, Endgame was available.
  • Ant-Man and the Wasp - Available 7/29/20
  • Spider-man: Far From Home - Not found
Disney+ states the reason for the delayed releases is due to prior agreements. I get that. But my biggest disappointment is none of the recent Spider-man movies from MCU are even showing up in search results, as if they never existed. This is probably due to Marvel's prior contract with Sony when they licensed the Spider-Man character to Sony years ago and the recent contract disputes they've had. Luckily they resolved those issues and there will be more Spider-man MCU movies with Tom Holland coming. I hope they cut a deal soon to include these movies in Disney+!

Also, Disney's acquisition of Fox assets means the X-Men are coming back supposedly to Disney/Marvel. But you won't find any of the X-Men theatrical releases here...yet. Just some old X-Men cartoons.

All the Pixar movies appear to be available: Toy Story, Incredibles, Cars, Inside Out. No Toy Story 4 or latest Lion King yet.

Pixar on Disney+

Also from the Fox deal, all 30 years of Simpsons episodes is available! "WOO HOO!" as Homer would say.


Let's talk about some of the nice, unique features in Disney+.

"Skip Intro" button: Lets you skip the opening credits on TV shows. It appears on the lower right corner when credits start, similar to how the Skip Ad button appears on YouTube videos.

High Concurrent Viewers: You can stream on lots of devices at once. While you can maintain up to 10 devices logged into your Disney+ account, you can stream on 4 devices concurrently. Both are quite generous. As a comparison, my Hulu+Live TV normal subscription only allows 2 concurrent viewers.

Chromecast: Built in Chromecast icon in upper right let's you easily throw a show from your mobile device to a bigger screen.

Download: Easily download any program and go (see below), but it's only available on mobile devices and tablets. Not PC and TV. I'm actually surprised it's not on PC for road warriors who like to watch movies on laptops on planes. This is a huge benefit for families on road trips that want to download content on a tablet for their kids to watch in the backseat!
Mobile: Add to Watchlist, Download, or Chomecast


Overall, I didn't notice any performance issues while streaming. There were reports from others about logging in, which I also faced. When I first signed in to the mobile app, it appeared to not let me login (see below). But when I clicked on the search icon on the bottom nav, it let me enter and seemed fine after that.

Error Message on Mobile App
Also, I when I tried to edit my profile image, it crashed. When I tried again a few hours later, it worked.
Error Message Updating Profile Image

The Watch List is hard to find on the mobile and iPad apps. It's actually under your profile icon on lower right. But on a TV, it's a main menu item and not buried under your profile/account settings.

Also, on my Roku version of Disney+, if you rewind or go forward, there aren't thumbnails to show where you are, like other services. You have to solely rely on the time stamp to guide you! But this wasn't a problem on the mobile app or iPad. So why the inconsistent user experience?!?


I wish there was a Hulu+Live TV bundle with Disney+. (Yes, I'm a Hulu+Live TV user.) And not just the basic Hulu, ESPN+, and Disney+ $12.99 bundle.

That being said, $6.99/mo is a bargain for all this content. The $69.99/yr plan, which is less than $6/mo is a great deal! Even if I watched 1-2 things a month, it's way cheaper than renting a movie which can cost $4 minimum and up to $6 for new HD releases. So the 12-month plan is a great deal because you're basically getting 2 months free. Instead of $84, you save $14 or 17% off. I wish my Hulu+Live TV offered a discounted 12-month option because I would definitely do that and probably save enough to cover my Disney+ subscription! YOU HEAR ME, DISNEY?

Even with this low price, the best part (so far) is they are not supplementing their subscription income with ads, like Hulu and other OTT streaming services. I hope it stays that way!


Everyone talks about this as a Netflix killer. No doubt, especially as Disney continues to remove its content from Netflix as licensing agreements expire.

I can see this threatening YouTube too, especially among kids. Parents who put an iPad or phone in front of their kids can now have a safe, ad-free option to "babysit" their kids when they're eating out or need some "me" time. And kids love watching same thing over so this is perfect! Remember Frozen and hearing Let It Go for the umpteenth time for weeks?! That may happen again.

This will alter my movie rental behavior for sure. Instead of renting from Amazon Prime a new release for $4-6 per movie, I'll wait until it hits Disney+.

Given how no streaming service has ever licensed the Star Wars movies, there is a lot of pent up demand for these movies alone that make the low monthly fee worth it. Disney CEO Bob Iger is very optimistic about this new service, and I think they will get millions of subscribers easily. I wouldn't be surprised if they surpass Hulu in subscribers.

To sum things up. Disney+ is...

Best for: those seeking very affordable entertainment option for the entire family with no ads
Not for you if: you have no self control binge watching, as there is so much content here that you may not go out or sleep for months!
Final word: Definitely sign-up for the free 7-day trial. I'd be shocked if you or your kids didn't find something to watch!


Thursday, July 25, 2019

Funniest Amazon Customer Question Ever!

As you all know, has a section on the bottom of product listings called Customer Questions. Usually, prospective buyers want to know about the actual size of the product, is it compatible with X, does it work for Y, etc.

And then once in a blue moon, one comes across a hilarious question that I still don't know if the person who asked the question was serious to begin with.

 Check out this listing for a pet feeder on Amazon.

Pet Feeder
If you look at the first Customer Question, you'll see this:
Can I use these for cereal and milk for kids?

I thought that was a strange question for a pet feeder. Curious, I clicked into it and read the most hilarious thread ever...and possibly the most disturbing if the person asking the question was serious, as well as the people who answered back seriously about the types of cereal and milk that would work with this pet feeder.

I was ROFL. The community loved it too because it got 37 votes to keep this question pinned to the top.

Read it here and judge for yourself. Enjoy!
Customer Question

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Can't Blame Amazon Completely for Barnes & Noble's Downfall

As 2 suitors, Elliott Management and Readerlink, possibly fight over Barnes & Noble, the beleaguered bookseller, I can see why the chain is dying and the hard work cut out for its new owner.

The media always blames for B&N's misfortunes. But I found out first-hand that it's also B&N's own doing. In fact, smaller independent bookstores have seen a resurgence, despite B&N's demise.

Recently, I was looking for a Funko Pop gift online and found it at Better yet, it was 25% off according to its website. I didn't have time to have it shipped so I went to a nearby store and didn't see the need to buy online and pickup in store because I wanted to see it live first.

At the store, there were 100s of Funko Pops across 4 large display shelves, stacked at least 2 boxes deep! Of all the stores, this B&N had the most Funko Pops I've ever seen. Normally, such a large selection is great. But not today. I tried to ask a worker to help me find the one I wanted, but I had no luck in tracking someone down nearby. I eventually found it myself.

Now all I had to do was pay for it. Easy, right? Sadly, no. B&N makes it really hard to checkout when a customer is ready to actually buy!

First, I couldn't find anyone at either of the 2 Cashier stations. So I walked over to the Customer Service counter and a worker there tries to explain to me that it is "normal" for no one to be at one of the counters because the workers are on the floor. Then why is there a Cashier sign to direct customers to go there and pay if you don't expect a worker to man that station? As for the second counter, she pointed back towards the Cashier counter and said a guy was walking over there now. No apologies at all during this whole exchange and she made me feel like it was my fault for even asking her where is a cashier so I can pay.

So I walk over to the Cashier area, and they had an "Enter Here" sign pointing customers to the far right. But there was no one in line so I thought I'd walk right up to the cashier who saw us coming. He looks at me and nods his head to his left (my right), as if signaling me to follow the sign and queue the long way around to the other end of the cashier counter, only to work my way back down to if B&N ever has long lines or a stampede of customers these days.

When I finally reached the cashier, I told him that the $39.99 price on the box was higher (48% to be exact) than what I saw on their website. I showed him on my mobile phone the price on (see below). product page shopping cart - sales price ($26.99)
B&N in-store price on box ($39.99)
He said no problem. He can price match. Great! But wait, there's more! He said he could only match the $29.99 price. But online, as shown above, had another 10% off with promo code SUNSHINE. So the price before taxes was $26.99.

He said he "had no way of price matching AND applying a discount." Why is that even 2 different things in his mind? If he's going to ring up any price into the register to price match, why not entire the $26.99 amount instead of $29.99?

Frustrated by the whole experience so far, I just accepted the $29.99 price to get out of there. I can't believe how complicated their price match policy was. And it's not like I was asking him to match a COMPETITOR'S offer. This was their own website for crying out loud!

I guess it's not entirely the workers' fault for the horrible in-store experience. When business is dying, I guess B&N is not used to customers actually buying something in their stores!

TIP: If you ever see something on sale on that you must get that day, you should always buy online and pick up in store, instead of assuming you can easily walk in to buy it!

Ultimately, successful retailers today have to offer consumers a compelling reason to go into a physical store and when consumers show up, retailers have to offer helpful customer service and a consistent omni-channel experience, especially when it comes to price. Is that too much to ask?

#FAIL for Barnes & Noble.


Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Google Marketing Live Day 1 Takeaways

Ok, it's late. I just finished watching the Golden State Warriors destroy the Portland Trail Blazers in Game 1 of the NBA Western Conference playoffs. My mind is still racing from attending today's Google Marketing Live 2019 event. And while my fellow GML attendees enjoy a free concert tonight with Katy Perry, here I am writing about my takeaways from today's product announcements for you, my readers. =)

Google's main themes were focused on:

  • Be responsible - Gee, I wonder why they led with this? Perhaps because of the consumer backlash around online privacy and the threat from regulators to breakup the online duopoly?
  • Be there - Google plans to reach you across its vast ecosystem 
  • Be useful - Google spoke a lot about personalization, understanding user intent, and predictive analytics 

To that end, a lot of the new ad products further exploit machine learning and AI to automate things from bidding to optimizing placements to even creative development. Google is also expanding ads across more of its properties, even Google Images. I suspect Pinterest's success has inspired Google to try to monetize its Google Images site. And there was lots of talk about using all it knows about users and users intent to anticipate their needs...while protecting user privacy.

If you're an e-commerce retailer, there were some exciting announcements from Google. Here's a few that caught my eye.


As a long time Android and Google user, I never noticed the Discover button on the home page of the Google app or But apparently lots of people do as Google claims 800 million people use it monthly! So, naturally, Google is going to try to monetize those eye balls and Discovery Ads aim to do that. Discovery Ads are essentially mobile-first native ads that appear in multiple Google properties with feeds: Google home page feed, Youtube home page feed, and Gmail. (Not sure how Discovery Ads in Gmail will conflict with regular Gmail Ad buys though. And I suspect Discovery Ads reporting won't be too transparent with reporting by placement like with Google Smart Shopping. We're just asked to trust the black box algorithm to automate things for us.)


These large, visual ads have been around for a few years and drive user engagement on mobile. I've seen success with these with my retail clients. So when Google announced Showcase Shopping Ads will expand to Google Images, Discover feed, and YouTube feed, lots of people got excited naturally.


It's frustrating when my mobile ads drive users to my mobile web site, even when my customers have our app downloaded on their phones. So it was huge news when Google announced Search, Shopping and Display campaigns will now link users directly into the mobile app. In its tests, Google saw 2X conversion rate lift. No surprise! Google also announced improved mobile app reporting if you also use Google Analytics for Firebase.


Google has redesigned the Google Shopping site experience to be more personalized and centered around the customer journey. And it will prominently focus on driving sales for advertisers by encouraging users to either (1) buy directly on an advertiser's e-commerce site, (2) go to a local store, or (3) buy directly on Google leveraging Google Express.

Also, as part of their Shopping Actions Program, this shopping experience will also extend to, Google Assistant, YouTube, and Google Imagesto  allow users to buy directly from these Google properties!

Alright time to call it a night. Unlike Katy Perry, I am no longer "Wide Awake." If you want to learn more, check out the Google Ads blog.


Monday, April 8, 2019

Samsung Galaxy S10: Life 1 Month Later

I can't believe it has only been one month since I upgraded from my Samsung Galaxy S7 to the S10. I just love it! Here are some of my favorite things about it.

Prism colors! I got the blue one. I usually get a black phone, but this time I saw the prism blue and how it reflects in the light (see below) and it was love at first sight.

Huge screen. I didn't think it was a big deal at first to not have a black bezel on the top and bottom of the front screen. The physical size of the S7 and S10 are very similar. But once you get use to the longer screen, it's hard to imagine going back. There is only a small dark circle in the upper right corner for the camera. This really opened up a lot of usable screen space, which is most noticeable when viewing photos.

Hi-res screen. Speaking of screens, the screen resolution is so crisp and the letters are so smooth. You can go up to 3040x1440 (a.k.a., WQHD+).

Telephoto lens. At one point, I was considering the S10E, which doesn't have the telephoto lens. I didn't think I really needed it, but I discovered I use the 2x photo lens all the time for far away action photos.

Bixby routines. While this is not new to the S10, it's new to me. It's convenient for programming some things you do frequently. For me, I created a custom Bedtime routine that shuts down a lot of things. I was surprised you can even customize the 2 bottom shortcut buttons on the Lock screen. And you can also lock the screen orientation. You know how when you reach for your phone while lying in bed still, sometimes the screen rotates on you when you don't want it to? I set it to Portrait mode at bedtime. Lastly, having a set time for my bedtime routine that includes Airplane mode has the additional benefit of ensuring I limit my screen time at night.

Bedtime Bixby Routine 

Scan document feature on camera.
This feature is amazing! It's under Scene Optimizer. With this mode on, somehow Bixby recognizes when I'm taking a photo of a document and it reorients it so it's straight and crops it, even if you shoot it at an angle.

BEFORE: "Scan" hint while taking pic of a document

AFTER: Photo of document auto-cropped and auto-oriented

Apps Edge.
 I gotta admit I never saw the benefit of the Edge screen when Samsung rolled this design out a few years ago. I thought it was partially a parlor trick to create the illusion of an infinity display. But I have finally found a good use for it. Samsung lets you select Edge Panels. I especially like the Apps Edge panel to create custom shortcuts and folders. This has cleared up space on my home screen to tuck away popular apps that I use frequently, but not all the time.

Edge Panel customization options

Gestures for navigation bar. This is an Android Pie feature and not exclusive to the S10. This is also similar to what Apple iOS got last year. But the gestures are a lot more customizable on the S10. For example, Samsung gives you the option to:
  1. Not use gestures at all (if you like the classic 3 Navigation buttons -- menu, home, and back -- to still show 100% of the time on the bottom of your screen)
  2. Get hints for gestures with 3 grey lines along the bottom of your screen to remind you to swipe up. I am slow to change, so I chose this mode for now :)
  3. Go all in with gestures with no visual hints
Setting Gestures for Navigation Bar

Horizontal recent apps menu. This horizontal carousel view is also borrowed from iOS and is a Pie update. I like how it shows open apps side by side instead of vertically stacked cards behind one another because it's large enough that I can read the screens as I flip through them.

Bixby button remap. This is a new ability to re-assign the Bixby button on the left of the phone to do something else.

My one complaint is actually one of the most touted features on the S10: ultrasonic fingerprint sensor. The fingerprint recognition is not as responsive as the physical sensor. Often times, I give up after 2-3 times and use my PIN. Sometimes it thinks I'm off or it says to press harder.

Bonus tip: If you are looking for a slim clear plastic case to show off your gorgeous prism-colored S10 like me, I highly recommend this Trianium Clarium Case on Amazon. Best $9 you will ever spend for a case of this quality. It fits perfectly and snug, even along the bottom where the ports are. And the cutout for the camera lens on the back is not very deep, like other cases I've had in the past.

Prism Blue S10 in Trianium Clear Case

Overall, the S10 is a home run!