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If you want to learn how to thrive in competitive environments just take a look at the NFL to discover the real secret to success, production. At 3.5 years, football players have the shortest average career lifespan of all the professional sport leagues. To survive you have to thrive. And to thrive means you have to consistently beat your opponent and the guy beneath you on the roster.

For companies, there are a lot of parallels to football when it comes to marketing performance.  If I’m “bro-ing out” with the sports metaphor forgive me. In this case I think it just works.  Let me explain.

In order to beat an opponent in football you have to make plays.  In other sports your opponent can lose through poor performance. Not in football and not usually in business. Now plays come in many varieties. You can catch a pass in the end zone and hear the adulation of the crowd and you block the guy in front of you and win the praise of a coach. Marketing teams find themselves in similar situations. You can launch an advertising campaign that successfully positions your company as an industry leader and you can analyze KPIs and marketing metrics to optimize campaigns.

In both business and sports, executing on a plan enables goal achievement. Developing skills and experience is typically the foundation to consistent execution, whether you’re catching passes or converting website visitors. The focus then shifts to developing repeatable behaviors so peak performance becomes second nature.

If you’ve ever found yourself in a conference room brainstorming for your company’s “next big idea” or developing a new, “winning strategy” you’re actually drawing up your own version of the famed Hail Mary pass. Desperate actions are sometimes necessary, and the allure of new possibilities is often irresistible, but is a drastic decision needed to win?

Football strategy evolves through creative thinking, risk taking, failure and faith. For marketing organizations, new technologies inspire advances in strategy and tactics.  Coincidentally, those tech companies are also the creative thinkers, risk takers and failures who kept faith and figured it out. My digression aside, the competitive nature of football and marketing means what’s new quickly becomes copied to nullify competitive advantage.  But, if everyone has the same strategy, and is more or less calling plays from the same playbook, how can you win? Simple put, superior execution.

Coaches develop superior execution with their teams at practice by articulating and reinforcing the plays that make up their game plan. Marketers call this process strategic planning or project timelines. Practice is also the time coaches’ mentor and train players. The marketing equivalent is when managers measure and optimize campaigns. Just as coaches’ experiment with new plays, marketers try “test and learn” programs to create a advantage.

It’s important to recognize new tactics can create dazzling plays – maybe even help score touchdowns – but alone they don’t win games. Victory in business and football is achieved by setting a strategy and fulfilling it through superior execution.

Football fans can’t resist the temptation to “Monday morning quarterback” a player’s decisions if their favorite team lost that prior Sunday. It’s a natural reaction to channel your frustration into what one believes is constructive criticism. Companies are prone to similar activity. When performance slips people often second-guess decision-making.  To remedy the situation, executives often suggest new strategies or big ideas to ignite a new winning steak. However, just as watching football and understanding the plays doesn’t make one a qualified coach, nor does observing or experiencing marketing. Often, the key to unlocking the potential of your marketing organization has less to do with altering strategy, and more to do with your team’s ability to execute.

Legendary Raiders owner Al Davis, a naturally gifted marketer by the way, conceived the catchphrase “Commitment to Excellence.” For football coaches, excellence is achieved by highlighting weakness or breakdowns in execution during practice so players can overcome them during game time. Business leaders can do the same by promoting the players on their team that focus on winning through improved execution of marketing programs.

For organizations to realize optimal performance, the people inside them must be committed to getting better every day. It’s the focus on process rather than outcomes that separates champions from players.

data-as-a-tool

From the article “Data could have predicted his ouster: Andrew Mason fired as Groupon CEO

Real-time, data-driven marketing is a necessity for the 21st century marketer,” said Jason Kapler, director of marketing, Networked Insights. “It’s changing the way brands market their products, which will create new winners and losers.”

“Marketers that adapt a more data-driven approach to marketing will succeed,” Kapler said. “Those that rely on intuition-based tactics will suffer.”

usa-today-facebook-super-bowl-ad-meter-2012

Read this contributed article penned for my CEO on the iMedia Blog.

The live polling that USA Today performs annually with focus groups has proven itself meaningless. This year GoDaddy.com’s “Perfect Match” advertisement scored dead last on the newspaper’s Ad Meter meanwhile the company posted record sales for a Monday following a Super Bowl commercial. What is USA Today missing?

USA Today’s Ad Meter needs to be brought into the 21st century. Traditionally, they have focused on a small sample group of viewers to gauge ad performance. This year, in an attempt to update their analysis they opened up that sample group to viewers that registered on their online portal. It was likely an attempt to get a better read of consumer reactions, but with more than 8,000 participants, they still missed the mark.

The inherent flaw in their analysis—the same one they’ve had since the Ad Meter was first published in 1989—is in the way they measure advertisement success. Knowing whether a person “liked” or “disliked” an ad is no way to gauge if it got the job done for the advertiser. USA Today needs to go deeper to understand the winners and losers.

In Networked Insights’ analysis of the Super Bowl ads and celebrities, social data insights revealed a different viewpoint. GoDaddy.com was the #1 most discussed brand during Sunday’s big game. Despite a significant negative reaction from viewers, the data highlights a key to success when it comes to Super Bowl advertising, that controversy pays huge dividends.

It is time we move past antiquated means of collecting consumer information and start utilizing real-time data to uncover more reliable insights. Social data has characteristics that can no longer be ignored. Everyday this unbiased data source grows exponentially and the topics it covers are practically limitless.

Networked Insights is fortunate to work with innovative brands that want to use real-time consumer data from the social web to inform strategic marketing decisions. The reason is simple, traditional research can’t keep pace with the speed of today’s consumer. Progressive marketing professionals are looking for real-time trends and insights they can capitalize on. Perhaps most importantly, they’re looking for accurate information that is available when they need it – when it’s time to make a major decision.

Having the right information is critical to effective marketing. Taking your cues from USA Today’s Ad Meter is proving to be a risky proposition in the digital age. It’s time the unfiltered, boundless voice of the consumer – as expressed across the social web – rule the day. Marrying insights from social data with brand marketing intuition is a fierce combination that de-risks decisions and inspires more consumer-centric advertising.

Sean Parker and Spotify threw a post F8 party that got more tweets in one night than anything I’ve seen tweeted about the Spotify service. While I admit the digital elite I follow on Twitter may not be a statistically reliable sample size, and we know they’re hardly an indicator for mass market trends, it still proves to me the power of live music experiences. With so much media coverage about the subscription music service, and all it’s social media implications, I thought it was worth mentioning.

Read more about the event in the San Francisco Chornicle’s article: Sean Parker’s lavish S.F. party celebrates Spotify and Billboard’s article: Killers, Snoop Dogg, Jane’s Addiction Rock Sean Parker’s f8 Conference/Party.

When I think about the future of music and what the offline experience could/should be it’s a concept like this done by Fool’s Gold Records. In order to drive new revenues, repeat customers and grow business a new evolved industry model must emerge. One that combines the real and digital world to create a variety of new experiences. Music can be used to induce consumers to discover new artists, purchase merchandise and pay for new experiences… and none of it needs to be about music, or it can be all about music, or you can listen to the consumer and let them define their lifestyle and the optimum blend. The aim shouldn’t be to sell albums, it’s to own the customer, deliver memorable experiences and offer a multitude of products and services. Music is the magnet and remarkable experiences is the objective.

Read more in Hypebeast’s blog post here.