Technology-enabled marketing talk at Girl Geeks Toronto

This is a cross-post of  a guest blog I wrote for Girl Geeks Toronto. You can find the original here. Girl Geeks Toronto runs monthly tech talks in a friendly social environment. Their talks are accessible to both techs and non-techs, and men are welcome.

Recap: Technology and Marketing: From Mind to Map

This month’s event brought together two topics that showed how technology is enabling marketers to be more relevant to our audiences.  Asif Khan from the Location Based Marketing Association talked about how marketers are using Location Based Marketing (LBM) and Diana Lucaci and Katerina Juskey from True Impact Marketing introduced us to neuromarketing, which measures brain responses to really understand how users are truly responding to marketing messages. Through these two lenses we can begin to see the depth and breadth of marketing tools technology has enabled.

Location Based Marketing – Asif Khan

One of Asif’s core messages was that “location” doesn’t mean “mobile” and LBM isn’t just about checking in on Foursquare. Asif described it as “the intersection of people, places and media.” Wherever we are, and whatever device or app we choose, that’s a location.

Asif showed us a lot of intriguing examples. Some showed marketers offering services where the customer is, such as digital walls in airports where travellers returning home can order the groceries they’ll need to restock their fridges, and pizza ordering stations in transit shelters so riders could order dinner while they wait for the bus and have it arrive soon after they get home.

Others showed we can push offers to individuals based on where they are,  like a coupon to a customer when they are standing in front of the display deciding between brands. Starhub in Singapore chose fitting room music based on what clothes customers were trying on and pushed targeted download offers to their phones on the spot. (See how they did it here.)

Asif Khan speaking at a Girl Geeks Toronto event

Asif also shared examples of marketers increasing relevance based on real-time LBM data, like digital signage on a NYC bus allowing ads to be selected for each intersection based who has checked in to services like Foursquare instead of a static ad based on the bus route’s demographics.

Some examples used onsite-only offers to draw customers to the advertiser’s location. For instance, few users pay for advanced Angry Birds levels, but many choose to shop or eat at advertiser locations (e.g. McDonalds in China) where they can unlock new levels for free.

Asif’s many examples all result in making the content hyper-relevant to the user.  He reminded us that if we’re going to use LBM we need to first understand who we are targeting so we can choose tools that will reach them, and I think his overall message could be summed up with one of his comments:

Content is king but context is the advisor

Neuromarketing – Diana Lucaci and Katerina Juskey

If LBM is about getting the right message to the right people at the right time and place, neuromarketing (NM) is about determining what the right message IS.

Diana Lucaci from True Impact brings science into the boardroom, using tools that measure brain response to show marketers how users respond to their content. She was quick to remind us that neuromarketing is not about manipulating the subject’s brain, just reading its response, and introduced us to three NM technologies:

  1. EEG – Electroencephalography records electrical impulses produced by the brain’s activity to see whether a subject is engaged or not, or has positive or negative emotional engagement
  2. fMRI – Functional MRI machines measure the blood-flow to areas of the brain that are responsible for decision making and gives even more insight into how the subject is reacting to content
  3. Eye Tracking – helps correlate the emotional, attention or memory activity with the visual focus on the advertisement

Diana Lucaci presents on Neuromarketing

One of the big ideas behind these tools is that what people say they think and feel doesn’t always match what they really do, so focus groups and surveys can’t always give an accurate insight. Diana also pointed out that what questions we ask, how we ask them, and who else is in the room can affect subjects’ responses in traditional market research but by measuring the brain’s response neuromarketing can cut through some of that and tell us what people are really responding to. Used in conjunction with traditional research, NM can fine tune our understanding of the results.

Diana also showed us how we make decisions, with the part of our brains that handles emotions causing us to respond – mentally and even physically – before we even begin to think about a decision, and urged us to keep that in mind when we’re making decisions. Even when we don’t think we’re being affected, we are, and the fMRI can measure that.

One of Diana’s intriguing use cases involved three stop-smoking ads being shown to a focus group, which chose ad “B” as the most effective, while fMRI scans showed people really preferred ad “C” and in the real world, ad “C” drove 3 times as many calls as the others. Ads “A” and “B” were both based on rational arguments against smoking, the reasons we all want to believe we make decisions, while ad “C” tugged the heartstrings, addressing how hard it is to quit and how smoking affects our families. The fMRI was able to show that despite what the focus group respondents told marketers (and themselves!) the emotional appeal is the one that really worked.

Katerina Juskey presents at Girl Geeks

While the fMRI gives the deepest insights, EEG is a very effective tool because it provides immediate readings and it’s more portable and easy to use. Katerina told us about EEG’s and how they can show negative and positive responses and whether the subject is really engaged or tuned out. They also showed us a great example of how eye tracking can help us improve campaigns. Eye tracking on an ad showed most time spent looking at the headline, a little at the model, and almost none at the product. By changing the ad so that the model was looking at the bottle, viewers’ behaviour was changed and they spent more time looking at the product. Eye tracking identified what was happening, cueing marketers to make changes, and then measured the result to show that the change worked.

Diana acknowledged that neuromarketing is quite new and there is controversy around its effectiveness, but she likened selling it to selling some of the earliest websites. Many of us can remember when businesses were skeptical about whether a website would really drive business, but now there’s no question about it. Similarly, Diana expects neuromarketing to become more mainstream as marketers gain more experience using it.

Relevance, relevance, relevance!

So we covered a lot of territory in a single session, but it all comes back to one of our core challenges as marketers – how to be as relevant as possible to our audience. Location Based Marketing and neuromarketing are two great examples of how technology gives use new and exciting ways to make our content relevant.

Did you attend the Technology and Marketing: From Mind to Map event? What was your biggest takeaway?

Product Management: What distinguishes the top 1% of product managers from the top 10%?

Product Management: What distinguishes the top 1% of product managers from the top 10%?
A really great answer to what makes for a truly outstanding Product Manager, written by Amazon’s Ian McAllister.

How do you deal with the sexism?


Underground is pretty much “a man’s world”
– except when I’m there.

A colleague recently asked me how I deal with sexism in mining.

As I thought about my answer, I realized I hadn’t been conscious of sexism in mining but had of course been dealing with it. Mining is far more male-dominated than tech and a moment’s reflection was enough for me to recognize that I’ve observed some sexism there. I just hadn’t paid attention to it because it wasn’t a problem for me, any more than it has been in tech, banking or public safety. Like many other potential obstacles, I’ve worked around it and carried on. But the question caused me to reflect a bit on how I do that. I don’t know if my approach would work for anyone else, and I know that a lot of the circumstances where women experience it don’t apply to me, but I thought I’d share my approach in case it’s useful to others.

1)      I show what I can do

One of the things I’ve loved about tech from the beginning is that when I know something and can do something, people respect that. They care less about what I can’t do, what I haven’t done, or who I am than what I actually show I can do.

When I started out in tech as a second career at 31, I was worried about being 10-15 years older than my peers and much less experienced in tech than the teens who had hacking since childhood. I was hired by an ISP for my Cisco routing and switching knowledge but initially spent some time in tech support learning the business before moving to network operations. The fellow who showed me the ropes was 15 and I got the distinct sense at first that he and his peers were quietly rolling their eyes at the “senior citizen” who’d never managed a Unix system or even written a Perl script. In retrospect they were probably also underestimating me because I was female, but I wasn’t thinking about that. I was thinking about my age and inexperience.

Before long, I had a chance to show what I could do. The network was down and the only person with passwords to the core routers was not answering his pager. I mentioned to my boss that if I could get physical access to the equipment, I could bypass the password. Management took me up on my offer and within a few minutes I’d identified the problem, corrected it, and restored service to our customers. Word travelled fast that, “poD_ can hack Cisco routers!” That was a major turning point.

In calling me by my IRC nickname, my peers were admitting me into the club. I was recognized as a “real tech”. While I wasn’t really “hacking”, the fact that I could bypass the password on the mysterious Cisco router and fix a big network problem gave me cred. From then on, I traded Cisco expertise for Unix expertise and never worried about my age or background again.

2)      By avoiding other negatives, I avoid a lot of sexism

People who make business decisions based on gender, or ignore good advice because of who it comes from, tend to display poor judgement generally.

I suspect I’ve avoided a lot of sexism by avoiding places that weren’t the right fit for other reasons. Sexism and other “isms” tend not to occur on their own.

Back in the 90’s I went for a network ops job interview at a big telco. I’d heard nothing but bad things about them as a workplace, all of it from men since there weren’t yet many tech women to hear from. Their reputation shouted “you’ll hate working here!” but they were a big name for the resume and had a big network I could learn from working with so I interviewed anyway. During that interview, I observed a lot of negatives about their approach and culture. I also experienced the only direct sexism I can recall encountering in my career when one of the interviewers said there are people in the department who don’t think women should work on networks. In the moment I was startled, but afterward I realized that was just one more nail in their coffin. They probably wouldn’t have offered me the job because I’m female, but I didn’t pursue it because the interview showed me it was just as messed up a place as I’d heard, maybe worse. Sexism was just a symptom of a much bigger problem.

3)      I focus on the variables I can change

In 2003, I had a chance to hear Dr. Veena Rawat speak when she won the Canadian Women in Communications (CWC) Woman of the Year Award. In 1972, Dr. Rawat was the first woman to graduate with a PhD in electrical engineering from Queen’s University. She was also an immigrant, having moved to Canada from India only 5 years before. As a female engineer and an immigrant in 1973, Dr. Rawat experienced discrimination far greater than anything I’ve encountered.

One of her comments in that talk has stuck with me since that day and I apply it often. When asked how she dealt with sexism in her career, she said something like this:

“I approach it like an engineering problem. There are always constants and variables, and some of the variables are out of your control. So I focus on the variables I can change and not the constants or the variables I can’t change.”

Words to live by. Even though I push back against sexism in society and industries, I’m rarely able to eliminate sexism and other irrational biases in specific people and situations. So I treat them as constants and get the job done anyway. From a practical standpoint, it rarely matters whether I’m being underestimated because of my gender, because I currently report to marketing instead of engineering, because I’m new to a company, or because someone thinks redheads are temperamental. What matters is that I’m being underestimated. So I deal with that, and work around people who are present barriers to my success.

I have friends and colleagues whose approaches are very different from mine, and I would never suggest that my approach is better for everyone. But for what it’s worth, it’s worked well for me.

Guest Blogging @ Girl Geeks Toronto

girlgeeksto-logoI’m jazzed to be guest blogging this Monday’s Girl Geeks Toronto event!

The team has lined up three really interesting speakers to discuss Technology and Marketing: From the Mind to the Map.

Here is the summary from their site:

Imagine you could read your customer’s thoughts on an emotional level or reach them with just the right deal, in just the right location to get them to buy. Technology, and the science behind it, has brought a new level of sophistication to many industries, and marketing is no exception.

Join other girl geeks (and boys!) for an evening of exploration around topics in marketing that leverage new technologies to reach and understand consumers on a more personal level than ever before.

Diana Lucaci, founder and CEO of True Impact Marketing, will be providing an introduction to Neuromarketing. She will explain why one would use brain measurements for insights, what can be accurately measured, and how to get started.

Katerina Juskey, a Neurofeedback Specialist from True Impact Marketing, will be joining Diana to provide insights on the technology behind neuromarketing.

Asif Khan, consultant and founder of the Location Based Marketing Association, will provide a perspective on the state of location based marketing – the techniques and technology, and how they are being applied.

By the end of the night you’ll have a deeper understanding on how technology is helping companies better understand and attract you as a consumer.

I hope to see you there, but if you can’t attend watch for my blog next week.

2 Things BlackBerry is Doing Right

Full disclosure, I’ve had some kind of BlackBerry in my hand pretty much constantly since 1999. Every time I try to embrace another device, I find it slowly relegated to the desk drawer. So I want Blackberry to survive and thrive. And based on what I’ve seen with the BlackBerry 10 (BB10)  launch, I think they will.

Two reasons:

1) Building on their strengths
2) Embracing developers

Sure, they’ve built lots of cool functionality into the device, but that’s the price of entry when launching a handset. These two aspects of how they’ve done it are what I think will make the difference.

Building on their strengths

BlackBerry has always been a great communication platform. That’s what has kept millions of us loyal despite other features we’ve missed out on, and it’s made us immune to the teasing about how uncool we are. BlackBerry recognized that this is their core value and built the new platform around it. Key features in BB10 – Hub, Flow, Peek, Share – are centred around making an already great experience even better, and more appealing to non-BB users.

I’ve long counted on having most of my comms in one place, my BlackBerry Inbox. It already houses 9 email accounts, my SMS texts, BBM and Windows and G+ and Yahoo messages, PINs, incoming and outgoing phone calls and voicemail alerts, DMs and @’s from Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook notifications…

Frankly, I had trouble getting excited by early reports of Hub because it sounded like what BB already had. But Hub takes it up a notch, a more elegant way of doing what they already did well with features like pulling recent interactions with a contact together in one place. I already had some of this with “recent activity” in Contacts but BB10 expands it. Very nice.

Similarly, while multitasking isn’t new to BlackBerry – I frequently jump between multiple open apps – Flow makes it even easier, smoother.  The new stuff will appeal to Apple and Android users but it preserves and enhances what we BlackBerry die hards count on.

Another area where Blackberry has always excelled is the corporate  enterprise. The new Balance feature plays to that and helps IT managers  deal with bring-your-own-device (BYOD) challenges. By separating the  platform into “work” and “play”, BB10 lets users add what they want while  letting IT managers protect the corporate environment, adding value for their enterprise base while giving users the freedom they want. Brilliant.

And of course, the keyboard – BlackBerry listened to us and built a device with the physical keyboard I love, but by all reports they’ve also built one of the best touchscreen keyboards ever. That’s essential for a communication device but also for apps and web surfing in this interactive era.

Embracing developers 

One of the criticisms from Apple and Android users has been the dearth of  Blackberry apps. Blackberry recognized the problem and attacked it from all  sides to make sure they would not only have a solid base of apps at launch but also a credible promise of many more to come.

They supported Alec Saunders’ drive to  seed developers with devices, embraced open source, created SDK’s for  C++/Qt Cascade, C/C++ Native SDK, HTML5 BB WebWorks, ActionScript Adobe AIR  & Java Android Runtime, and blanketed the developer community with resources to support and communicate with those who were willing to work with them.

Application Development Consultants (like @garettbeukeboom who spoke before the launch at DevTO to fill us in on what was coming) were all over the developer community making sure developers had what they needed. I heard as much about BB10 in 2012 from developers playing with it as I did from the media.

And then there were the portathons. BlackBerry hosted events where developers took advantage of the SDK’s to quickly port Apple and Android apps over to BB10, offering cash and prize incentives. The January portathon delivered 15,000 apps in only 2 days. That not only sets BB10 up with a lot of great apps (approximately 70,000 at launch) but it shows developers just how easy BlackBerry has made it to port apps over. That will encourage more to take the plunge and let the ecosystem grow quickly as customers want more apps.

The easy porting of apps is a critical element of making it easy to switch. The best device ever won’t attract customers if they have to give up their favorite apps. But BB10 is launching with a lot of the most popular ones either on board or committed – Skype,  Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, Amazon, Kindle, WhatsApp and Angry Birds, along with business apps like WebEx, SAP, and Citrix. But most apps not yet on board can be ported over quickly and easily to respond to market demand, which means users can be confident that if they switch in large numbers, the apps will follow. BlackBerry removed the technical and economic barriers to app conversion.

So here’s hoping users do jump on the BlackBerry train, if only so that I can continue to buy the products I love!