• The Future Is Now: AI-Driven Marketing

    by Jim Auer | Jul 19, 2018
    Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the effect on marketing

    We’re on the cusp of a radical shift in the way that marketers create, measure, and optimize the experiences we’re providing for our customers. Artificial intelligence and its applications in marketing are going beyond the proof-of-concept stage and emerging as a tool to drive real change within organizations.

    Companies are using AI today to make practical use of the customer data they gather. While businesses recognize the value of first-party data, they have not had the resources to quickly and efficiently analyze it and apply their conclusions to develop and test strategies. They are using AI to analyze the large volume of structured and unstructured data, at greater speed and efficiency than human resources are able to achieve. It helps them identify behavioral trends, determine the optimal set of variables for a campaign, test conclusions in the market, analyze the results, and optimize for improved performance. AI, for example, can determine the optimal bid for an impression and the message to deliver based on the prospect’s profile, the channel they are using, and the time of day. AI is lowering costs, increasing overall marketing efficiency, and shortening the path to conversion.

    The most visible applications of AI in marketing today are in media management and customer experience. Search engines and social media use AI to deliver the right message to the right audience, at the optimal price. Google’s automated bidding sets your bids based on your campaign objectives, resulting in more efficient final bid costs. Google will even apply this capability to enhance manual bidding for improved results.  

    AI is improving customer experience during routine interactions too. Chatbots, for example, can manage low and mid-level inquiries, reducing costs while increasing customer satisfaction. Marketers are now learning when to switch from a chatbot to a human interaction for inquiries where customers require a deeper response.

    And marketers are applying AI to content creation and curation, enabling them to produce and publish various types of content with greater efficiency and higher response. Recently, Alibaba released an AI-driven copywriting tool that it claims is capable of producing 20,000 lines of copy per second. AI can be used to guide writers in their efforts, identifying the types of headlines and themes that readers are more likely to respond to.

    If you’re not using AI now, you likely will be in the next few years. According to a recent study from PwC, 72% of business decision makers see AI as fundamental for future success and a significant business advantage. However, we’re not quite there yet. Only 15% of enterprises are currently using AI. Further, a recent report from the Economist Intelligence Unit shows that 75% of executives say AI will be actively implemented in the next three years.

    Today, many larger enterprises are applying AI. While these early adapters have the resources to apply the capabilities, cloud-based services from Google, Amazon, Microsoft, Alibaba and others are evolving to make AI practical for SMBs as well.

    In short, marketers are accepting that AI will have a key role in the future of marketing, and we’re working hard to figure out exactly what that means for our organizations. At Trellist, we believe AI will prove its value quickly, and the adoption rate will be fast among organizations of all sizes. 

    Learn more of how Trellist approaches new and evolving business problems by checking out the rest of our blogs here.

  • Data-Driven Insight on Millennials for Credit Card Issuers

    by David Michaluk and Jim Auer | Apr 21, 2016

    Fact: Brands are obsessed with plugging into the Millennial generation. Despite this, it seems that many established companies still struggle with how to create a meaningful connection with this key audience–financial institutions included.

    As a result, I performed research around the relationship between Millennials and credit cards, to better understand behavior, attitudes and how Millennials select a card, hoping to develop insight that would help financial institutions build campaigns that resonate.

    The big takeaway is that credit card issuers seem to be unsure about how to engage Millennials in their products. As is often the case with what some would consider “bad news,” there is both danger and opportunity in this data: Danger for those companies that fail to change course and engage Millennials, and opportunity for those that can solve the conundrum.

    The stakes are huge.

    Many companies have realized their future is almost certainly tied to their ability to create a connection with this generation.  Millennials, born between 1980 and 2000, now represent the largest segment of the population, one-quarter of all Americans. They’re the largest generation in US history, surpassing even the Baby Boomers. And now, they’re entering  their prime spending years.

     Do Millennials even want credit cards?

    For generations, American consumers fueled their spending with credit cards. It’s a system that works; although there are certainly instances of consumers overdoing it, utilizing credit to build a track record while moving into adulthood is a proven way to responsibly increase purchasing power. Credit has been a key component in the United States building the greatest standard of living the world has ever seen.

    However, research shows Millennials seem dubious about the power of credit and credit cards. This has partly to do with the economic landscape of the late 2000’s and early 2010’s when the economy was in decline and the national financial narrative was focused around the debt crisis. Not to mention the 6% increase year-over-year in student loan debt that took place between 2008 and 2012. Your average college graduate now owes approximately $29,400. Millennials have become increasingly weary of inflating their debt and spending money that they don’t have.

    Despite these apparent attitudes, there is likely an opportunity for credit card issuers to break through and secure a significant share of this still uncommitted cohort.

    Let’s dig deeper into our findings.

    Research findings

    We see the overall number of cards increase with age, 25% of Millennials do not even own a credit card, while almost 30% of those aged 34+ have 2 cards. 

    When asked about everyday preference, almost 60% of Millennials said they would use their debit card over a credit card if they possessed one, which presents a large marketing opportunity to change their minds.

    Of the credit cards in their wallet, both Millennials and non-Millennials reach for their Visa first.

    When asked where a credit card was obtained, over 70% of respondents said a bank.

    Millennials and non-Millennials were in agreement with the features they preferred when choosing a credit card: Rewards, APR, and Fees.

    When it comes to Rewards programs, both groups are focused on Cash Back, although it seems far more important to Millennials. 

    Connecting with Millennials

    It is clear that the credit line paradigm is shifting as this new generation enters its prime spending years without leaning as heavily on credit cards as previous generations have. The question is, how can the financial services industry reach this demographic? To answer this question requires examining the efforts of some of the most recognized and successful brands and their strategies to reach Millennials.

    Though not in the financial services industry, Uber has been innovative in its approach to marketing to this group. Millennials are not as interested in cars as they are convenience, so Uber capitalized on this trend and incorporated it into their core service. They offered the easiest way to find a ride from anywhere and a simple way to pay for it via a smartphone, having since become a global cultural phenomenon. Uber knew its target market, focused on convenience and offered a unique value proposition.

    Another example is Coca-Cola, whose approach incorporating sharing, identity, and personalization has resonated with Millennials. The soft-drink giant launched a campaign that printed 250 of the most popular names among teens and Millennials on 20-ounce bottles of Coke. The intended effect was to bond consumers to the brand by personalizing the product: intrigue, engage, and convert. In addition, a website was created to supplement this initiative with fun facts regarding the names on the bottles. The immediate result was a 2% increase in domestic sales and a wave of positive brand sentiments from consumers.


    To prevent the looming financial service industry pitfall that is low adoption of credit cards among Millennials, companies need to rethink their approach to traditional marketing of their products. Creating experiences in which consumers can participate, shareable content, aligning a brand with a cause, personalization, and convenience are essential to reaching this demographic.


    To collect credit and debit card usage data an online survey was conducted among users of all ages. One thousand responses were collected. The data from the Millennial group, ages 25 to 34, was then compared to the older age groups, 35 to 44, 45 to 54, 55 to 64, and 65+. From this data Trellist was able to answer two key questions: How many credit cards do you have, and what is the most important feature?

  • You’ve Got One Shot to Get Your Message Read - Think Mobile First

    by Jim Auer | Nov 28, 2012

    Think mobile first

    If your email isn’t mobile-optimized, will it still be read?
    Probably not.

    63% of mobile email users delete or ignore emails that aren’t optimized for their smartphones. (Source: Return Path) That means that if your email isn’t mobile-optimized, you may have lost your chance to get your message across to that viewer.

    Emails designed for desktop viewing typically require panning, zooming and scrolling on a mobile device in order to read the message or find the call to action. It’s a misconception that a user will save an email on their mobile device for desktop viewing later— 97% of emails are opened and viewed only once (Source: Return Path), with about 35% of the opens occurring on mobile devices. (Source: Knotice)

    So how do you create an email that provides an optimal user experience, regardless of the type of device used to view it? Enter Mobile First.

    The term Mobile First means that the mobile use case is taken into account first and foremost when developing any digital customer touch point—website, landing page, email, etc. This practice forces a focus on simplicity, from both a design and content standpoint, enabling the experience to scale effectively from device to device. Adherence to this discipline translates to more streamlined messaging and, ultimately, more effective communications.

    Applying Mobile First thinking to email design requires the inclusion of small-screen-friendly design elements, such as one column layouts, large fonts, prominent calls-to-action that don’t require a lot of scrolling, and the use of large buttons made to accommodate finger taps instead of mouse clicks. When you follow these design rules, your emails can be viewed on any size device screen—smartphone, laptop, or 30” monitor.

    Keep in mind that mobile email optimization alone is not enough to drive direct marketing success. All digital destinations, regardless of entry point (email, QR code, direct traffic, etc.), must be optimized for the device in order to create a seamless, end-to-end user experience that will ultimately improve conversion.

    If you’d like to learn more about applying Mobile First thinking to your marketing and technology initiatives, follow us on twitter @trellist or connect with us via

  • Direct Response Marketers can toss the Law of Diminishing Returns

    by Jim Auer | Apr 11, 2012

    In direct response marketing, traditional logic dictates the more you can customize a message to reflect what you know about that customer, the better the results.

    In 1994, Don Peppers and Martha Rodgers promised that the concept of “one-to-one” marketing was the way. However, the pursuit of this theoretical segmentation ideal has never been practical or effectively achieved. Still today, the practical number of executions (or cells) in most direct marketing programs is limited by the law of diminishing returns for all the wrong reasons… except at Trellist.

    Many marketing executives accept the idea that as they pursue more precise segmentation, their total costs will increase due to added creative & production time, increased coordination and production hours, and additional QA time (or its converse, the likelihood of costly errors). To this thinking, as incremental production costs increase, there comes a point where incremental yield from more precise customer segmentation is no longer profitable.

    Trellist, however, has demonstrated that as you control the creative and production costs by leveraging production technology and deploying a disciplined creative approach, the incremental costs of customer segmentation are significantly lowered (changing the slope of the incremental cost curve). With a very different approach to email development, print and direct mail creative methodology, marketing executives have much greater freedom to personalize offers, creative treatments, and marketing messages, all while reinventing their marketing program strategy with greater personalization. 

    By dramatically moving the point in which the incremental costs for customizing direct marketing are equal to the incremental return, Trellist has demonstrated the capability to increase the marketing team’s ability to customize marketing content. As a result, our clients are able to deploy more precise messaging, increase the effectiveness of each campaign and produce higher ROI for their organizations.

    At Trellist, we are proving that through integrating marketing and technology, we can toss out the “Law of Diminishing Returns.” This approach offers direct marketers new options that dramatically change traditional assumptions and produce a very different kind of business results.

  • How Google Instant Preview Will Change Paid Search

    by Jim Auer | May 04, 2011

    The latest in Google’s ongoing series of innovations was announced last week with the launch of Google Ad Instant Preview.  This extension of their innovation strategy enables searchers to preview the destination landing page to see if it has the information they’re looking for, and to do this before clicking on the ad.  While this new feature can benefit searchers if they notice it, advertisers need to carefully review their landing pages to ensure they are effective in this new format.

    Briefly, Google’s Instant Preview function enables searchers to roll over a paid search ad to view the landing page in a small window, enabling them to decide whether or not to click on the ad.  A magnifying glass icon appears in each ad that displays the landing page when rolled over:


    One of Google’s primary objectives is to create a better experience for its users by streamlining the ‘search to find’ effort.  By enabling searchers to view the landing page before they click, Google is helping them decide if they should click on the ad…or not.  This very fast decision time has the potential to reduce click-through rates if landing pages are not optimized for this feature.  Now in addition to being effective when displayed full-size, the landing page must be effective in this smaller rendition to persuade the searcher to click on the ad.  If the page doesn’t work in this format, the ads may generate fewer clicks and, as a result, fewer conversions. 

    Here are some issues to consider when reviewing your landing pages for display in the Instant Preview pane:

    • Is relevance among the keyword, ad text and landing page immediately evident to the search?  Does the landing page align with the topic of the keyword?  Does it align with the message in the text ad? 
    •  Does the page render properly in the Instant Preview pane?  The pane is approximately ¼ sizes, and the page layout and graphics need to hold up when displayed at this smaller size. 
    •  Is the page optimized for browsers without Flash?  While Ad Instant Preview supports Flash, it may retrieve images in Flash on demand and in these cases will not display the images in order to minimize latency.  It’s critical that Flash pages have a version for non-Flash users that can be used in the preview pane.
    • Is page text structured to provide a descriptive overview in the first sentence? This is where Google retrieves the text snippet used in the preview.  Does that first sentence give the searcher a reason to click on the ad and view the page?

    While Ad Instant Preview is still new, it has the potential to force paid search advertisers to change their strategies significantly to remain competitive.  Trellist will monitor the impact this new tool has on paid search effectiveness, and will apply the knowledge gained to help our clients increase the performance and ROI of their campaigns.

  • Google Instant: Raising the Bar on Search Engine Optimization

    by Jim Auer | Sep 15, 2010

    Late last week, Google introduced a new search technology that immediately changed organic search marketing. Google Instant is a major leap forward in predictive search functionality, going beyond suggesting search terms to streaming results as users enter each letter of their keywords. Google Instant allows users to search as they type; Marissa Mayer, Google’s VP of Search Products, described it as “search before you type.”

    Google Instant increases the challenges for SEO. Users now see results as they enter each letter of their keyword, and the results can change with each successive letter entered. Previously, users entered their keywords and then clicked the SEARCH button to see results. Every user that entered similar keywords received the same results, and the rankings were the same. Google Instant provides feedback to users as they type, enabling them to modify their searches on the fly. Each searcher will now see different results for similar keywords. Continuously modifying keywords means that users will no longer see the same results, and increases the complexity of optimizing pages for specific keywords.

    Google Instant will also increase competition for ranking on the first page. Users can now scan the streaming results to determine if their keywords will return the information they want. Rather than viewing a few pages of results before making this decision, users simply scan the top of the first page to decide if the results meet their needs. Pages ranked in the top positions will be all that some users consider, and competition for these positions will increase significantly.

    Trellist continues to monitor Google Instant, along with industry analysis and commentary on it, to enable us to help our clients compete more effectively within this new search technology. The question that all marketers must ask is, are they ready for Google Instant?

  • Google to Allow Use of Trademarks in AdWords Text Ads

    by Jim Auer | May 20, 2009

    Google has announced a major shift in its policy on the use of trademarked names in paid search ad copy.  Beginning June 15th, advertisers will be allowed to use trademarked names in their ad text, with some restrictions. This change is causing concern among brand marketers.

    In the past, Google has barred advertisers from using trademarked names in their ad copy unless they own the trademark or have permission from the trademark owner.  Many resellers, even those authorized by the trademark owner, could not satisfy Google’s demands for proving they had permission to use the trademark.  This prevented them from listing the brands they carry.

    What does this change mean specifically?  A search today for “LCD monitors” triggers many ads from online retailers, but most of these ads do not mention brand names.  The ads make generic claims such as “low prices on brand names” and “many brands to choose from.”   Google’s new policy will allow retailers to list brand names in their ads - “We carry all brands of monitors — Samsung, Dell, Viewsonic, and more.”

    Impact on Brands

    Google’s change in policy has the potential to create serious consequences for brand marketers. Marketers who sell through both direct and reseller channels will need to increase their advertising spend as they will be bidding against resellers for their own brand names. They will need to bid higher to have their ads appear in a top 5 position.

    This can also have a significant effect on brand image. Paid search advertisers will be able to position a brand based on their own strategies. Enabling others to control a brand can have serious consequences on the value of the brand, and can quickly erode its value.  How many exposures of an ad stating “Hermes Handbags – Cheap!” will it take before that prestigious brand image starts to decline?

    How will Google’s changes affect your business?  Will you be competing with resellers? Do you risk of losing control of your brand?  We’d like to know.

  • Google’s Entrée into Behavioral Marketing

    by Jim Auer | Mar 11, 2009

    Google announced today that they will begin a test of behavioral targeting through their AdSense network.  This will be a significant change in how advertisers can use Google to target a specific profile on sites other than its search page.

    To give you some background, AdSense is Google’s content network, where it places text and display ads on sites of other publishers; this enables Google to extend its reach and the publishers to generate more ad revenue. Until now, AdSense ads were targeted based on the content rather than the visitor. For example, ads for cooking products would appear on cooking, food and nutrition sites, and all visitors to these sites were served the same ads.

    Now, with behavioral targeting, Google will collect site visitation data on individual users, analyze it to identify their interests, and then serve ads to them based on those interests – that is, ads will be served based on the individual rather than the site content. It’s possible that a person who visits cooking and golf sites would see a golf products ad when they visit a cooking site. The benefits to an advertiser are a higher level of targeting using Google’s efficient bid model and an increase in campaign ROI, with higher response and conversion rates. Google is addressing the general privacy concerns that come with behavioral targeting, and is not collecting personal data that the site visitation data can be linked to.

    For ideas about how to take advantage of targeted marketing, contact Jim.

Insights posts by: Jim Auer

Jim Auer
Jim leverages his proven skills in brand, campaign strategy, paid search, display, video, email, print, out-of-home, and broadcast advertising to benefit marquee client engagements in health care and life sciences.