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It's Time for Larry Fink (BlackRock CEO) Level Leadership, Right?

Yesterday, I read an interview with Merck CEO Ken Frazier in the NYT and was inspired to write this long overdue post to kick off a conversation about the evolution of leadership in this Digital Era.

I was especially inspired by this part:

"CEOs need to be very thoughtful and sober about the positions that they take publicly. Ultimately, if you believe in something, you ought to say it, and you ought to say it in a very clear way...But by taking those actions I think we were able to show that we really did care about what we said we were about as a company...There are lots of examples of companies that have lost their way because they've sort of lost their soul, which is a funny word to use, but companies do have souls."

As passionate as I am about the space I'm in, it's easy to lose sight of the broader implications of the change that's underway, in large part powered by tech driven transformation and the millennial generation.

And when you step back for a minute, you realize how critical and difficult the evolution of modern leadership in this environment is.

Ken's statement about "companies having souls" reminded me of the January letter from BlackRock CEO Larry Fink to CEOs everywhere outlining their expectation that companies start accounting for their effect on society.

"Society is demanding that companies, both public and private, serve a social purpose," Fink wrote. "To prosper over time, every company must not only deliver financial performance, but also show how it makes a positive contribution to society. Companies must benefit all of their stakeholders, including shareholders, employees, customers, and the communities in which they operate...To sustain that performance, however, you must also understand the societal impact of your business as well as the ways that broad, structural trends — from slow wage growth to rising automation to climate change — affect your potential for growth"

Which of course reminded of my number one, all-time favorite brand (obviously), Patagonia. Patagonia has been ahead of the curve on so many levels, this one included and pulled from its reason for being, the below speaks to this notion of a broader purpose:

"For us at Patagonia, a love of wild and beautiful places demands participation in the fight to save them, and to help reverse the steep decline in the overall environmental health of our planet. We donate our time, services and at least 1% of our sales to hundreds of grassroots environmental groups all over the world who work to help reverse the tide. We know that our business activity – from lighting stores to dyeing shirts – creates pollution as a by-product. So we work steadily to reduce those harms. Staying true to our core values during thirty-plus years in business has helped us create a company we're proud to run and work for. And our focus on making the best products possible has brought us success in the marketplace."

Patagonia is a massively "human" brand and while they were "early" on being human, they serve as a tremendous example of how to build a business that transcends commerce and has become a movement which it seems like Larry Fink is recommending CEOs everywhere pay attention to.

The thing is, this can't just be a "CEO"-thing, this has to be a "culture"-thing aka an "everyone"-thing. But how do we do something so significant? Where do we look for role models? How do we effect this level of change / evolution?

How does this broader responsibility to a broader set of stakeholders become part of "what we're all about"?

Maybe we start by highlighting and sharing more and more examples of folks "talking the talk" and "walking the walk"? Folks we can look up to?

How about Mattel CEO Margo Georgiadis (former Google executive who recently joined Mattel) and what Mattel did in response to a survey of 8,000 mothers and the 86% who said they were worried about the lack of female role models for their daughters?

"In honor of International Women’s Day on Wednesday, Mattel has unveiled a collection of 17 Barbie dolls representing real women—past and present— who serve as role models for girls. Other women in the new group of dolls, called The Inspiring Women series, include gymnastics champion Gabby Douglas, polish journalist Martyna Wojciechowska, NASA mathematician and physicist Katherine Johnson (whose work was featured in the film Hidden Figures), and aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart."

Or the efforts Pepsi CEO Indra Nooyi has made to transform the company while reinforcing a commitment to a leadership that addresses a much broader set of stakeholders over a much longer impact horizon:

"At the end of the day, companies like ours are little republics. PepsiCo’s market capitalization makes us bigger than many countries around the world. Companies like ours have not only got [to be] run for the benefit of shareholders. We’ve got to do it in a way that’s very sensitive to societies and communities around the world. And that’s my sincere hope: that every company views their place in society that way, and modifies [its] business model to be more sensitive to these countries, societies and communities in which they operate.

And then there's Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini response to the 17 innocent people that were killed on February 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida:

"Experts agree that gun violence is a public health issue. Our current laws allow too many individuals to access weapons intended for battlefields while failing to keep firearms out of the hands of people who should not have them. I have long believed that corporations have a responsibility to advocate for important changes in our society, and on this issue, Aetna will not stand still."

Of course there's Target Head of Organization Design Keba Gordon, the superstar who I highlighted in my recent recap of 8 key learnings from "Strategy + Innovation Worldforum":

"A fundamentally different kind of leader is needed to compete and win in the digital economy."

Speaking of "a fundamentally different kind of leader", Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz sums it up perfectly when being interviewed by the best journalist in the game ;):

No company, consumer brand or otherwise, can exist today without being a tech company inside that enterprise…Because of the web and the millennial generation, I think every company is totally exposed. And if you’re not the kind of compamy whose transparency is going to be embraced by consumers, you’re going to be in trouble. Because people want to support a company or product whose values are compatible with their own. But it must be authentic. And I think the authenticity of everything we do has to be at the highest standard and “Upstandards”, I think, is emblematic of that…But the world is going through a massive, massive change in terms of artificial intelligence, and robotics, and things of that nature. And every company is going to have to evolve to maintain its relevancy while maintaining its core purpose and reason for being.”

For those that read this, I hope some of the leadership examples above are new to you and that you might be able to share some new examples with me so that I can continue to feature/share them in future posts?

After all, this isn't just a "CEO"-thing, this is an "Everyone"-thing, and step one is identifying who's doing it right so we can all be inspired to commit ourselves to being a part of the evolution of leadership!

"It's time for Larry Fink (BlackRock CEO) level leadership, right?"


E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin

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#SIWORLDFORUM: "75% of Fortune 500s Will be Replaced by 2027" (assuming 2012 avg. tenure of 18 yrs.)

As much as the word "Innovation" is used too much, the overuse is a direct reflection of the turbulent, exciting / scary times we're in.

Innovation has always been complicated as companies with finite resources and infinite options have historically been challenged to think through how they prioritize/focus efforts to create new value?

Thinking critically and creatively is hard enough, but when you throw in the explosive growth and developments in digital/tech/AI driven options over the last 2-3 years, the landscape is shifting/evolving so quickly that we're now in uncharted territory...

Given that back drop, I was STOKED to attend last week's "Strategy + Innovation World Forum" here in NYC. Over 2 days, we heard from a tremendous group of F500 Corporate Strategy, Digital, AI, Innovation, etc leaders doing "the real work" of meaningful innovation within the context of such turbulent times, day-in and day-out.

As you can see from the speaker list, it was a special room to be in.

While, the presentations, panel discussions and chats over coffee, lunch etc were enormously interesting, informative and valuable, it seemed to me the most valuable aspects tied to answering 2 key questions:

  1. What does it mean to become a "Digital Business"?
  2. How do I "Innovate" to become a "Digital Business"?

Seemingly simple questions but the devil is definitely in the details.

Below are a list of key learnings from the conference and I apologize in advance if I didn't attribute the insights/ideas the right way as there were so many great discussions!

1: Speed kills + the pieces are all available with today's tech/data infrastructure

  • Applying Machine Learning, Robotic Process Automation and other AI technologies to compress the "idea" to "product in-market" cycles aka supply chain modernization by 50-75% reeks of the kind of value creation and net new revenue generation we're all looking for
  • Especially interesting presentations with some incredible stats from Hasbro's Blandine JeanPaul (Senior Director Global Brand Strategy), American Red Cross' Sajit Joseph (Chief Innovation Officer) and Ralph Lauren's Sirat Babbar (Director of Strategy, Innovation + Change Management)

2: Important to recognize the two flavors of innovation and prioritize accordingly

  • Internal (operations, infrastructure, employee oriented) vs External (customer facing)
  • Enabling / empowering your people to have greater impact on the business (i.e. democratizing access to data/insights to drive employee decision making "closer to the front lines") vs increasing the value proposition between you and your customers
  • NYT's Ejieme Eromosele (MD of Customer Experience), Wal-Mart's Nancy Liang (Head of Strategy + Operations, Entertainment Group, eCommerce), Turner's David Beck (Chief Strategy & Ventures Officer) and Barclays Ben Shaw (Open Innovation Delivery Manager)

3: Businesses/brands need to be more human, literally + figuratively

  • Whether you're a B2B or B2C business, your "brand" and "business" is really the sum total of collective experiences folks have across all physical/digital touch points
  • Target's Keba Gordon (Head of Organization Design) literally stole the show with his presentation that I've literally been thinking about every day since Wednesday but one specific thing he said was "Organizational health is how stocks will be bought and sold in the future" and his message on the mission critical importance of companies being WAY MORE human with "employees" was VERY well received by the room
  • Keba along with Prudential's Tracy Reilly (VP of Integrated Brand Strategy), Heineken's Bjorn Trowery (Director of Communications) and American Red Cross' Sajit Joseph (Chief Innovation Officer)

4: "Listening broad" is important but "listening deep" is even more important as that's where the big breakthroughs come from

  • Special shout out to Fifth Third's Michael Crawford (VP Digital) as he crystallized this concept when he talked about picking 3 "super users" and shadowing them for 3 days to develop deep insights that can then be used to discover breakthrough ideas that are consistently better than 100+ person focus groups, general social listening techniques etc when it comes to big ideas (i.e. Fifth Third's "Momentum" app)
  • Converse's Andrea Samuel (Director of Global Business Planning) and Mastercard's Zahir Khoja (SVP of Global Acceptance Product Development and Innovation)

5: Innovation no longer has a "place" in an organization, no longer has a "beginning and an end"...Innovation is a cultural thing and your company's culture either IS or ISN'T "Innovation"

  • Whether it was Google's Sean Ginevan (Head of Global Strategy, Android Enterprise) laying out their "10X thinking" (aka Google doesn't go for 10% incremental improvement, they go all in on 10X better than the best option in the marketplace today), Keba Gordon unleashing his blueprint for Organizational Design/Culture 2.0, NYT's Ejieme Eromosele or Uber's Meghan Joyce (Regional GM) articulating their deep commitment to the mission, this message came through loud and clear...
  • Innovation is culture, culture is innovation and if yours isn't...WATCH OUT

6: Starting with the tech vs starting with your customer/employee data is backwards...seriously

  • It was VERY refreshing to hear universal agreement on the importance of listening deep and as Mastercard's Zahir Khoja said, "Understand the problem you're trying to solve or the demand/opportunity you're trying to create and then apply critical and creative thinking to innovate."
  • There's more than enough technology available today to drive all sorts of meaningful innovation
  • Falling in love with one technology/application (i.e. Chatbots anyone?) and then innovating around it before going deep on what you know about your key stakeholders isn't going to deliver sustained innovation...
  • Define the problem/opportunity and then innovate around it to deliver MEANINGFUL / SUSTAINED INNOVATION

7: Don't worry, the tension + friction throughout the process is natural

  • Whether it's identifying which Proof of Concept (POC) to pursue, which POCs to scale or how much customer/consumer research to execute before investing in building a prototype/POC etc, the "Sustained Innovation Process" is FULL of trade offs and SUPER healthy tension / friction
  • Special shout out again to Fifth Third's Michael Crawford (VP Digital) when he effectively said that the process is full of tradeoffs and prioritization and that it's critical to figure out "Where you want to be GREAT and where you want to be GOOD as you can't be GREAT at everything".

8: "A fundamentally different kind of leader is needed to compete and win in the digital economy" (Target's Keba Gordon)

  • As I mentioned above, Target's Keba Gordon LITERALLY stole the show so this one is completely dedicated to him --> "Re-Thinking Leadership For Growth: We are infected by outdated mindsets and behaviors that undermine human growth. Decide to become a better leader."
  • The above statement is big and provocative but it has a ton of merit when you dig into it and I hope that I'll be able to share his presentation as it has "high impact" written all over it!
  • Keba has started a movement and the impact he's going to have on Target is going to be extraordinary...and I just hope he enables all of us to be a part of his movement
  • There's no doubt in my mind that Keba is going to be under the big white tent this September at The Nantucket Project as he's that LEVEL of passion/leadership

More to come on the above but anybody who appreciates BIG IDEAS, please check out my post from last year's The Nantucket Project as it's a movement 1000% worth getting involved with and it needs as many BIG thinkers + doers as possible!

TNP is changing the world. Literally.

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



We Help CEOs, CMOs, CIO/CTOs Answer These 12 Questions Critical to "Digital Transformation"

"Digital Transformation" means a lot of things to a lot of different people. If "Digital Transformation" is anything, it's complicated.

In the interest of "demystifying" it a bit, I wanted to write what effectively will be one of my most "deliberate" blog posts to date but hopefully one of my most helpful / useful as I get this question A LOT..."What exactly is this whole 'Digital Transformation' thing all about?"

The word "Transformation" has to do with "becoming" something else aka modernizing the way F1000 businesses operate, market and drive growth given the available tech, data, digital tools etc.

To modernize their companies, C-Level executives focused on "Digital Transformation" turn to us when they need help answering the following 12 questions:


  1. Data Strategy: "How do I make sense of all available data and increase the velocity of 'insight to action to value creation' for our customers?"
  2. Growth: "How do I acquire more customers, increase accounts per customer and reduce customer churn?"
  3. Personalization: "How do I modernize my approach to telling stories and creating meaningful connections with customers to deliver 1:1 personalization across all physical/digital touchpoint at scale?"
  4. Descriptive --> Predictive: "How do I transition our focus from descriptive to predictive and implement a real-time feedback loop to guide 'Next Best Action' (NBA) across my marketing organization?"


  1. Cost Reduction: "How do I reduce costs of BAU (i.e. servicing existing customers), especially repetitive and time-consuming "human" efforts so these folks can focus on higher impact work?"
  2. Growth: "How do I scale my business without adding headcount and doing so in a way that pays for itself?"
  3. Innovation: "How do we get closer to our customers, create more net new value, faster?"
  4. Corporate Strategy: "How do I modernize my approach to 'buy vs. build vs. partner'?"


  1. Enterprise Start-Up: "Can you help us build a "___", like a start-up in our space would?"
  2. Practical Application of AI: "How can AI lower costs, improve an existing customer experience or enable a new experience and the associated new revenue stream?"
  3. Product Roadmap: "How can I enhance our product roadmap by accessing world-class talent, on-demand without the risks associated with adding expensive headcount?"
  4. Reduce Costs: "How do I reduce wasteful overspending on unnecessary resources and technology?"

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



AI Helps B2B Sales + Marketing Grow the Company Faster + More Profitably?

This post is for B2B executive management teams thinking through the application of Artificial Intelligence to grow faster and more profitably by increasing CRO/CMO collaboration.

As it relates to all those corporate brand marketers out there that I love, while there's tons of value in "branding", this post is not for you all.

This post is for those marketers and sales teams being asked to implement/scale a Demand Generation methodology that directly links marketing to sales and accelerating sales cycle velocity.

Context...Ever been to "Tom + Jerry's" on Houston in NYC's East Village?

"Growth Hacker" was a term you heard more often 5-10 years ago as it was used to describe a cell of people fluent in Sales, Marketing, Tech, Analytics etc. who effectively applied software product development principles (i.e. Agile) to the way start-ups would develop/execute/iterate their Sales and Marketing efforts.

Driven in large part by a lack of resources, this innovative approach was embraced in lots of start-up ecosystems with results that speak for themselves.

Chances are, if you went to Tom + Jerry's when NYC was being questioned as a tier 1 start-up ecosystem, you would have heard lot's of people talking about it...

"Growth Hacking 2.0" inside F1000 environments

Fast forward to today and enterprise B2B growth teams are trying to figure out how to replicate a similar methodology within their organizations as the benefits of linking Business Strategy, Social/Business Graph Intelligence, Integrated Marketing, BD Hunting, AI and industrial grade performance analytics have become overwhelmingly clear.

Easier said than done as "Sales" and "Marketing" haven't always been on the "same page" historically...

AI is making it easier to "focus on what matters most" and less on what doesn't

The challenge with AI is not only understanding what it really means and why it matters, but its practical application and the speed it can move from implementation to value creation.

The good news on this front is when it comes to "growing faster and more profitably", this is where AI thrives in a very practical way.

As referenced by 2 of my rockstar colleagues, Monika Klimek and Richard Fouts in their look at AI's application in this area ("Use Smart Machines to Acquire High-Value Customers."), CEOs turn to us when they read the following stats:

"In the second edition of their book, Sales Growth: Five Proven Strategies from the World’s Sales Leaders (which distills interviews with 200 sales leaders from the world’s most successful organizations), authors Thomas Baumgartner, Homayoun Hatami, and Maria Valdivieso de Uster report that those sales organizations that have been early pioneers of AI have experienced an increase in qualified leads and appointments of more than 50 percent, sales cycle reductions of 65-70 percent, and overall cost reductions of 40-60 percent. The research is an early indicator that AI in sales can help generate more qualified leads, while additionally executing their associated sales cycles in less time. These same organizations report that AI has helped them acquire customers that have gone on to become loyal." 

At the risk of stating the obvious, Growth / Demand Generation is "simple" but don't confuse "simple" with "easy" as we know it's most definitely not that... ;)

It's "simple" in that it boils down to a couple key levers including:

  1. What companies / key executives are we looking to engage?
  2. What are we doing to provide value to them from the initial outreach to engagement to bringing them on-board as a partner?
  3. What are we doing to increase the quantity/quality of our leads and the velocity of our sales cycle?

And when CEOs turn to us and ask how AI can impact those 3 levers, our answer is also "simple"...

  1. Improve Business Strategy: Enable your Growth team to increase their focus on most profitable targets with highest lifetime value
  2. Increase Productivity: Enable your Growth team with "disruptive, highly engaging insights" that will maximize ROI of "Next Best Action" aka accelerate your sales cycle velocity
  3. Maximize Selling Time, Minimize Everything Else: No more data entry, no more manual sales pipeline insight development and no more "sales bias" skewing the reality of the active sales pipeline

For more details, please check out Monika and Richard's white paper and as always, hope you enjoy and let me know what you think!

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



Everything you Missed From the "World's Number One AI Event for Business"

“Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” – W. Edwards Deming

The game has changed.

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is powering a paradigm shift in business that promises to realize the potential of the 4th Industrial Revolution.

To that end, I attended "The AI Summit" over 2 days here in NYC.

Unlike the more academic and research oriented AI conferences, this one is described as "The world's number one AI event for business" and it most definitely delivered.

The corporate interest and investment in Artificial Intelligence was on full display.

More intriguing though were the concrete examples of results and leading indicators of returns expected over the next 12-24 months by progressive companies across a diverse set of verticals.

My hope with this post is to summarize some of what I learned and experienced as well as to make my enthusiasm for what is going to unfold over the next 12-24 months as contagious as possible!

Bear with me as it's a little bit longer than I hoped but it's a complex topic... ;)

What's at Stake?

An "AI Summit" survey of C-suite executives in Fortune 500 companies conducted between January-September of this year had some very compelling insights:

  • Over 95% recognize AI as a pivotal issue, they agree it will transform their industry
  • 98% perceive it as essential for their organization
  • More than 80% compare the impact of AI to that of the Internet, with less than 10% still believing that the impact of AI is more hype than essence
  • 77% expect to see a reduction in overall costs while 66% also anticipate enhanced accuracy in their operations
  • 80% expect a major change to business structures, roles and hierarchies due to AI development/implementation
  • Over the next 10 years, enterprise spending on AI technology will increase from $200M to over $50B

AI is confusing, right?

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that AI isn't the easiest subject to wrap your head around as it's a bit "abstract" but the following stat from the survey was especially telling:

  • The single biggest obstacle to AI adoption highlighted by 67% of respondents is the lack of understanding about AI's capabilities or limitations; despite the hype, knowledge on the opportunity around AI is still rather limited

What is vs what isn't AI?

There are 2 main definitions of AI: "General AI" and "Narrow AI".

"General AI" relates to a machine's capability to perform any task that a human being can which is where a lot of the confusion and concern kicks in (for obvious reasons). This is also where the fear and hype intended to increase the fear sits...

"Narrow AI" is narrow in application where AI is applied to a specific task or solving a very specific problem. This is where immediate results are being achieved by automating dimensions/tasks of knowledge work that unlock productivity, growth etc.

AI is an umbrella term for a bunch of different component technologies but it might be helpful to define a couple of the more significant ones:

"Natural Language Processing" or "NLP" allows computers to understand human language as it's written or spoken and to produce humanlike speech/writing.

"Machine Learning" or "ML" is a set of techniques that empowers computers to find patterns in data without using rules prescribed by humans to effectively learn and get better and better at uncovering actionable insights to improve the probability of the “next best action” achieving the desired outcome.

"Deep Learning" is a form of "ML" uses the model of human neural nets (i.e. your brain) to make predictions about new data sets in a hierarchical process. This stuff is heavy duty and a bit further out but eventually this will be where massive data sets will successfully be analyzed, creating super valuable predictive intelligence for us to act on at scale.

"Image Recognition" is the ability for a machine to identify images or objects, and process information based on an analysis of pattern identification. Remember the first time Facebook prompted you to confirm the name of the person in the picture you just uploaded?

Now that we have the above taken care of, let's get into the application of AI aka value creation.

Commercial application of AI?

While we are far away from "General AI", "Narrow AI" is here and is where a lot of the commercial application opportunities exist.

Narrow AI drives the automation of knowledge work.

Now, before we jump to any conclusions about "automating jobs", this was one of the most important insights from the conference.

There will definitely be jobs that will be automated as machines can do them more effectively.

An example would be those in machine maintenance who would no longer need to "physically check-in" on the machines as IoT sensors would report back in real-time the status.

But the real area of opportunity is to deconstruct jobs into their component tasks and determine where automation can be introduced to improve decision making and productivity.

People augmented by machines so they can make better decisions and be more productive. Not humans vs machines but humans + machines.

Nestle: Tangible Example of Humans + Machines

An intriguing example of this would be Sid Raisoni, Head of Analytics at Nestle who has implemented a system that helps Nestle identify customers projected to end their relationship with the company within 90 days.

The system has an 85%+ confidence rating and enables them to address these “at risk customers” 90 days before they leave so they can allocate loyalty techniques to retain them by improving the situation. In doing so, humans are empowered to then reduce customer churn which is good for everyone. 

On the other end of the spectrum, the same system is providing automated insights about their most loyal customers that enables Nestle to introduce super interesting insights into the Corporate Strategy / Innovation realm which then enables them to create new offerings to expand the customer relationship including concierge services. Net new revenue results and of course, everybody likes that too.

The third category of job will be those resulting from the innovation and ingenuity opportunities presented by enabling new opportunities to create value for customers. Tough to project what those look like until we create them but using Sid’s example above, one could tie them back to the results of the Corporate Strategy / Innovation group’s efforts.

"At the heart of this culture is an understanding that an organization's ability to learn and translate that learning into action rapidly, is the ultimate competitive advantage." - Jack Welch

The more things change, the more they stay the same…and Jack Welch’s quote about “good business” is as true as ever today, especially when it comes to the implications of embracing AI.

13 key takeaways from presenters, conversations, literature etc.:

  1. Just like each industrial revolution over the last 200 years, we have a moral obligation to use anything we have that’s this powerful the right way
  2. AI is viewed as a tech capability but in reality, AI is a business capability
  3. How well data is used in your company is directly correlated to customer happiness and therefore business success
  4. AI must be embraced by organizations with the right mindset going in
  5. A lot of progress with the science but not yet as much in the application...it hasn’t crossed the chasm just yet, we’re effectively in the late 50’s, early 60’s
  6. Domain expertise is indispensable
  7. Returns on solving the right problem(s) are exponential
  8. Use AI to make sure every customer interaction is customer relevant
  9. Because we’re early, the push isn’t coming from the business aka what’s our AI solution for this problem? It’s coming from the IT/tech teams.
  10. Landscape is changing so fast, do we have the right individuals plugged into our swat teams to evaluate technology and also, more importantly implement?
  11. Huge shortage in talent that has the ability to frame/contextualize the problem
  12. Why aren’t more politicians embracing AI, talking about how they can help folks update their skills, evolve with the times?
  13. Regarding the potential for a 3rd Winter for AI, incumbent on us to be prudent with our storytelling and commercial with our application.

The AI train has left the station. Are you on it?

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



Re: AI, Mark Cuban was Absolutely Right About "Thinking Critically + Creatively"

Mark Cuban was interviewed during the NBA All-Star Technology Summit in New Orleans and was asked about what advice he would give a high school graduate preparing for college, thinking through what to study etc:

"Cuban believes that the amount of change we’ll see for jobs in the next five or 10 years will dwarf what we’ve observed in the past 30 years, and that as artificial intelligence and machine learning takes center stage, there will be a greater need for expertise in subjects such as English, philosophy and foreign languages.

'I personally think there's going to be a greater demand in 10 years for liberal arts majors than there were for programming majors and maybe even engineering,' he said. 'When the data is all being spit out for you, options are being spit out for you, you need a different perspective in order to have a different view of the data.'

Based on “Gartner Top Strategic Predictions for 2018 and Beyond”(which is a must read, obviously), the coolest Shark on "Shark Tank" (in my humble opinion) is spot on.

Going into your Turkey Day festivities and well deserved holiday downtime, I wanted to share my top 10 takeaways from this fascinating report that focuses on the most important technology trends and resulting predictions associated with how enterprises can capitalize in 2018.

#1 – AI hype is new. AI is not.

I’m not sure how much we need to unpack this one but safe to say everyone is talking about it but it’s more difficult than ever to dig into tangible examples. But they’re there and they should be used as inspiration for how company’s can embrace AI to create real value.

#2 – Don’t confuse automation with AI. Focus on augmentation of humans with AI for decision support.

A great example is Stitch Fix which recently filed for an IPO and represents the symbiosis of people and AI.

“Stitch Fix runs a large data-science operation, which the company says helps it make more accurate styling choices for customers, and also helps it create its own clothing that matches up with current trends.” 

#3 – Chatbots are the “face of AI” but it seems like bots are where the real action is.

Getting into the weeds a little bit but it’s important to note the difference between chatbots and bots as there will be a whole lot of activity in 2018 in this area. 

“A chatbot is a stand-alone conversational interface that uses an app, messaging platform, social network or chat solution for its conversations. Bots, on the other hand, are microservices or apps that can operate on other bots, apps or services in response to event triggers or user requests. Bots automate tasks based on predetermined rules or via more sophisticated algorithms, which may involve AI.”

Revisiting #2 and the importance of focusing on the “symbiosis of people and AI”, all Business Development people are notoriously bad at filling out expense reports and keeping salesforce updated (if I don't say so myself ;)…imagine the value a bot could create for an enterprise BD team by taking just those 2 tasks off the table and giving that time back to the BD team to hunt? Exciting right?

#4 – Enterprises know that “speed kills” but are struggling to keep up.

This is most definitely not an easy one nor is it of the “silver bullet” aka “yep, got that done” variety…

“The advance of technology is outpacing the ability of enterprises to keep up. Enterprises will still be required to develop discipline around how pace can be achieved.”

#5 – Might sound cliché but continuous learning and becoming a “learning organization” is a competitive advantage…but please don’t say “yes, we’re there” when those on the front-lines know you’re not.

“To reduce employee churn and sustain growth, transform from episodic or nonexistent learning to continuous learning. Upskill employees to maximize the effects of AI-enabled roles and decisions. Transform your culture to make it rapidly adaptable to AI-related opportunities or threats.

AI will be taking away routine tasks, freeing up employees to be more productive and creative by doing what humans can do best. Invest in reinforcing agility, soft skills and creative innovative attributes that will be needed in the symbiotic culture of people and AI.”

#6 – Innovation is awesome but be realistic, pace yourself and never forget “Pareto’s Principle”.

While “Creative Destruction”, “Willful Destruction” and “Disrupting Yourself Before You’re Disrupted” all sound very exciting and straight out of the HBS playbook, please be realistic when it comes to this stuff.

“Proponents of digital will need to take a hard look at what they are prepared to undertake. Dreams of artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain or Internet of Things (IoT) proficiency will depend on making sure barriers to success are minimized. Enterprises seeking to keep up with technological innovation will need to understand when those innovations are likely to cause more problems than they solve.”

#7 – While I’m not a fan of the word “Versatilists” because it’s really hard for me pronounce (user error), I’m a LARGE buyer of what it means. Hello multi-disciplinary, diversity of perspective/experience, with a VERY human element etc

"Two-thirds of organizations are not addressing IT skill gaps in a manner that will mature their digital business initiatives. People-centric roles and experience are a critical difference that will aid digital business transformation initiatives.

Many CIOs think digital is all about new technologies, whereas in truth, new digital technologies will aid people, making our work and personal lives easier, more convenient and more efficient. Twenty percent of IT organizations will hire versatilists to scale digital business. Specialists are the most represented IT professional profile in today's IT organization, representing about 42% of the entire IT workforce in 2017.

However, bimodal and digital business initiatives depend on wholesale skill transformation, as profound a change as moving from mainframe to distributed computing was. Success at bimodal and digital business initiatives depend on wholesale skill transformation, something most CIOs are not considering."

#8 – 2020 is the pivotal year in AI jobs dynamics (really hope so)

AI will eliminate more jobs than it created through 2019 (mostly in manufacturing). Starting in 2020, AI-related job creation will cross into positive territory, reaching 2 million net-new jobs in 2025.

#9 – Where will AI go?

"Meeting goals for revenue generation and value creation will rely heavily on engaging and re- engaging people and businesses on how they will adopt and use technology. For the greatest value, focus on augmenting people with AI.

We are at the pivotal point: Where will AI go? This is up to you — you will choose the problems for AI to solve. We say: Enrich people's jobs, reimagine old tasks, and create new industries. AI can handle patterns it has already seen, and humans break new ground."

#10 – Evolution of interaction and engagement models

While “Competing on Customer Experience” is a big part of the future of marketing, engagement is the holy grail.

More to come on this as one of my rockstar colleagues is rolling out something “magical” in the weeks to come and promised me that I get to come along for the ride…

Check out the full Gartner report here and let me know your top 10?


E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



Key Takeaways From Sibos: "Think" Less, "Do" More + Pareto's Principle

I woke up this morning to a very simple and well designed email from Andy Rachleff, CEO of Wealthfront with the headline "Doing more for you".

Naturally, I was excited to receive a "personal" email from Andy and read it (quickly realizing every client gets one...but that's beside the point ;), learning that Wealthfront has evolved their product from helping people answer "How should I invest?", into addressing other areas of planning questions such as "Can I retire early?":

"Earlier this year we introduced Path, our comprehensive planning solution. It’s designed to help you reach your most important life goals through an interactive, delightful mobile experience." - Andy Rachleff, CEO of Wealthfront

On the surface, this isn't a big deal but coming out of Sibos, it kind of is...

Here's why.

"Intellectually" understanding is one thing...

Sibos is a very sophisticated Financial Services conference. Not to suggest other conferences aren't sophisticated, so maybe a better description is "serious".

"Serious" in a very good way. It's all business and is full of 4-5000 of the most "business oriented folks" in the world of Finance that are very "serious" about protecting, evolving and growing their businesses.

While there were a lot of topics discussed over the 4 days, the one key takeaway I left Toronto with is that within Financial Services, there is a significant gap between "intellectually" understanding the challenges/opportunities presented by "competing on customer experience" and the depth of understanding of "Digital Transformation" required to develop the conviction to execute and allocate investment dollars accordingly.

That's what was missing. That's the opportunity.

That's why the time for thinking, talking and debating is quickly coming to an end because the smart money is realizing that the window is closing very quickly...and the even smarter money is heads down, successfully executing their way through this transformational time.

"Think" less, "do" more + Pareto's principle.

There are many different ways to describe "Digital Transformation" and even more ways to describe all the "From --> To --> How" frameworks/scenarios etc. that will get you there (conceptually). But now that we've entered into the next phase, the one where there's "intellectual" understanding across the board, it's time to "do".

No need to overthink it, just start by focusing on the stuff that won't change and use "Pareto's Principle" to guide your initial area(s) of focus via 1-2 POCs knowing that they will be your transformational building blocks, becoming the foundation for your journey of horizontal, enterprise wide transformation over time.

For example, you could start by focusing on answering this question:

"How do I make my customers' lives easier, make them happier and more successful while simultaneously improving the productivity and profitability of my company?"

But instead of overspending on "thinking", which also dials your risk-profile up given that some of your competition have already started to figure this out, "reverse engineer" your strategy by "doing".

"APIs are like ice cream"

"Digital Transformation" and the requirement to "compete on customer experience" are macro trends which are just now settling in aka we're in first few innings of a 9-inning baseball game that will most likely go extra innings.

In order to be successful, organizations are ultimately going to have to invest in an enterprise wide mindset shift which is most definitely a process and will not happen overnight.

As one of the rockstar Sibos panelists pointed out during a session on this topic of culture change, mindset shift and the importance of an organization learning by doing, she compared APIs to ice cream:

"If I try and describe APIs to non-tech/digital folks, it's a waste of time. If I try and show them what an API is, it doesn't work. But if I immerse them in APIs, like giving someone their first taste of ice cream, they REALLY get it."

"Putting the customer at the center of everything you do"...

But what does that really mean? It means you have to commit to agreeing that having lot's of data about your customers doesn't really mean anything unless you do something about it.

If you do something with the data, now that's a different story and things will get exciting. Quickly.

For example, Brown Advisory wanted to figure out how to make life better for their clients, equip their people to provide better service and offer a seamless, intuitive experience. The result was the creation and deployment of TouchPoint and Galileo. These tools have driven substantial growth including an incremental 2000 net new portfolios per quarter as of January 2017.

"When we started this journey, the world was changing and we weren't doing enough to change with it. TouchPoint was and is the largest technology investment the firm has ever made. With its launch, we committed in a big and meaningful way. This tool, coupled with Galileo, form the backbone that makes us capable in delivering on our promise." - Michael Aldrich, Brown Advisory, Global Head of Operational Strategy

Another example is "Return on Experience" (RoX) which is a framework to evaluate the collective experience of your customers across analog, digital and hybrid touch points along with the methodology to improve your RoX score over time. Linking the improvement in your RoX score directly to tangible ROI. The kind of ROI that Wall Street loves to hear about.

"For every $1 invested in Digital Experience Optimization, RoX delivered $14 in return in year 1 and 15%+ in on-going, compound annual returns. Delivered on CMO vision for Digital's role in achieving business KPIs, leading to broader enterprise digital transformation." - One of the world's largest Telecommunications providers

Playing the long-game

Last Wednesday, I attended Yahoo's "All Market Summit" and was fortunate enough to hear Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna interviewed. Mark is an incredibly inspiring leader and his segment clearly stole the show.

When asked about his highly innovative and successful approach to business, one thing he said that really stood out and is quite relevant to the "do" phase that we're now entering tied to perspective when it comes to tech/digital/data etc:

"Tech is just a tool. It creates an experience that changes the way people buy. Customers disrupt industries. Tech doesn't." - Mark Bertolini, CEO of Aetna

It's time to start "thinking" less about all the tools and start "doing" more with them to create incredible experiences and of course, shifting mindsets and changing cultures along the way too...;)

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



"RoX for Stocks": Return on Experience(RoX) Impacts Stock Price

In the C-suite, there's general consensus that competing on Customer Experience (CX) is a fundamental pillar of the way we do business today and going forward.

For the vast majority of F1000 companies that have come to that conclusion, the next question(s) by the business folks are typically:

  • "So what exactly does that all mean?"
  • "How do we 'invest in the Customer Experience' and know that we're doing it the right way?"
  • "What kind of return should we expect and over what period of time?"

To answer those questions and many more, we created Return on Experience (RoX).

RoX is a framework and methodology to operationalize “Competing on Customer Experience” to unlock significant growth, innovation and resulting ROI.

We aggregate the client data associated with every customer touchpoint – digital, analog + hybrid – to create a baseline score (current state) of how a company is doing in meeting its customers’ expectations, needs and wants.

We then size the market opportunity for tangible growth by cross referencing the RoX score vs industry benchmarks and aspirational standards (hello Big Tech with your lovely, digitally native customer experiences) and identify the 3-5 levers to increase your RoX score and unlock real ROI. Net new customer acquisition, increase in accounts per customer, reduction in churn, reduction in operating expenses etc.

Creating an expectation of where we can move the score in a defined period of time (future state) by achieving specific outcomes tied to the benefits above.

In doing so, we frame the roadmap, feedback loop and provide on-ramps to crawl, walk, run into Marketing Transformation and/or Business Transformation.

Last but certainly not least, we apply our Creativity and Technology expertise to execute. Moving your RoX score from “Current State” --> “Future State” and generating the associated ROI along the way.

We don't just "think", we "do".

Realizing the potential and the promise of “Digital Transformation” with results that literally impact your stock price.

“RoX for Stocks”. Literally.

Also, for those that aren’t yet sold on the “Competing on Customer Experience” thing just yet, here are 3 quotes to keep in mind:

  1. "Companies will increasingly win or lose on the battleground of customer experience. To win, you need actionable CX insights that allow you to prioritize investments that will continuously improve your customers' experiences." (Forrester CX Index)
  2. "Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves." (Steve Jobs)
  3. "I think it's very important to have feedback loop, where you're constantly thinking about what you've done and how you could be doing it better." (Elon Musk)

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



The Nantucket Project (TNP) is Changing the World. Literally.

The Nantucket Project is a 5-day conference that brings together 500 people to enable a discussion of "the boldest and most thought provoking ideas of our time".

Founded by the co-founder/CEO of Nantucket Nectars, Tom Scott, this year's conference was about "understanding understanding".

Needless to say, it delivered on its promise: "We disconnect from the noise and connect with each other. Those who open their minds and hearts are never the same."

I've never been to a conference with a higher concentration of amazing people, solving BIG/meaningful challenges and being all-in to collaborate.

The only complaint I have is that it's over which left me wondering what I can do to continue the momentum, stay connected to the community and do more...

Step 1, I'm writing this post to delineate 15 key ideas that really hit me along with links to the leaders who were involved in the discussions that triggered these ideas.

A bit on the long side but hopefully not too long.

There's no way this post will do the experience and the people justice but I hope anyone that reads it will ask me about it as this is a movement 110% worth joining and as always, I'd LOVE to connect the dots!

1 - The worst thing that ever happened to me turned out to be the best thing.

Paul de Gelder lost two limbs in a shark attack bringing his career as a daredevil Navy Bomb Clearance Diver to an end. Within a couple days of the attack, he flipped the switch and was doing one-arm-pull-ups in his hospital bed applying his military training of "Improvise, Adapt, Overcome". The results are astounding and speak for themselves.

2 - Balance what you think you know with a method to continuously improve your knowledge base.

An American hero who helped locate TWA flight 800 after it crashed into the ocean, David Gallo has been at the forefront of ocean exploration for more than 30 years. Given that only 5% of the ocean has been explored, his thoughts on the scientific method of developing a hypothesis and testing it over and over again as a life philosophy was powerful. Especially in today's connected world and the potential for folks to get comfortable in a "digital cocoon" aka a mirror that reflects what you already know, what you "want" to believe etc...Get out and explore your world...test/learn/iterate, test/learn/iterate, test/learn/iterate.

3 - You know 'Screw it, I'll go first' is a type of leadership.

Nadia Bolz-Weber is an ordained Lutheran pastor (ELCA) and the author of 2 NY Times best sellers: 'Pastrix; The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint' and 'Accidental Saints; Finding God in All the Wrong People'. She's a force of nature, amazing and I can't even put into words how outrageous (awesome kind of 'outrageous') her words were. Love is love and leading through a deep understanding of your community's interests is what it's all about.

4 - Create, share. Create, share. It works because you have good intentions.

Shantell Martin is an artist to the NTH degree. One of my favorite street artists, I'm pretty sure I embarrassed myself with how excited I was to talk with her at TNP but I think she might have thought it was funny...Hey Shantell, the answer to your question about "Are you you?" is a definitive yes! Shantell is GOOD news and her statement above is so true. If "you don't know about Shantell, now you know" as Biggie would say.

5 - The future of capitalism revolves around treating employees like assets that can be maximized not like costs that can be minimized.

Extremely powerful statement reinforced by a talk featuring Jim Sinegal (co-founder of Costco), Tim Armstrong (CEO of OATH) and Roger Martin (Prosperity Institute). Easier said than done but the idea of investing in your people to enable them to create more value as opposed to putting clamps on them to minimize their total cost has been the blueprint for how Jim built Costco. Devil is in the details for sure but a remarkable idea and approach to reimagine the way business is done. Looking forward to seeing his short-film "ProsperUS" soon.

6 - Cities are an empathy engine.

Fascinating talk with Oscar Boyson, who in one sentence explained one of the biggest reasons I LOVE NYC and cities in general...but I haven't ever been able to explain this feeling until he said it. I will most definitely be tuning into "The Future of Cities".

7 - Everyone deserves a second chance, especially those that are genuinely remorseful and have demonstrated a complete commitment to making the world a better place.

I was literally lost on day 1 of TNP (no surprise to anyone that knows me) trying to find the venue and I serendipitously met Chris Schumacher along the way. Chris served 17 years after killing another man over a drug related dispute tied to his drug dealing and has been out of San Quentin for 4 months. He's been sober since the day he went inside (yes, there's access to everything in there that there is out here) and his roster of achievements while inside is incredible - ran the San Quentin Marathon twice, participated in The Last Mile (a program that teaches inmates computer programming to give them better job prospects post release and reduce recidivism rates), started doing projects for tech companies from behind prison walls and became a valedictorian to name a few. His talk was super powerful and the notion of second chances is something I think we all need to be reminded of from time to time...Oh, and he grew up in Southern California, his brother played football for THE USC and later in the NFL so we're going to watch THE USC beat up on Cal Berkley together this weekend in SF in case anyone else is in town for "The Weekender"?

8 - Upbringing vs Education vs Life Experiences vs Embracing Diverse POVs vs Developing An Independent POV While Respecting Others POV vs Taking Action vs Developing Your Overarching Northstar/Purpose

While everyone was impressive, Adam Foss REALLY stood out on so many levels. The way he helped the audience understand that "we all have our gangs" but the circumstances one grows up in and those gangs that people choose can have massive implications on their respective trajectories. As a "Visible Man" (more on that in a little bit), dollar bet my man LITERALLY changes the world. All due respect to everyone else, Adam CRUSHED it! To get a feel, watch his Ted talk.

9 - Start with 'what can we gain by coming together'?

Under President Paul Kagame's leadership, Rwanda has progressed towards its vision for socio-economic development, peace and reconciliation. In July 2016, the African Union appointed President Kagame to lead the reforms process aimed at transforming the African Union into an efficient, productive and financially independent institution. It was fascinating to hear him breakdown the path forward when helping bring a divided population together.

10 - You can't spend all your time at the summit so you might as well enjoy the process, otherwise, what's the point?

Karma Sherpa teaches the world about the local Sherpa culture to "experience a meaningful life through new perspectives" and his straightforward message was foundational to so many speaker's life philosophies, fueling their amazing accomplishments. Tells you something about embracing the process if you want to do big, meaningful things...#TomBradyRule

11 - Practice extreme ownership, owning all aspects of where you are and where you're going.

In sports terms, Neil Phillips is EXACTLY the kind of coach players REALLY want to play for and as the founder and CEO of Visible Men Academy, there's no doubt his "players" feel the exact same way! His vision for his organization and his complete commitment to extreme ownership is tapping directly into the same vein that fuels Paul de Gelder..."Improvise, Adapt, Overcome". I don't think that's a coincidence...

12 - Start a movement and effect change via commerce.

Gregg Renfrew launched Beauty Counter, the California based brand drives a national movement for improved transparency and accountability in the beauty industry, including advocacy to update federal regulations that have stood largely unchanged since 1938. The company's mission is "to get safer products into the hands of everyone." Good on you Gregg Renfrew!

13 - Are we missing out on music's ability to be a powerful tool vs simply entertaining?

I think the answer to Kevin Eubank's question in general is yes, right? Art of course is subjective but when I think about the artists (musical or otherwise), the ones that I really dig have deep meaning that inspires their work and their message. Have you ever met someone who DOESN'T like music?

14 - Raising good, productive citizens...what's more important than that?

There was an awesome story told about a butcher who was laid off as the GM of a Boston based grocery store before joining Costco. After joining Costco, he was treated not as an expense but an asset (aka #5 above) and the rest is history. He spoke about what he's able to do as a husband, father and member of society, drawing the linkage between the Costco way and its impact well beyond the numbers...

15 - The quality of our relationships determines the quality of our lives.

Jennifer Garner is the real deal. Hearing her bring it on behalf of "Save The Children" and the work she's been putting in for the last 10 years was passion and purpose on full display. Along with Jennifer, Mark Shriver helped crystallize what so many of us take for granted. Whether its your childhood, adulthood, family or your La Familia, the statement above is what it's ALL ABOUT.

As TNP says, "We'll always make our bet on that crazy kind of passion"...and I think we should too!

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



Bill Ackman's Digital "Transformation Case" for ADP

Bill Ackman is one of the world's most prolific Activist Investors.

He recently took a significant position in ADP and in mid-August, he laid out his blueprint for the Digital Transformation of the company in a 168 slide presentation detailing how to more than double the stock price.

It's HIGHLY relevant for anyone in the F1000 trying to better understand the business case for Digital Transformation in general and those in any stage of the process looking to take the next step.

Combining a couple statements below from his VERY thorough presentation (did I mention it's 168 slides?), his conclusions about the challenges/opportunities ADP faces are summarized in the 13 bullets below:

  1. "ADP's historical success has made it a lethargic and inefficient sleeping giant."
  2. "ADP's focus on 'hitting the numbers' has led to value-destructive decisions with negative long-term consequences."
  3. "ADP's products and technology need modernization."
  4. "Why shouldn't the industry behemoth, with vast resources, be the leader in software and technology?"
  5. "Weak technology offerings, on the front-end and back-end, harm ADP's competitive position and long-term growth and efficiency."
  6. "Outdated and inefficient Technology + 'service' = less growth and lower margins."
  7. "While ADP often cites its 'service' as a key differentiator, most of this 'service' is support for product deficiencies."
  8. "ADP's support teams lack a unified view of the client which hampers their ability to provide a robust client service experience."
  9. "Properly operated, ADP should produce industry-leading long-term results. ADP should be the ecosystem and partner of choice given its breadth and scale."
  10. "The HCM industry is rapidly evolving. ADP needs to urgently become an efficient world-class technology company. ADP has enormous upside if it can transition to a REAL technology company."
  11. "Enhanced technology offerings, on the front-end and back-end, would drive improvements in ADP's competitive position, long-term growth and efficiency."
  12. "We believe these opportunities can only be captured with an innovative and nimble culture supported by appropriate leadership and investment."
  13. "Directionally, and on the whole, we think our analysis is correct and the broader conclusions are inescapable."

Needless to say, Carlos Rodriguez, CEO of ADP, doesn't share Ackman's POV and pointed to an impressive stock performance of the past 6 years....

While I'm certainly not in a position to weigh in on "who's right" about where ADP is or isn't in terms of embracing the 4th Industrial Revolution, Ackman is 1000% correct in the business case he presents for Digital Transformation in general and the growth/innovation it unleashes when it's done right.

Given my passion for the space and of course what we do, I also wanted to share a quick roster of implications associated with his business case that should be considered as the "so what?" and its application to your world:

  1. Culture change is arguably one of the hardest if not the hardest thing to do in business which should NEVER be underestimated
  2. Calibrating resource allocations between "Business As Usual" (BAU) vs. "Growth/Innovation" is all sorts of "Art + Science"...it doesn't have a beginning or an end aka welcome to the amazing world of embracing the Agile mindset across EVERYTHING you do
  3. Innovation is the "cousin of creativity" and is fueled by DIVERSITY of experience, perspective and ideas
  4. Tech is an enabler but keep in mind the massive importance of your people/process aka "your system" as that's what gets you where you want to go...don't forget the Mike Tyson rule and what happens to all that "strategy" when it steps in the ring with Iron Mike (day-to-day reality)...
  5. Future of marketing/growth revolves around competing on customer experience
  6. Speed kills, especially when its enabled by tech to drive productivity gains vs "busy work"

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



Don't Believe Everything You Hear About Millennials...

I recently read an article, along with "50M other people" apparently, that was unpacking the idea that "Millennials are killing countless industries from napkins to Applebee's".

While the "19 things Millennials are killing" included trends in Home Ownership, Golf and Bank Branches that didn't surprise me, the Bar Soap stats did. I had no idea this was "such a thing"? Shame on me.

Also, you gotta love the Fabric Softener quote: "Millennials don't even know what the product is for". Amazing and I'm not sure I would disagree....not surprising as I'm an old man Millennial (more on that and the cut off date that does/doesn't make you a Millennial in a minute).

Going a bit deeper, here are some more Millennial findings that I find interesting.

Millennials are cost conscious and are all in on one of my favorite Buffet-isms: "price is what you pay, value is what you get". They place a high priority on the price to quality ratio and value convenience of delivery in a major way. In announcing Amazon's official takeover of Whole Foods this week, Jeff Bezos demonstrated this principle.

Millennials are smart. They know where/how to acquire knowledge and therefore, they love the library (who doesn't?). Recent Pew Research points out that "Millennials in America are more likely to have visited a public library in the past year than any other adult generation."

Millennials believe in Creative Destruction and the upside of tech driven innovation outweighing its downside. "Nearly 80% of young people who participated in the World Economic Forum's Global Shapers Survey 2017 believe that technology is creating, rather than destroying, jobs for humans."

Millennials aren't big fans of doorbells. Yep, doorbells. As the WSJ pointed out, "54% of respondents said 'doorbells are scary weird'". So there's that.

While this list could continue for a while, I'll spare you all the details and quickly get into the "so what".

Here's the thing.

There are a couple different points of view on this but a Millennial is anyone born between 1977 - 1992. This is a BIG spectrum and it's very important to consider the differences between either side of the spectrum. Here are 3 important areas to consider when breaking down "Millennials":

  1. This is the first digitally native generation but keep in mind when they got their first mobile phone, when/how they became part of the "Connected Era" and what role Social Media played in/around/through their world...makes a big difference.
  2. This generation was clearly impacted by the Financial Crisis but it's important to consider the difference between the impact it had on those that were in their formative years vs those already in the workforce vs those trying to get into the workforce at that time...makes a big difference.
  3. Combining #1 and #2 above as well as a variety of other factors, this generation has unique priorities/values etc that manifest themselves well beyond "the sharing economy" which makes things even more interesting when one considers the role they play in business today and going forward...again, makes a big difference.

In some respects, we're all following the lead of Millennials when it comes to "Digital Transformation" as there's no doubt they know a thing or two about Mobile, Connectivity, Tech, Social Web etc as the first generation of Digital Natives.

We've taken a look at Millennials through the lens of Financial Services and will be publishing some interesting content soon so please keep an eye out for it and let me know what you think!

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



5 Takeaways via "Digital Banking 2017" Conference 6/12-6/14 Austin, TX

Every industry/vertical sits at a different spot on the Digital Maturity Index.

While Wall Street has a fair amount of ground to cover before it catches up to the more advanced verticals, the "Digital Banking" conference in Austin this week proved that the industry is well on its way.

Here are the 5 key takeaways along with a quick 2 minute video of me interviewing Lord David Poole who runs our Financial Services Center of Excellence and a little Street Art action thrown in there at the end as well... (true statement, watch the video):

  1. Digital isn't the "What?" or the "Why?"...it's the "How?"
  2. The race to the middle is real and there's a whole lot of "healthy friction" in getting to the "intersection of...(pick the convergence of any number of functions/divisions/roles etc)" where meaningful innovation/growth occurs
  3. Speaking of "innovation" in Financial Services, this topic and the "How do we do it? Where do we start etc?" found its way into just about every panel I attended
  4. The critical importance of "how well you know your customer" and how you deliver experiences they value through your "people, process, infrastructure, data lakes, insights etc." aka "your system" was another topic that came up early and often
  5. FS players realize they're competing well beyond their vertical as there was broad recognition that they're now competing with the last best experience their customer had...as a human being, anywhere!

In an effort to experiment with different formats for these posts, I figured I'd try including a couple quick and dirty bullets supporting the 5 key takeaways above to see if folks like this better than my overly verbose writing style... ;)

  • Healthy friction includes "strategy/framework/areas of focus vs. execution", "what won't change vs. what will/might" (anyone catch Amazon acquiring Whole Foods this morning? Just sayin'...), "solving for the right problems vs. reacting to problems", "top-down innovation vs. bottom-up innovation and the associated decision making process/velocity", "build vs. buy vs. partner", "physical vs. digital vs. human"
  • Your system includes "how much information you have/collect and how to maximize its value inside every digital/physical touchpoint with your customers", "back-end, front-end, everything in between, the associated data exhaust and the gold nuggets of insights that inform next, best action"
  • Innovation includes "How do you determine what doesn't exist that should and how to go about creating it?", "you don't need to predict the future to win it" and of course innovation questions tied to all of the above and the bullet below
  • Competing on "human experience" has BROAD implications for the industry and triggered simple but very important statements such as "become maniacally focused on a small set of problems associated with what the customer REALLY wants", "learn to challenge the E2E service models that have been in place for years", "look outside your organization for talent and partners with a native understanding of digital", "it's all about people and getting them comfortable with the agile operating model which is really about getting comfortable with constant change, it's a mindset more than anything else", "look for challengers, intellectually curious people with a passion for wanting to change the relationship of folks and their money", "enabling people to fail is so hard, but absolutely necessary in an agile environment", "culture eats strategy for breakfast"

Not sure if the keynote presentations by Citi's Yolanda Piazza and Fifth Third's Melissa Stevens are available online but I will absolutely update this post to share them as it's clear they're leading their organizations to embrace everything above and the results speak for themselves.

And without further delay...here's the 2 minute video of me and our main man David Poole and his take!


E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



Brutal Truth: Most F1000 Companies Are Bad at Innovation...We Have a "DPI" For That

In the last 15 years, 52% of the Fortune 500 have disappeared.

In 1995, the average life expectancy of a Fortune 500 company was 75 years. Today, it's 15 years.

While the threats to incumbent organizations are multiplying by the day, the consumer/customer expectations continue to rise with every great experience they have as "human beings", regardless of environment. As a result, C-level expectations for Innovation continue to climb.

This environment and the associated expectations are a direct reflection of the massive challenges associated with the 4th Industrial Revolution and the "Connected Consumer" but also the inherent roadblocks within corporate environments that make it difficult to enable meaningful innovation to thrive.

While every "Challenge" is an "Opportunity" in disguise, addressing F1000 challenges in delivering meaningful innovation at scale has multiple dimensions.

There are process impediments, organizational structure roadblocks, corporate strategy issues associated with prioritizing/investing in the "right opportunities", culture change issues, resource allocation questions, innovation runway/commitment questions etc.

While every industry and company is more vulnerable to disruption today than ever before, the days of "wait and see" appear to be coming to a close.

What we see as encouraging signs are more and more companies genuinely leaning into embracing a truly agile approach across disciplines to test/learn/iterate their way into strategic insights/frameworks vs the more traditional approach to Horizon 1 planning.

Evidence of that is the growing embrace of our DPI offering designed to help companies de-risk their digital innovation efforts by moving faster and smarter.

If you have a minute, click on this link here and check out our recently launched microsite that summarizes DPI and how we're doing our part to help our clients address the "Brutal Truth" above... ;)

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin




Artificial Intelligence: Don't Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight

It might be me, but it seems like Artificial Intelligence (AI) is one of the most talked about subjects in business yet there's a lack of clarity about what it is/isn't, implications, the "so what?" etc.

Given what we do, I thought it might be useful to put together this quick overview to level set...in my oversimplified way (of course)!

"Don't bring a knife to a gun fight"

AI isn't another "tech tool", it's a foundational part of the 4th Industrial Revolution. AI is technological infrastructure / a system that all Fortune 1000 companies are / will rely upon going forward. It’s not an “if” but a “when” and the competitive advantage established by those that are embracing it today is significant. 

If two companies are out there fighting the good fight and one is embracing AI and the other isn’t…well, I’m pretty sure you know who has “the gun”, who has “the knife” and who’s going to win?

“Got it…so what exactly is AI?”

In nerdy Alec terms, it’s a “Category of Computer Science dedicated to simulating intelligent behavior in computers”. 

Said differently, in a world where “we create 2.5 quintillion bytes of data – so much that 90% of the data in the world has been created in the last 2 years alone”, AI is an umbrella category describing efforts to systematize the way companies collect and extract value from “Big Data” through a combination of Technology, Algorithms, People, Process etc. 

In doing so, companies are able to “see around corners”, increase their focus on stuff that really matters, reduce costs, increase efficiencies, unlock innovation, make better/smarter decisions about the next best action and ultimately “future proof” their businesses.

“So what?”

More specifically, embracing AI creates value for organizations across 6 key categories that we bucket into the “AI Value Pyramid” (clever name right?).

Cost Reduction: Automating tedious, manual tasks such as data entry (i.e. converting analog information into digital formats such as converting a catalog into a digital format).

Increasing Efficiency: Enabling real-time personalization of content in digital environments based on a combination of historical and real-time digital behavior data (i.e. moving from knowing your customer audience is "Millennial Moms" to "Millennial Moms are on your site right now, they just reviewed X, Y, Z spending a total of 3 minutes interacting with A, B, C which has a 94% correlation with incremental growth of 17% per transaction when the following offer is presented...across each unique visitor).

Enhanced Insights: Automate analysis of exponentially larger amounts of public/private content/articles per day to extract entities, sentiment, underlying trends/themes otherwise impossible to see (i.e. Use this system/approach to uncover deep/personal audience connections that create an award winning campaign connecting with people around the world establishing priceless brand equity/lift).

Customer Engagement: Leverage "Intelligent Personal Assistants" to build highly differentiated, new ways to interact with customers (i.e. "Patron turns Amazon's Alexa into customer's own personal bartender")

Business Automation: Identify recurring customer journeys and automate them (i.e. empower loyal customers not to have to remember to re-order the same items from you weekly and surprise and delight them with customized recommendations based on connections between known purchases and relevant/complimentary/thoughtful items).

New Business: Build differentiated, new businesses/ventures through uncovering insights previously hidden in immense pools of big data (i.e. capitalize on latent consumer demand to create a new revenue stream via purpose built innovation to extend your core business).


What a business does and the experience it creates for its consumers/customers has quickly become one of the top if not the top priority in the C-suite for growth, success etc. Customizing these experiences in a way that approaches 1:1 and is as consistent online vs. offline vs. offline with a connected device is where all of this is headed. 

Goes without saying but this is where AI takes everything to the next level.

This is about building a business of connected intelligence through a set of principles and methods referred to as “Service Design” tied to customer journeys. 

It’s basically an approach that maps all the different ways a human interacts with a business and evaluates how the business, both “Front Stage” and “Back Stage”, can be reconfigured/designed to create more value for the consumer/customer.

User Experience: Experience on the screen.

Customer + Colleague Experience: Any touch point, physical or digital across time and place.

Colleague + Colleague Experience: Any touch point, physical or digital, includes partners and 3rd parties.

Portfolio + Operations: Anything with indirect impact (i.e. the back-end tech infrastructure) on the service portfolio and ultimately the front-end User Experience.

“Make it Real?”

Super low hanging fruit examples of all of this in action but…

Have you seen the movie “Her” starring Joaquin Phoenix?

Have you interfaced with a chat bot or virtual assistant when trying to get a banking, travel etc related question answered online?

Have you experienced Amazon's Alexa in action?

Did you see today's launch by Amazon of "Echo Look", its new fashion tool/product helping users pick their outfits (pretty sure my girlfriend is going to "recommend" I get one as it "might" help me out a bit... ;)?

So there you have it, that's AI and that's why you don't bring "a knife to a gun fight" as the future arrived yesterday!

So be sure and update your business model and approach when you get a minute... ;)

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



"Bank Innovation" in Silicon Valley

If you read my recent post, "Innovation is the Cousin of Creativity", you might be curious what all the "face for radio" talk was all about...

Well, without further delay, here's a quick video where I interview two of our Financial Services strategy leaders to get their POV on the action in Day 1 of the "Bank Innovation" conference hosted earlier this week in Silicon Valley.

Rina Pandalai - Publicis.Sapient: SVP + Digital Transformation Lead, Consumer Banking Practice

Greg Boulin - SapientRazorfish: Strategy Director, Head of Digital Product Innovation


E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



Innovation is the Cousin of Creativity

I'm in Silicon Valley today and beyond stoked that I'm heading over to the annual "Bank Innovation" 2-day conference as it's a very exciting time to be in banking.

As 2 of our most talented senior strategy heads, David Poole + Rina Pandalai, articulated on a recent webinar, we've entered a "perfect storm" tied to some key trends/success drivers associated with both the economy (i.e. Trump administration's pending de-regulation efforts) and the consumer (i.e. 95%+ CAGR in mobile payments 2016-2018).

To take this a step further, consider this:

"Millennial empowerment with $30T passing hands" +

"40% of millennials would switch to 'GAFA' (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon) if/when they roll out financial products/services."

Needless to say, it's a very "exciting" time to be in Banking.

Its especially exciting to be focused on Innovation and how the various players within the Financial Services ecosystem are adapting, evolving and thriving given the changes in play.

Below are my Top 5 categories of what I'm focused on and just in case anyone reads my Linkedin posts ;), I'm going to share what I learn and takeaway from the conference later this week as I'm thinking it will be quite useful.

Also, I might do so in a way that uses my "face for radio" to experiment with video as opposed to text because I've heard some people find video a bit more interesting... ;)

  1. Healthy Friction
  • Consumer/customer expectations + behavior today vs. EOY vs 2018 vs 2019
  • Doing more of the same vs doing something else
  • Deepen existing consumer relationships vs. acquire new ones
  • Innovation vs. expense reduction + efficiency
  • Banks existing digital/tech capabilities vs. vision/corporate strategy vs. competitive landscape assessment
  • Transactions vs. relationships vs. a little bit of both
  • Traditional retail banking vs online only
  • Traditional lenders vs. peer to peer
  • Traditional asset managers vs. robo advisors
  • Talent retention vs recruitment

2. Innovation Philosophy, Approach + Methodology

  • Industry/ecosystem level
  • Sub-category specific

3. Realizing the "Customer Experience" Promise

  • A lot easier to realize this is what the future is all about than it is to move from strategy to execution
  • Something tells me there will be a bunch of the world's finest in the room sharing their results and path forward

4. "So, Why Are You Here?"

5. Through Lines

  • As much as I'd like the conference to be all about my little bullets above, it's not (and that's obviously a good thing)
  • So I can't WAIT to get in there and learn from the rockstars leading the way forward and see the world through their eyes and understand the insights/trends they feel are the keys to Bank Innovation today and going forward

Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for my face for radio post!

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



The "Consumerization" of B2B Marketing is Here + It's SO MUCH Better

Thankfully, B2B Marketing 1.0 is quickly moving to the background as it's being replaced by a much more "human" form of marketing. One that some folks refer to as "B2H" ("Business-2-Human") while others call it "H2H" ("Human-2-Human").

I call it "awesome" + I know you will agree once you've had a chance to read the beautiful white paper that our resident rockstars put together on this topic (special s/o to Brittany Slattery + Brad McRae).

Please email me - alec.coughlin@razorfish.com - or message me via LI - and I'll send you a copy.

But until then, I thought I'd publish a quick summary as a bitesize version to get the ball rolling as there are 64 pages + 5 chapters of thought provoking insights, ideas + gold nuggets in there.

3 Macro Trends + Insights

1) Convergence of B2B + B2C Marketing

Business buyers have grown to expect the exceptional digital experiences they enjoy as consumers when they're wearing their "B2B" hats. Business sellers are responding - "Gartner predicts that by 2018, 25% of business and technology executives in large enterprises will have an explicit strategy to drive their organizations toward a consumer computing experience."

2) Competing on Customer Experience is as Important in "B2B" as it is in B2C

Products + companies that offer the lowest level of complexity for the maximum amount of value are the ones experiencing spectacular growth + high valuations. "The Gartner study reported B2B buyers are paying, on average, 30 percent more for the product or service that offers the better customer experience."

In another study of 75,000 buyers (who interacted with B2C + B2B brands over multiple channels), "94 percent of those who reported a low effort to buy a product said they planned to repurchase the product; 81 percent of those who reported a great deal of effort to buy a product planned to spread negative word of mouth about their experience."

3) The "Clairvoyant Marketer" is the New Breed of Marketer

The "Clairvoyant Marketer" collects customer data across every touchpoint, supported by real-time analytics to understand + anticipate the experiences that will delight customers. While this level of intelligent marketing may feel futuristic, the components are here - now. This capability represents a tectonic shift in how marketers engage customers, + it will soon be considered necessary for competitive parity.

What considerations + strategic insights should inform how you prioritize methods tied to the convergence of B2B + B2C?

Let's start with 8.

1) Take a "human approach" + start with your customers by understanding what you have and how to optimize your business/marketing accordingly.

2) Develop a "single view" of your customers + leverage Data Driven Journey mapping initiatives to fill in any gaps.

3) Invest in Innovation efforts connected directly to what customers are "most likely to buy" (i.e. Latent Demand) + cultivate an ecosystem by "opening up" via strategic partnerships.

4) Reduce "analog" costs, increase efficiencies + enable sales to focus on high-value efforts.

5) Incorporate Millennials + the differences in the way they make buying decisions into relevant aspects of your go to market strategy.

6) Integrate customer retention + growth under one umbrella.

7) Compete with "speed" + integrated personalization across digital/physical environments embracing AI/Cognitive Computing Systems along the way.

8) Establish a real-time feedback loop to do more of what's working + less of what isn't.

Bottomline - be more "human" + deliver more ROI.

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



Watson Will Predict the Future in 5 Years

IBM's John E. Kelly III, who looks after "Watson" amongst other things, led this morning's World of Watson keynote with that statement. At first, I didn't take it literally but as he continued his presentation, I realized that he meant exactly what he said, justifiably so. And this is why Cognitive Computing / Watson has captured the imagination and attention of the global business community.

What exactly is "Watson"?

This isn't an easy answer, especially considering my interest in keeping things simple but here it goes.

Whenever something is "digitized" or made "digital", it creates an on-going stream of data like digital footprints that can be collected, measured, analyzed and acted upon. The resulting insights can then inform future decision making which can help folks do more of what's working, less of what isn't.

Given that we're in a time of tremendous acceleration in terms of all things digital, the data generated by digitization and massive amounts of behavioral activity happening within digital environments (i.e. social media) is quickly overwhelming our traditional means of managing and understanding the data.

Enter "Watson".

"Watson" helps businesses make smarter decisions through Cognitive Systems designed to collect, measure and analyze data in ways that were previously not possible. Where things get especially interesting is the learning aspect of the system.

Thanks to machine learning, natural language processing, automation and other areas connected to "Artificial Intelligence"(AI), Watson is trained and then becomes progressively smarter as it recognizes patterns, compares historical data to real-time-data that its monitoring and ultimately generates actionable insights that allow businesses to make better decisions.

While I could probably over communicate a bit here and get into the weeds, instead I'll let this awesome 90-second vignette of Woodside, Australia's largest energy company that has leveraged "Watson" to build a cognitive system, speak to the concept further as it does so in a much more creative and engaging way than me rambling on...

My favorite part of the video by far is the quote that personifies "Watson":

"We teach Watson to think like an engineer. Watson teaches us to think like 1000 engineers from 1000 different sources."

This quote, about 60 seconds into the video, encapsulates the power of Cognitive Computing and the impact "Watson" can have to propel businesses through the 4th Industrial Revolution.

As Pepper would say, "wait, there's more"

I would have loved to have figured out a way to incorporate Pepper's"throwing shade" comment at 55 minutes 45 seconds into that video clip in a more natural way but oh well...

An interesting way to think about what's next is to consider the competitive advantages of investing in the embrace of cognitive today.

It probably makes sense to do so while recognizing how early we are in the explosion of data being generated today, the value created by Tech companies over the last decade and the changes in the S&P that reinforce the pace of change we're all experiencing.

There are 3 types of data to consider:

  1. Data you own and is behind your firewall (20% of data today)
  2. Data outside your firewall, primarily unstructured (80% of data today)
  3. Data that's coming, thanks to IoT, sensors etc (projected to double total data available every 12 months)

$2 Trillion in market value created by tech companies over the past decade:

  • 40% of the value created came from new companies
  • 60% of the value created came from existing companies

On average, an S&P company is being replaced EVERY TWO WEEKS.

*LOVED Josh Sutton's (Publicis.Sapient) presentation which is where the last 2 quotes came from*

More to come from me and my massive geek out session with Watson this week but safe to say the following statement is more true today than it was yesterday...

Disrupt yourself or be disrupted.

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



Data is the New "Oil"

We're drowning in oceans of data.

There's no shortage of conversation about all of this. "Big Data", "Internet of Things", "Data Science", "90% of the world's data has been generated in the last 2 years" etc. but if I were a CMO, I'd have 2 questions:

  1. What does all of this mean?
  2. What are the implications aka if a challenge is an opportunity in disguise, how do I capitalize?

Actionable Data > "Big Data"

In a world of infinite customer choice and distraction, being able to identify what matters vs what doesn't is worth its weight in gold. The volume, variety and velocity of "Big Data" can be overwhelming. Structured vs. Unstructured, 1st vs 2nd vs 3rd party, the list goes on and on and on.

All you have to do is take a look at the Luma Scapes for Marketing Tech + Ad Tech to see how many data sources are out there, helping create more and more "Big Data".

Actionable Data --> Data Science --> Unlocks Insights That Matter

CMOs don't need more data, they need more insights that matter aka those connected to the business and those that drive growth. Enter the Data Scientist. This is where things get interesting as they distinguish the "Signal vs. Noise" across a company's data set(s).

Now "we can see around corners"

Oversimplifying of course because that's what I do and frankly, when it comes to this topic, I believe keeping it as simple as possible is probably the right way to go...

Now we're able to connect "data driven" dots that never before in the history of business were visible let alone actionable.

Said differently, those companies that invest in their ability to use the data available to them today are cultivating a massively valuable competitive advantage as they can see and act on things that their competition can't.

Given the thesis that "Competing on consumer experience is the future of marketing", this is as critical in Marketing as in any other area of the business.

Competing on Consumer Experience is determined by the quality of actionable data informing the approach --> Successfully competing on Consumer Experience is a competitive advantage with substantial financial implications

  1. Customer Experience Leaders outperform the market. Below are the 8-year stock performances of Customer Experience Leaders vs. Laggards vs. S&P 500 (2007-2014):
  • Customer Experience Leaders: 107.50%
  • S&P 500 Index: 72.30%
  • Customer Experience Laggards: 27.60%

2. Reinforcing the above and what we all know as "humans", a high-quality Customer Experience drives sales. Especially in a transaction-based business, sales are clearly driven by good customer experience. Below are the results of an HBR study associating a company's Customer Experience Score (CES) with Annual Revenue Increase Per Customer (ARIPC):

CES 1-3, ARIPC 1.0X; CES 4-6, ARIPC 1.3X; CES 7, ARIPC 1.5X; CES 8, ARIPC 1.8X; CES 9, ARIPC 1.9X; CES 10, ARIPC 2.4X

"Everything that can be digital will be digital." - Razorfish 1995

As you can see from my prior posts, this statement alone personifies the Razorfish DNA and goes without saying is how Razorfish "had me at hello" (obviously). But there's a new statement our leadership has made that takes my love affair to the next level.

"Anything that is digital will be intelligent." - Razorfish 2016

As digital normalizes, the intelligence available to us is game changing if we know how to process and apply it. Using the headline metaphor of "data is the new oil", the challenge is finding a "refinery" that knows how to process the "oil"(Data) into the types of "gasoline" (Insights) that powers the engine of growth in a more effective and efficient way (Automation meets Human powered marketing experiences).

This is where COSMOS comes in, our marketing intelligence and activation "refinery".

COSMOS harnesses intelligence from online/offline data sources and empowers businesses to act on it at the right time, in the right way while maximizing efficiencies associated with the combination of Cognitive Computing, Machine Learning and super smart/creative people.

COSMOS is a proprietary Razorfish platform that allows brands to deliver highly customized customer experiences across the entire marketing ecosystem. With a substantial 8-figure investment in the platform, 350+ 3rd party branded data source partnerships, 5 patents pending and the full support of Razorfish's 1500 Marketing Data consultants as well as Publicis.Sapient as a whole, COSMOS was purpose built for the Connected Economy.

There are very few challenges that keep CMOs up at night more so than answering the following 5 questions:

  1. What do I know about my existing customers?
  2. What do I know about my "most likely to buy" audience that I'd like to convert into customers?
  3. Where does this information sit and how it is it used horizontally across the organization?
  4. Are we getting the value we should out of our data/intelligence?
  5. How "Intelligent" are we vs. our competitive landscape/industry?

Thanks to COSMOS, those CMOs that are leveraging the power of the platform are sleeping more soundly than ever before as they're realizing the full potential of their data.

They're realizing their "intelligent" potential.

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin



Under Armor Bet Almost $1B to Become a Data Company, Are Insurance Companies Next?

Under Armour's Founder/CEO Kevin Plank is a beast.

He founded Under Armour as a D1 football player who recognized the opportunity in a single consumer insight - football players slow down when the t-shirt they wear under their pads gets soaked - and as a result, built an incredible company that rivals Nike. Something no one thought was possible.

He's now invested almost $1B in the company's future as a data company. It's probably not a good idea to bet against Kevin Plank or other similarly wired beasts such as Elon Musk, Peter Thiel who knows a thing or two about the power of data via Palantir etc. but more on that another time.

I mention this because another transformation powered by consumer data is starting to take shape in a much less "covered industry" but one that is directly connected to Plank's vision and aspects of his data pool.


People are generally more inclined to focus on the upside or opportunity in life vs. the downside or risk. This makes it a bit difficult for folks to get excited about Insurance.

But thanks to the proliferation of data from connected cars, phones, homes and wearables, the game just changed aka Insurance just became more exciting.

Authored by resident Razorfish rockstar Kirk Vaclavik, below is a quick summary of his very interesting white paper on the emerging trend tied the transformation of the industry's approach to risk.


Insurance Transforms Its Approach to Risk

In a connected economy, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound in cure.”

Today, more and more insurance companies are taking the wisdom of this proverb often attributed to Benjamin Franklin.

For centuries, insurance has operated on a risk-response model, where companies write checks after the policyholder suffers a loss. But in today’s increasingly connected world, insurance companies have more ways than ever to directly interact with customers to prevent risk before it happens. This emerging trend creates new sources of business value while forever transforming the tone, style and relationships the industry conducts with its customers. 

While a focus on risk prevention is not entirely new, the proliferation of data from connected cars, phones, homes, and wearables has markedly changed the game. Harnessing data, insurers can steer policyholders away from risk decisions that may lead to loss, harm, or damage. For example:

  • Drivers get real-time feedback on their driving from telematics sensors through a portal or mobile app, and are incentivized to seek safer behaviors such as smoother turning. 
  • Home appliance sensors alert owners that a stove has been left on, or that a water main could burst if not repaired soon.
  • An athlete wearing smart clothes is alerted to movement that could lead to injury and is given advice on how to correct such habits.
  • Vehicle sensors note that a vehicle is parked outside one hour before a forecasted thunderstorm, sending an alert to its owner to move it into the garage..
  • Patients and physicians are notified about a potential heart attack through biotech sensors and are enabled to act in advance of tragedy.

Consumers: Curious, Confused, and Cautious

Marketers of risk prevention must understand that most people hold an irrationally positive outlook on life[1], expecting things to go well for them. People are generally confident in their abilities, with numerous studies showing that the vast majority of drivers rate themselves as “above average” behind the wheel[2]. Simply put, people are not wired to prepare for the worst. Thus, marketers face a challenge in encouraging people to change their behavior today for preventing problems tomorrow.

Yet evidence shows that insurance customers who have experienced loss (and been fairly compensated) would have rather avoided the loss altogether, especially when property is irreplaceable or damage is irreversible.

So how do marketers encourage risk prevention in a way that consumers care about? The short answer: incentives.

Tying risk prevention methods to savings on rates, fuel, electricity, repairs, or healthcare can make the value of such efforts instantly appealing. Ultimately, both the insurer and the consumer save. But savings don’t have to be the only incentive. Contributing to a consumer’s sense of achievement in their personal health, driving acumen, or home improvement efforts can also be motivating for them to participate.

One prevention effort that is gaining traction is telematics in auto insurance. Major players like Allstate and State Farm have introduced programs that reward drivers for loyalty, safe driving, and improving their driving habits. More and more, we expect parallels to pop up across other types of property-casualty insurance, but even beyond as well.

3 Recommendations for Insurance Companies:

1 - Invest in a Collaborative Customer Experience.

An emphasis on risk prevention gives insurers more ways to interact with their customers, but it also demands that brands strike the right tone in delivering that advice. The customer experience must transform from being confrontational to being collaborative from the start, and long before or after a claim. Take extra measure to enlighten your team on the voice, tone, and persona of the brand whose experience they are designing.

2 - Audit Requisite Capabilities and Skillsets.

Evolving an insurance offering means evolving the skillset of your staff, too. As technologies like telematics, wearables, and mobile capabilities become fundamental to your product, it becomes necessary to identify the gaps in knowledge that you can fill through additional training. It also demands staffing up with data scientists or even incorporating academics who can make your product smarter.

3 - Support a Nimble IT Operation.

Reviewing capabilities should happen at an organizational level, too. Dedicating a group within an IT department to develop new processes and make use of new technologies enables greater growth and development, much like an R&D department. Insurance CTOs will also need to craft a technology roadmap to support complex-event processing through analytics, BPM, SOA and innovation in real-time customer experiences.

Insurers stand to significantly benefit from a focus towards prevention. But ultimately, the success of prevention hinges on consumers shifting their behavior. To succeed, insurers must check themselves by never ceasing to consider the consumer perspective.

[1] Sharot, Tali. The Optimism Bias: A Tour of the Irrationally Positive Brain. New York: Pantheon, 2011. Print.

[2] Roy, M. M., Liersch, M. J. (2014). I am a better driver than you think: examining self-enhancement for driving ability. Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43(8), 1648–1659. DOI: 10.1111/jasp.12117

E: Alec.coughlin@sapientrazorfish.com; T/IG: @Alec_Coughlin