PowerMap strikes again

First day of school animation
Animation of the first day of school in districts across the U.S. created with PowerMap for Excel 2013.

Microsoft’s John Gagnon is back with a new PowerMap animation of MCH‘s first day of school data. This post on the Clickz blog features regional shading to distinguish school districts in different states. John’s focus this time around is on the added value of visualizing data using the new Microsoft tools:

Visualizing the data on a map and over time drives home many insights. One key insight: A nationally targeted campaign won’t allow you to differentiate your ad copy to cities or states which are already in school. If Los Angeles’ 640,000 students go back to school on August 13, you’d have to have the same ad messaging and bids until New York City’s 1.1 million students go back on September 9. So switching from a nationally targeted campaign to a region-specific campaign makes more sense.

Our CEO, Peter Long, and I had the opportunity to visit Microsoft headquarters last week to meet with several representatives of the PowerMap, PowerBI, and Office 365 teams. We were also interviewed on camera for a video that will be part of an upcoming product release. I’ll be sure to share that with you when it hits the internet.

AsI mentioned in my previous PowerMap post, MCH has a database of school district calendar dates available for license. Contact me at kirkc@mchdata.com for more information. We’re just about to load the latest updates to complete the database for the 2013-2014 school calendars.

The big week for big data

DMA 2013 logoWe’re less than a month out from DMA13, the annual conference of the Direct Marketing Association, on October 12-17. Watch out, Chicago. I’ll be stalking the halls of McCormick Place representing MCH Strategic Data and the Kansas City Direct Marketing Association Sunday through Tuesday.

This conference has changed a lot since I first started attending it twelve years ago. Email, mobile, and social marketing have moved to the forefront of marketing, and the DMA has struggled to keep up with the pace. The DMA must battle the perception that “direct marketing” is synonymous with “direct mail.” Today there are untold thousands of data-driven marketers who don’t think of themselves as direct marketers even though they’re following directly in the footsteps of Lester Wunderman and the other pioneers of the profession. The new tagline of the show as “The Global Event of Data-Driven Marketers” is an important step in claiming the proper definition of direct marketing.

In the past MCH Strategic Data exhibited at the show, but that doesn’t make as much sense for us anymore. Rather than generating leads from foot traffic, most of our energy goes into pre-arranged meetings with current and potential  partners and clients. This is my annual chance to touch base with DMA friends like Pat Sabatino, Tim Slevin, and Joe Pych.

Also, the DMA used to have a variety of subgroups such as the List and Database Council and the regional association network that included the KCDMA. Those ties were severed in the big DMA shakeup of a few years ago. I’ve heard inklings that Jay Schwedelson of Worldata may be trying to reconstitute some version of the List and Database Council. The regional affiliations, unfortunately, seem to be gone for good. I would have liked to have met with my fellow regional association presidents from New York, Chicago, Detroit, etc., but that seems unlikely at least in any formally sanctioned way.

Like most years, my focus at DMA13 will be on meeting with MCH’s most important partners and clients. Will you be there? I’d love to connect with you. Send me an email at kirkc@mchdata.com or give me a call at 800-776-6373.

Planet Comicon’s national TV debut

Chloe Dykstra of Heroes of Cosplay
Chloe Dykstra celebrates her costume contest win on episode 5 of SyFy’s Heroes of Cosplay series.

One of the exciting elements of Planet Comicon 2013 was that we had a Hollywood production company in our midst taping two episodes of the new television series Heroes of Cosplay. We made our debut last night and the second episode – the series finale – runs next Tuesday night.

For those who don’t know, I’ve coordinated the panel room programming for the convention for the past five years. This involves scheduling the appearances of the actors, artists, moderators, and other panelists, coordinating several simultaneous sessions, and overseeing an army of volunteers who guard the panelists’ tables in the exhibit room and ensure that everyone gets to where they need to be. Our largest event room seats more than 1,000 fans, and we fill it to capacity for events featuring popular performers like Wil Wheaton, George Takei, and Adam Baldwin.

I must admit that adding a television production and a second night of costume contests during our first year at Bartle Hall meant quite a bit of extra stress. In the end, we pulled it off. I was delighted to work with Lisa Wax, the field producer from 51 Minds Entertainment. Lisa is a dynamo of energy, always on the move and making 60 decisions a minute.

We also have to thank Blythe Renay and Jeff Yenzer from the Damsels of Dorkington who stepped in with short notice to emcee. Blythe and Jeff are two of the most creative and charismatic regulars at Planet Comicon. We were lucky to have them available to make us look great on TV.

I also learned a lot about how much work and preplanning goes into an “unscripted reality” show, including the ways that drama is invented out of thin air – or in the editing room after the filming is finished. There were plenty of elements that were planned in advance for this show, but the team was constantly on the move, adjusting to events as they happened. And, for the record, the judging of the competitions is not rigged. I know the producers fed the judges some tough questions to ask the show regulars, but the judges picked the winners based on their own preferences.

Who watches the Search Engine Watch?

first-day-of-school-mch-strategic-dataRecently John Gagnon, a “Bing Evangelist” from Microsoft, approached MCH Strategic Data for assistance with an article. His premise is that consumer marketers can greatly improve the effectiveness of search engine marketing by using datasets from public and commercial sources to time their marketing strategies on a regional basis.

For example, he pointed out that some communities’ economies have a huge influx of money when a local corporation issues annual employee bonuses. Boeing issues bonuses that can be equivalent of up to three weeks of additional pay to more than 48,000 employees in the Seattle area. As a result, tens of millions of dollars flood the area on one day in February. Doesn’t it make sense for national advertisers to adjust their regional strategies based on predictable windfall events like that?

We provided John with data on the regional impact of varied back-to-school dates. Using the new geographic and time charting features of Excel 2013’s Power Map capability (download a free preview copy here), John created the animation above for his article on the Search Engine Watch blog. This makes it apparent that first day of school varies widely for districts across the lower 48 states. The earliest students back to school in 2013 were actually in Hawaii, where school started on August 5th. If marketers time their back-to-school activites to coincide with back-to-school dates in the northeast — often in mid-September — they’ve missed the window in much of the nation.

John’s article goes through this in much more detail, and includes specific recommendations to improve search engine campaigns, including:

  1. Break-out campaigns by geography
  2. Stagger campaign start dates
  3. Stagger campaign end dates
  4. Simple set-up with incremental bidding
  5. Beyond search – “Facebook targeting or display network options could open up as well.”

MCH has created a special package of national school district data with key school calendar dates including the first and last days of school, plus dates for breaks for Thanksgiving, Christmas / Hannukah, mid-winter break, and spring break. If you’re interested in learning more, touch base with me at kirkc@mchdata.com.

I want to thank the academy…

kirk-chritton-kcdma
At the podium as El Presidente.

No, I didn’t actually win an award, but I feel like I did.

Today I was inducted as the new President of the Kansas City Direct Marketing Association. This is really an honor. I’ve been attending KCDMA functions for years, and was first invited to join the board four years ago. During that time I’ve served in a couple of roles related to programming — a major responsibility that involves booking and promoting eight luncheon events over the course of the year. I was truly surprised to get the call from the nominating committee with an offer to step into this role.

The KCDMA is one of the oldest direct marketing organizations in the nation, getting its start back in the 1940s. My predecessors in the role have included luminaries in the various disciplines of data-driven marketing: Bob Stone, Martin Baier, Jack Schmid, Earl Hogan, Pat Freisen, Lois Boyle-Brayfield, and many others. Just to have my name appear in the same list as those folks feels like I’ve pinned on a gold medallion.

As I look at the year ahead, I will challenge myself and the board to continue and amplify the work we’ve been doing over the past few years. It’s ironic that principles of direct marketing — direct offers with measurable results — have never been in more widespread use, but that many of today’s direct marketers don’t even think of themselves as direct marketers. The KCDMA needs to ensure that young marketers who work in social, mobile, interactive channels understand that they are a part of our community and that the KCDMA is for them.

KCDMA LogoMy goal is for us to expand our audience, enhance our content, and to get value for the association by providing value to Kansas City’s marketing community.

This is going to be much easier to accomplish because we’ve assembled an outstanding Board of Directors for the year. The sixteen members of the 2013-2014 board are some of the most energetic and creative professionals representing Kansas City area companies including Sprint, BKV, ColorMark, emfluence, and Plattform Advertising.

I’m looking forward to a wonderful year with the KCDMA. Be sure to join me at some of the events!

MCH Infinite Access 2.0 now available

It’s official. MCH Strategic Data is revealing the K-12 market like never before with MCH Infinite Access 2.0. Our online market intelligence and sales lead tool has been my primary focus for 2012, and its now better than ever. It’s been re-engineered with HTML 5 technology which makes it mobile-friendly and also provides enhanced speed and crossplatform consistency. You can read more about it over on the MCH blog.

Helen Slater Interview

I was pleased to interview actress Helen Slater at Planet Comicon 2010. She is an amazing actress who was one of most popular stars of the ’80s and ’90s, with lead roles in films including Supergirl, The Secret of My Success, Ruthless People, and City Slickers. In this conversation, we cover her career and the movies she’s made with actors like Peter O’Toole, Bette Midler, Christian Slater, and Michael J. Fox.

Thanks to Jason P. Hunt and the team at SciFi4Me.com for recording and posting this interview.