TMW #055 | Facebook and digital marketing ethics, Mailchimp and Intuit (Pt. 2), Shopify’s growing share of the web.

Sep 19, 2021

Welcome to The Martech Weekly, where every week I review some of the most interesting ideas, research, and latest news. I try to look to where the industry is going and make sense of it all.

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I have two things for you before we push into #055.

🎁 Congrats to Tate, Vishna, and Nadine, winners of the MSoM Greenroom ticket giveaway. I’m looking forward to examining the future of privacy, tracking, and targeting in advertising with you. The event is only a few days away, if you've been thinking about joining you can still nab a ticket here.

👂 I had a conversation on the Ops Cast earlier this week, run by the great folks at Mo Pros. We talk about education and media in the Martech industry, the problem of career lock, and the low trust environment created by marketing technology media brands. Link

Alright, let’s get to it. The week in #055:

  • Facebook and digital marketing ethics. Facebook is clearly causing societal harm, but also prosperity for millions of SMBs. Maybe it’s time for us to create an ethical framework for how we approach digital marketing?
  • Mailchimp Pt. 2. Intuit’s acquisition of Mailchimp and the future of small business marketing.
  • Shopify vs Amazon: Is eCommerce unbundling again?
  • Everything else: Canva valued at $40B, why do enterprise businesses suck at innovation? Bots rule the web, failing to deliver on CX, CDPs and the public cloud, the Stackie awards, how I got into Martech and Napoleon Dynamite!

✍ Commentary

Facebook and our need for a digital marketing ethics framework. By now, you’ve probably heard all about “The Facebook Files.” It’s a WSJ expose released this week on Facebook’s involvement in the harms their various social media apps have caused across many aspects of society. The findings are perhaps the most significant reveal of Facebook’s ethical position in the history of the company:

  • Facebook has a VIP list of high-profile people who are exempt from content moderation. This has been kept in secrecy until now.
  • Facebook has known that Instagram is mentally and emotionally harmful to teenage girls for years yet has done very little about it
  • Facebook announced a change to the algorithm to promote healthier interactions in early 2018. In reality, this was a strategy to stymie dropping engagement metrics on the platform and the algorithm ended up promoting outrageous and often false information in the platform instead.
  • Facebook has played a major role in the spread of vaccine misinformation, despite public announcements to the contrary.

For most of us working in the industry, news about Facebook and similar stories from other major advertising platforms is nothing new, and that’s a problem.

Facebook was built by digital marketers, small to medium businesses, independent operators, and the PPC agencies they serve. You could say that the societal problems we’re seeing today stem from Facebook’s dominance in the digital advertising economy, and its dominance is powered by billions in ad dollars spent by ad agencies like the ones you see down the road. There are now more than 200 million small businesses actively using Facebook’s various apps, and to great success. Facebook’s tools have created an enormous amount of value for companies that would never have been able to reach customers and target them with ads in the past.

To focus on the perils of Facebook seems to miss the point, however. Most major platforms that aggregate human data for advertisers have the same issues. And the systemic problem we should be talking about is a sense of ethics that has evaded the digital advertising industry for years. It’s time that we start thinking about educating upcoming and working digital marketers about the ethical implications for where their ad dollars are going.

In almost every course related to digital marketing, from a university offering to a short course you might find on LinkedIn, to programs like Facebook’s Blueprint or Google’s Digital Garage, 99% of the content is about using the tools as effectively as possible. The omission of digital marketing practice ethics is suspiciously missing from almost any course you can sign up for, and that’s because most players in the game are not incentivized to give people a clear-eyed view of the potential harms of social media and their potential involvement in it.

Instagram driving young girls to depression or Facebook’s platform influencing a genocide in Mayanmar should break our hearts and make us think again before we push more value to these platforms. Because after all, these are real people being impacted in very real ways. Yet whenever major revelations come out against the company, the stock price only goes up and to the right and most of the media will forget about most of these revelations come next week. Even Group M, the WPP owned research arm has only offered commentary on the impacts to Facebook’s ad business and regulation in their report on the breaking news from the WSJ. Almost no one is talking about the ethical need to reconsider how marketers should be evaluating these platforms.

It’s important to recognize that the internet is still relatively young in the sphere of regulation, and for most of us participating in the economy it creates are still forming our outlooks on what’s grey, black, and white. And while many issues are mostly grey, more marketers would do well to investigate and find a position and stick to it.

This is beyond just asking if your company should boycott social networks for their lack of policing on a platform. It's thinking more broadly about how we might approach collecting customer data, who has access to sensitive customer information, what kind of messages we want to send to our customers, and how we might fairly and transparently sell products and services. Aarron Spinley, in a recent post for The Headway, asks a question here which I think we should be pondering: “How will future generations of marketers look back on ours? What will they think of our surveillance state tactics and all that it involves?

Saying that we need marketers and advertisers to step up and change the way the ad economy works is like telling someone to play a song without giving them a guitar. We need more than rhetoric in the media and opinion pieces on the topic, we need a framework for how we approach problems like this in the industry, tools to guide our thinking and decision making.

One such tool is called consequence scanning. Used in agile environments, the process enables product managers to evaluate the intended and unintended harm a digital experience may cause customers. This my friends is a real, concrete tool that we can download and use, and a great step forward to something more comprehensive in the future. Another is the great work coming out of the Center for Humane Technology, with toolkits, resources and content focused on minimizing the harms caused by the digital economy.

After all, airlines, banks, insurance businesses, and many other industries have clear guidelines designed to minimize consumer harm and the same will come to the marketing technologist. When it does I expect significant change to the business-as-usual. Links: WSJ Facebook Files. Growing need for ethics in digital marketing. Making Industries Safe - The Headway. Trust and Safety Techniques Research Paper - Stanford. Consequence scanning. Group M on Facebook revelations. Bloomberg Opinion. CoHT.

Mailchimp sells for $12 Billion (Pt 2.). You can read my previous analysis into the Intuit acquisition of Mailchimp in Pt 1. here. As I mentioned there, the company sends more than 333 billion emails a year to millions of SMB customers who are the target for Intuit’s tax and accounting software offerings. It’s important to recognize that Fintech companies are increasingly merging with social and marketing technologies, and it’s a path that not only Intuit is taking. Square, Xero, and others are building out their M&A strategies with technologies that sit around the finance component of a business.

Why? It’s easier to sell a small business owner an API solution than ask them to build one themselves, and it’s more likely to lead to long-term retention and loyalty when SMBs are operating business-critical tools under one roof. The bundling aspect of financial and marketing technologies will continue for many years to come. The SMB sector is primed for this to happen, as more businesses operate exclusively online. It shouldn’t be hard to say, send a transactional email receipt through an email platform or to target customers who are lapsing with a personalized offer, but right now it is for many. The solution and opportunity lie in bundling many services into a quasi-fintech cloud offering. It's working at an enterprise level for Salesforce, Adobe, and Oracle, why not Intuit too? Press release. Intuit’s land grab.

📈Chart Of The Week  

Shopify vs Amazon. Data from Similar Web suggests that Shopify is catching up to Amazon in aggregate monthly unique users. This is an important indicator of the unbundling of eCommerce away from large “everything stores” to the specialized offerings powered by underlying packaged technology. Link

📰 Latest Developments

Canva valued at $40B. Canva is a design tool that millions of marketers use every day. The Australian company just raised a $200 million round giving it an astronomical paper valuation, making it more valuable than Australia’s largest telecommunication company, Telstra. News. Founder’s story. Founder’s note.

FedEx and Salesforce. Salesforce is expanding its capabilities by integrating with logistics and delivery companies. It’s really hard to say that Salesforce is a CRM company anymore, as they move into supply chain management and ERP for eCommerce. Link

Martech Conference happened this week. It’s one of the larger free events for the marketing technology community, a good place to start is Scott Brinker’s “big ops” philosophy. Link

📚 Reading

How Martech fits into digital transformation. A great overview making sense of the often confusing notion of digital transformation. Martech has a unique role in the customer-facing and commercial side of transformative projects, and it’s a fairly important one. Link

Why do enterprise businesses suck at innovation? A lot of it has to do with the role of outside consultants, executive sponsorships, and the mechanics of strategy and stakeholder alignment. Link. Also, see this fascinating thread on the topic.

100 years after Tractatus. This one is a little bit personal, it’s an analysis of my favorite philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein’s work: Tractatus Logico Philosophicus. This book inspired me to get into digital marketing many years ago. It was written in the 1920’s and is still relevant for navigating our digital experience today. Link

🔢 Data & Insights

Bots rule the web. Research from Barracuda suggests that in the first 6 months of 2021 only 36% of global web traffic are actual humans. The rest are bots. Link (P.S, we’ll be discussing the problem of bots and ad fraud this week at Greenroom).

Salesforce and HBR on CX. According to a new survey, 77% - 80% of companies are now building CX capabilities, but only 17% are saying that their companies are delivering on it well. There’s some advice here too, the useful, usable, and enjoyable framework for CX is particularly interesting. Link

Marketing Automation is still relatively new to many. Despite MA platforms being around since the early 90s, research from Demand Spring suggests that 50% of companies only started using a platform in the last four years. There’s still heaps of work to do in this space. Link

💡 Ideas

CDPs and the public cloud. What will the next evolution of the CDP be in years to come? One argument is that the public clouds like Google Cloud, AWS, and Azure will eventually take the customer share of CDP customers as the data, infra and services are already there. Link

The compendium of human-computer interactions. The list you didn’t know you needed. Link

2021 Stackie awards. In one corner of the internet, people get really into designing a slide representing their Martech stack and share it with the world. It’s awesome to see so many TMW subscribers with entries, and some winners too! Link

✨ Weird and Wonderful

Drive & Listen. Travel the world’s cities from the privacy of your laptop. Link

The insanity of crypto communities. This story is perhaps one of the most insane things I’ve read in a while. It’s an attempt to create a sovereign nation on the sea by purchasing a $9m cruise liner, traveling across the world, and realizing it’s not viable. The people behind it are a group of cryptocurrency enthusiasts. Link

Napoleon Dynamite! Link

Stay Curious,

Make sense of marketing technology.

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Juan Mendoza

Juan Mendoza is an expert in researching global media, marketing, data, and technology trends. He is the CEO of The Martech Weekly, a media and research brand with subscribers in over 65 countries.

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