When does a human cross the threshold to become a bot?

It’s a question we were faced with recently. I don’t typically share long form pieces on the blog, but you can see it over on Medium for the full write up.

In a world of automation, we see these tools also bridge to all sorts of use cases. And in a recent campaign, we saw automation or assistant tools, in turn being used to inflate user numbers for a brand.

The vanity metrics looked great – but the real metrics did not.

There was also a piece a while back on how someone created a bot to fulfill tasks on Mechanical Turk. Or used AI to respond to are you a robot CAPTCHAs.

These are the signs of our times and will continue. That’s why things like blockchain are counter responses to this. As more and more systems and processes digitize, more will become bots so to speak.

May 17th, 2019

The rise of private intelligence

Everything zig zags online, in recent history our brands intelligence has been more public, you can see it on Facebook. The zig.

But what we’re seeing now is the development of private intelligence, the zag. The shift (and maturing) of brands to build up their internal processes, to execute novel media (and content) tactics, to combine public with private data.

I’ve been thinking about it from a product perspective too. How Apple handles machine learning is the perfect analogy, the learning is done on device, protecting your privacy (rather than in the cloud). Google yesterday mirrored this intention. This is the private intelligence.

This is the exciting time, as it’ll produce richer and different types of investments in the digital eco-system. I’m excited to see what eventuates.

May 9th, 2019

What sorts of problems do you want to lose sleep over? Mapping opportunity cost

If we are successful at this endeavour what will that look like? What will be the challenges with it? What will be the advantages?

When you’re small it’s easy to make these decisions but you have to know what you’re optimizing towards.

And whether, that headache is one that you want.

It’s a weird way to think about it – what sorts of problems do I want to keep me up at night? And if you’re ok with that – you’re probably doing the right thing.

The regular business challenges are a given – but also explore the nuances of the strategy you’re going after. If it goes well, what incidental problems can or will it create.

(Btw no one wants to be kept up at night – but it is inevitable on anything worth doing and you may as well check, that that is a worthwhile sacrifice)

March 17th, 2019

How does this conclude?

It’s not really a question I’d ask when I was younger, if something was directionally ok, I’d follow it.

Now, especially with environmental concerns (and that’s where it’s starting) I’m going what do I do with this when it’s done?

For example, I bought two stools, which I love. At some point, they will need repair, or repainting or I’ll want to move them on. But I never once considered these in my purchase.

I went, I want a couple of good quality, nicely designed, comfortable stools for our kitchen counter. Something that I will like and cherish and value for time to come. I didn’t go, hang on, are these recyclable? Can I resell them? How repairable are they?

The patina they develop over time is assured. But I think these features of products over time will come in to popular culture. How long will this last? How does it get better over time?

February 28th, 2019

Best Books for Marketers [continuously updated]

Here’s my curated list of the best marketing books. The lens on this list is that it has to be arguably a book that every marketer should read – books that should stand the test of time. The other two rules for this list, is that I can’t include anything published in the last two years, to help focus on the books which are weighty and I must have read them first hand.

This does introduce constraints but should mean we have a slow moving rather than a fast changing list.

For any suggestions tweet me @bwagy, I’ll add to the list to read and update.

Timeless Marketing Books

These are books I think ALL marketers should read.

How brands grow. A refresh on the latest research on how brands grow and what you can do to help.

22 Immutable Rules of Marketing (and Branding). A solid reminder of the power of the basics – and as marketers we do tend to over complicate things.

80/20 Principle by Richard Koch.

Ignore Everybody by Hugh Macleod. Coming at it from the creativity angle, the best marketers are creative, or can at least manage or create the conditions for creativity to happen.

Confessions of an Advertising Man and Ogilvy on Advertising by David Ogilvy. The classics.

And finally, whilst it’s not a pick off your shelf and read the whole thing, Philip Kotler (yes from university) does keep an up to date on the latest thinking in marketing management.

Old trends but still relevant

Free by Chris Anderson and The Long Tail.

Permission Marketing by Seth Godin (and actually any Seth Godin, All Marketers are Liars and Purple Cow).

Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell.

Upcoming potentials

I haven’t yet read these but have been suggested via peers. Once I read may/may not add to the list.

Where the Suckers Moon: The Life and Death of an Advertising Campaign

Small Data: The Tiny Clues that Uncover Huge Trends

Scientific Advertising by Claude Hopkins. Oft recommended by the greats of advertising.

Breakthrough Advertising by Eugene Schwartz

The Content Trap by Bharat Anand.

The Cluetrain Manifesto by David Weinburger.

Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert B. Cialdini.

Any I’ve missed, you’d vouch for or recommend? Tweet me @bwagy or send me an email.

January 15th, 2019

Setting yearly goals

I have done this as far back as I can remember.

One neat thing (which I love) is that my wife/I will formulate ours independently.

Then a couple of weeks in to the year we sit down, compare and identify our shared goals. We then write them and put up on the wall.

It keeps us both accountable but is a way more fun process. And means we know what we’re working so hard for.

January 10th, 2019

Personal Media, the next ‘actual’ frontier of digital

As we begin the second order effects of a post-social world.

We are zagging back to closer, more personal networks but enriched with the benefits that social brought us.

Case in point, Instagram sending stories only to close friends.

Apples Photo Memories, or Google Photos

iMessage/FB Message/Snap threads, groups.

Social provided the email layer to organize our broader networks, now we’re going deeper with our closest peers.

An interesting by-product of this, is how attention is shifting from the broad to the nice and more relevant.

And also, how you can spend 40 minutes looking at memories in Photos, prior videos or stories of trips.

I think this next frontier is from social to personal media.

December 6th, 2018


Reducing to the bare essentials.

What (and only) what is required, at the bare minimum.

When we built Nudge we went through this process, stripping away anything that wasn’t essential to the product.

How we got there was:

  • Phase 1, we reduced our rough version to the bare basics.
  • Phase 2, we then dramatically expanded out the functionality we needed.
  • Phase 3, we then used an existing library to display all of this functionality (it was terrible).
  • Phase 4, we then dramatically reduced, removed colours, layers, buttons, menus, just to the absolute bare minimum.
  • Phase 5, iterate and continue to refine.

This helped make the product distinctive and create an air of simplicity – for a product that is data centric, a great outcome.

As we grow though, there is always the tendency to creep. Why don’t we sneak this in here, or maybe we just put this in this menu. Complexity sneaks up on you.

That’s ok, as long as we keep our commitment to reducing. For some periods of time we’ll be off but we’ll mostly be on track.

It’s like any project it takes commitment, discipline and focus.

And that’s the fun part of the journey.

November 30th, 2018

The end of the beginning

Really enjoyed this talk from Benedict Evans.

It’s fast paced 🙂 but follow along. He speaks to where we’ve come from in the past 20 years and to where it’s going.

Well, as much as you can at this juncture.

Give it a watch, or do a walk and listen. It’s 23 minutes but well worth it.

The practical segway (i.e. how you can think about it). Is if you are in business today through this change – is attention rationalization.

For the past 20 years the amount of attention consumers have given digital screens has gone up year on year. With growing attention it was easy for us all to get more of it – as there was growing appetite.

However that will slow dramatically, for the sheer fact that there is only so much attention in a day.

Pair this, with at this point, most (if not all) of your customers are connected to the internet. And expect some or all of your service to be digitally enabled.

In that world, the amount of attention is a real currency.

The nearest proxy today is a CPC or CPV. Once you remove all the ‘fake attention’ from juiced metrics and bots. It really is a fixed currency, where everyone is competing against everyone else, all the time.

Seems silly but a Netflix show is competing with your reddit thread, is competing with the time you have to research a new doctor.

^ Someone right now is nodding as they read this.

Businesses which don’t adjust will simply evaporate. If they can’t earn digital attention, they are invisible to the market.

A blunt example is the rise of DTC brands, the brands flooding Instagram. Being top of mind drives sales – and if you can’t ‘earn’ attention in the feed. You lose out immediately. This small extrapolation can roll out to the entire digital mix.

As Ben alludes to, software eats attention.

November 21st, 2018

When the existence of one is enough proof

For creators – the existence of one thing is enough to convince them that there can be two.

And if there can be two, there can be three, there can be four.

For some though, it’s not enough, it could be an anomaly, it can be explained away.

And they’re probably both right.

But it’s the founder, the maker, the creator who leans in to it and makes it two.


November 10th, 2018

People based algorithms, i.e. curation

In a world of endless recommendation algorithms, powered by clicks and interest signals.

There is a zag back towards curation, towards less. Towards understanding that someone has considered each thing you are seeing and believe you will enjoy it as well.

I’ve been riffing back and forth with a few colleagues on this, in their search for the best ‘media placements’ – a lot of it is just coming back to finding good context.

And that, is a combination of art and science. Algorithms AND people.

It’s a nice reminder, technology is here to help us do things better, more effectively. Sometimes it goes wrong. But that is the whole purpose. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

You’re reading this – probably because you know me. Algorithms help amplify it – but at the core you follow because you like the connection.


October 20th, 2018

Bench Strength

This is something you need to continuously develop, whether your are winning, losing or somewhere in between.

I mean this literally and figuratively.

But mostly I mean this when it comes to your team. As a leader you must continually develop, challenge and support your team to build bench strength – so that as conditions change, you are best equipped.

When hiring, people recognize this and appreciate going to a company that’s going to be as invested in their success as they are.

October 11th, 2018

Replacing yourself

My job at its kernel is an existential drive to replace myself. That is the definition of success.

Right now, I’m back from a trip, having just replaced a fair chunk of my day to day.

It’s great.

Now I have a wide open calendar and time, to tackle what’s next.

I love these little moments, snippets in time, it’s where the kernels of the next drivers of change happen.

October 4th, 2018

You vs the algorithm

What can you offer that algorithms can’t know or deeply cater for. 

Better understanding of your market, your customers, the nuances. 

The things which don’t scale across everything. That’s the personal edge.

The last mile of customer knowledge sits with you. 

August 28th, 2018

Productizing Data

I spoke with a colleague on the art of turning data in to products.

Given we live in a data-centric world there doesn’t appear to much dialogue on the topic so I’m adding some 🙂

Every product or service creates data. More and more companies are looking at how to build data businesses and many launch a ‘data’ product but few will go deep.

A lot of that is to do with product management, productizing data isn’t an easy process. In general there are a few levels to it.

  • Level One: The sell is more data, get more than you had before.
  • Level Two: Once you have sold too much ‘new data’, you have to swap or adjust to ‘curated data’.
  • Level Three: Insights or recommendations, make meaning from this data.
  • Level Four: Delta, show me the delta or contextualize these for me.

Then rinse/repeat.

Or at least that’s the theory.

Many companies do level one, and then at each step it drops dramatically. Why? Competition, need and market.

Highly motivated end users will push a company to get to stage four fast. Then at that point it’s continual renewal to standardize and continue to conextualize data.

Some companies only need to get to stage one or two, or can spend years before stage three or four. That’s ok. But this helps provide a framework or directionality.

July 31st, 2018

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