Talk to Your Shopping: Voice Activated Shopping with Demandware

The Amazon Echo is one of the first voice activated smart home hubs. Through an Al personality called Alexa it can manage connected smart home devices, sync with calendars and entertainment content, and tell jokes. We set out to see if we could integrate Alexa with Demandware to deliver voice activated home shopping. You can […]

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Driving Digital: How the Auto Industry Is Adapting for a Connected World

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Technological advancements, government mandates, consumer trends, and emerging markets continue to drive evolution in the automotive industry, forcing automakers to rethink how they design, manufacture, and market vehicles. But despite the massive amount of disruption rippling through the global market, our recent report shows that innovation in the auto industry continues to be rooted in its long-time guiding principles of convenience, safety, and efficiency. Here we examine how technology, in particular, is shaping the future of this industry and helping manufacturers deliver on their brand promise.

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Convenience

Digital disruption has prompted major shifts in consumer expectations – and the auto industry is no exception. Automakers today aren’t just tasked with delivering a high-quality, reliable vehicle – they’re expected to make the trip simpler, more comfortable, and more enjoyable. By incorporating important safety and navigation features into vehicles, automakers have become responsible for the overall driving experience, as opposed to just the car or truck itself.

For example, automakers are currently experimenting with biometric technology, such as unique fingerprints and retina scanning, to access and control vehicles. In the meantime, MIT is developing tattoos that connect with mobile devices to adjust in-vehicle features or exchange data with other devices via near-field technology. By using this connected technology, drivers can access their vehicle and automatically load preferences – such as seat position, climate settings, music preferences, and previous destinations – in a seamless way.

Connected vehicles can also provide drivers with useful information such as gas prices, weather reports, service station locations, and alternate routes. While these features are secondary to the design and mechanics of the car itself, they help set vehicles apart at a time when customers are seeking both customization and simplicity.

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Safety

As in most industries, automakers have no shortage of customer and product data. However, it’s through careful analysis and application that this information can be used to improve customers’ lives. In this case, automakers can use sophisticated onboard platforms and advanced navigation systems to transform large amounts of data into warnings and recommendations for drivers, thereby improving comfort and safety.

For example, a heads-up-display (HUD), which is a type of augmented reality that can be used to display speed, enhance visibility, and confirm stopping distances all on the windshield glass, gives drivers valuable information, while allowing them to remain fully focused on the road. Similarly, improved GPS in smartphones and cars has made pinpointing a vehicle’s location even more precise, which not only makes for better navigation, but also allows emergency services to locate a driver in times of crisis. Eventually, these in-vehicle features can be networked with other cars, making it possible for automobiles to communicate with one another and, in turn, make travel more efficient and secure.

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Technology has also supported the rise of important self-driving options like auto-braking, lane-change avoidance, and auto parallel parking. These features are only the beginning as traditional manufacturers and tech companies alike race to develop a fully self-driving car, a concept that has the potential to eliminate human error, alleviate common traffic issues, and decrease accidents.

Efficiency

While hybrid, plug-in hybrid, electric, and fuel-cell vehicles were introduced long ago, continued technological advancements have helped make these power sources much more mainstream in recent years. In fact, a four-year study by MIT concluded that electric vehicles on the market today could replace 90 percent of the cars used in the U.S., reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent.

While the viability and speed of adoption of these vehicles are influenced by consumers’ perceptions of their driving habits and cost of ownership, auto marketers are also under pressure to reduce manufacturing and material costs, improve the charging infrastructure, and extend the life of the batteries. Fuel-cells, for example, have resurfaced as one possible alternative to traditional cars as their only byproduct is water vapor. Much like electric vehicles, fuel-cell vehicles have an infrastructure hurdle to cross, necessitating that gas refueling stations be replaced with hydrogen ones – implying that the rate of change in the auto industry will be influenced at least in part by the willingness and ability of other industries to adapt.

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Driven by new technology, the global automobile industry is poised for a major transformation. While automakers are forced to contend with a whole host of new challenges – including ever-changing customer preferences and government mandates – they should remain focused on improving the driving experience through enhanced convenience, safety, and efficiency. Our recent report highlights these three pillars and depicts how, in today’s digital age, technology holds the key.

By Timothy Cory, Associate Creative Director, Creative Strategist for Consumer Experience, and Design Specialist, SapientNitro Detroit

What Makes An API Great For Advertisers?

An application programming interface – or API – is what allows different databases, software programs, and applications to communicate with each other effectively.

They allow sites like Kayak.com to aggregate travel deals from around the web, Yelp to populate a map sourced from Google, and your favorite food brands to pull Pinterest recipes onto their website. Each is built to render and communicate specific types of information between two or more different systems.

In the process of ad creation and ad serving, an API takes a call from an ad server, translates the request for whatever ad content is available in a data warehouse, and then expresses it back within the parameters needed to render the ad experience properly.

How the API is built will determine what types of content and creative can be displayed, how quickly it renders, how stable features behave, and much more. The more complex the

Conversation LAB teams up with Megan Power

Agency Conversation LAB has teamed up with consumer columnist, Megan Power (formerly of Power Report in the Sunday Times fame).

Power recently started her own customer-journey and brand-management consultancy. In future, it will collaborate with Conversation LAB (Megan is the sister of Conversation LAB co-founder and managing director, Kevin Power), adding Conversation LAB’s full digital service offering to her clients.

Says Megan: “I believe my six years of exclusively listening to and resolving consumer complaints across various industries, corporates and brands, [have] given me unique insights into what consumers want from the customer journey.

Digital offers brands an unprecedented opportunity to bring integrity, honesty, and transparency back into business. It’s also a great way for brands to share news-you-can-use content with consumers to make their lives easier. Incredibly, it’s a chance many still miss.”

Megan’s suite of offerings will also be offered to Conversation LAB’s clients and prospective clients.

Virtual Reality: Taking an Emerging Technology Mainstream

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Virtual reality (VR) has arrived. Augmented reality (AR) is not far behind. And now is the time for brands to experiment with these emerging mediums. 

VR and AR: What’s the difference?

VR: A three-dimensional, computer-generated digital world that can be
explored through the use of headsets, sensors, and other special equipment.

AR: An
enhanced environment that seamlessly blends the digital and physical world
through advanced technology. While AR is used extensively by the military and
in business-to-business applications, consumer-focused programs are less common.

As companies look for a way to differentiate their brands and set themselves apart from the competition, more and more businesses – particularly those in entertainment, retail, and travel – are seeing VR and AR as ways to build brand affinity, deepen customer relationships, and transform strategies and experiences. However, while these technologies hold great promise for organizations, consumers have yet to fully embrace VR and help it reach critical mass.

With that in mind, SapientNitro commissioned a global study of 2,500 people across five countries to gauge consumer awareness of and interest in VR. Here we discuss some of the findings of our study and leverage the data to offer a timeline for how the future of this technology may unfold. To review a full analysis of our survey, download our report, entitled VR and AR Demand Long-Term Action from Innovative Brands.

1. VR awareness is on the rise. Four in ten respondents in our global survey (40 percent) could name, without prompting, at least one brand of headset. Perhaps more important, awareness among younger age groups was even higher, with more than half (54 percent) of consumers under the age of 24 being familiar with the technology and its application.’

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2. There is significant appetite for VR. Almost half (47 percent) of our respondents said that they were “very” or “extremely interested” in using a VR headset. In particular, consumers in emerging markets like China and India are especially excited about this technology, with 66 percent and 64 percent, respectively, expressing interest.

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3. Consumers are willing to invest in VR. VR hardware ownership remains limited, with just 4 percent of global respondents saying that they own a headset. But signs of the technology’s growth appears imminent with two-thirds (66 percent) of consumers aged 25-34 saying that they are “extremely” or “very interested” in purchasing a headset within the next two years.

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So what does this data mean for businesses? Our survey findings can help determine when and how consumers may embrace VR. For example, the platform’s existing user base, coupled with the high level of interest among younger consumers in emerging markets, implies that adoption and demand will be led by this highly-connected, tech-savvy group. In particular, the gaming industry – one of the early drivers of VR – will continue to develop content and experiences to help further generate interest and awareness.

At the same time, our survey found that consumer interest in VR runs much deeper than gaming. Through enhanced access and increased content, it is possible for this technology to go mainstream. To that end, mobile is likely the key to general usage. Just about every smartphone produced within the last two years is VR-capable. And as manufacturers constantly pack more processing power and higher-resolution screens into their smartphones, the pieces are in place for the mobile VR experience to take off with a wider audience. Similarly, headsets continue to get sleeker and cheaper, and are increasingly being bundled with cell phones, gaming systems, or other electronic purchases, which means this platform has the potential to become a household commodity.

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While the mainstream adoption of VR relies, in part, on consumer interest, brands also have a role to play. Our survey suggests that many users may be waiting for companies to create more content and experiences before making a personal investment in the medium. To that end, brands should take this time to explore how they can incorporate both VR and AR into their existing marketing and technology strategies as a way to deepen relationships with consumers.

Curious to read more about how that can be done? Download our full report here.

By Adrian Slobin, Managing Director and Digital Strategist, SapientNitro Minneapolis

Conversation LAB wins at Assegai Integrated Marketing Awards

Digitally-led creative agency Conversation LAB has won 14 awards at the Assegai Integrated Marketing Awards.

Conversation LAB has added 30 new awards to their trophy cabinet in 2016 across The Global MMA Smarties, The New Generation Social and Digital Media Awards and now the Assegai Awards.

Conversation LAB won one gold, six silver, six bronze and a leader across a range of their clients, Environ (Gold), Varsity College (two silvers and a bronze), Unilever’s Sunlight (Silver and two bronze), Soft Bev’s Coo-ee (two silvers) and Godrej SA’s Inecto (3 bronze and a leader).

The Assegai Awards, known for their focus on results and strategy, were inaugurated in 1998 and have grown from strength to strength. The event in Rivonia, Johannesburg attracted over 500 well-known guests from all the top agencies and brands in South Africa.

Kevin Power, managing director of Conversation LAB, says, “It’s been a great year –

Livity and Dyson announce winners of Rethinkers challenge

Three weeks ago, we launched our Rethinkers campaign for Dyson to help the brand source the brightest global minds.

The activity featured a series of seriously hard online challenges, which participants had to solve online in order to be in with a chance to visit Dyson’s top secret tech lab and meet CEO Max Conze, and ultimately be in with a chance to work at Dyson. Check out our launch film here which contains the first clue.

We launched the campaign with a slightly off-the-wall strategy, by planting the first challenge on Reddit.

Our strategy paid off. The campaign took off around the world with thousands of participants getting their teeth into the challenges on Reddit and publications like The Telegraph and Wired covering the activity.

Results so far include: 40+ major publications covering the activity (view a selection of the coverage here); 150% increase in

What is a strategic brand proposition?

Strategic brand proposition

The Entrepreneur website defines a brand as “The marketing practice of creating a name, symbol or design that identifies and differentiates a product from other products.” Whilst this is of course true, this only tells half the brand story – the visual or creative part. To us, a strategic brand proposition is just as important. It defines the culture and personality of a business, congruent with its vision and values. It is the expression of its virtues and views in the way it delivers work for its customers. It must fit in with the overall marketing strategy and business plan.

Strategic brand proposition

A strategic brand proposition – for a product, service or business – is vital. The creative elements provides a recognisable name/logo, but the strategic side drives a profound conceptual understanding of the essence of the company’s (or product’s or service’s) character. It can help to promote and clarify positioning and personality, and provides a mechanism to identify the values that create meaning and resonance, to enable a business to stand out from the crowd. A poor brand identity can make a company’s marketing efforts more or less impotent – the good news is that the opposite also applies. Consider also the psychology of self-esteem at work. A proper brand will genuinely value the importance of its people. It can make employees feel proud to represent a business, and offer an attractive incentive for talented people to join – and to stay.

Corporate branding

Firstly, it’s a misconception that powerful or clever corporate branding is the sole province of large corporations. Smaller businesses and SMEs can reap huge benefits from employing sound, well-considered branding practices – it is a huge point of difference that I all-too-often overlooked. It’s about far more than a logo or name – that is just one bit of the branding process. It defines your vision, your mission, your ethics and morals, and represents the true character and personality of the business – as well as its potential destiny.

Company vision

Firstly, identify where you sit in the market. Engage in a brutally honest analysis, and look carefully at your strengths and weakness, your opportunities and threats, and what challenges you face from both inside and outside the business. This is essential to enable you to position your brand in the marketplace. Then, bearing this in mind, consider your ‘vision statement’. This represents the future ambition of your company – where you want it to go, how you want it to grow. And it should be aspirational – why think small when you can think big?! Think about where you want to be in one, three and five years’ time – a statement is ideally required for the short, medium and long term ambition of your business. Better to underachieve a huge goal than to overachieve a small one…

Corporate values

Corporate values are often also misunderstood. A value is a word or phrase which helps to sum up the character and personality of a brand. Why is this important? It is the values which drives the type of plan one is going to put into place to achieve your vision. It is the values which will help to guide the way in which a mission statement is generated. It is the values which guide the social conscience of a business, product or service. For example, we all know of some companies that operate in a way that most of us would consider derisory – those selling PPI insurance, for example. Double glazing companies used to have a poor name, but most have got better now. These companies have values which most of us would not approve and would not wish to be associated with. We should look to companies which we admire to find values which inspire us and which we should emulate – because these values are what you expect from your staff, who are the ambassadors for your brand – which means you need to employ people who have the same values as your business. So you need to also make sure that the way you behave as a business is congruent with the values you wish to be associated with as an organisation. Customers will never forgive you for failing to deliver the values you claim as your own – especially in the world of social media, where everyone has the opportunity to easily express an opinion, and bad PR can spread like a wild fire.

Virtues and views

Views and virtues are statements about the philosophy of a business, and are of a moral and ethical nature. They can to provide your company with a brand position that will be significantly more attractive to customers than the rest of the marketplace. The views and virtues of a business are like those of a manifesto of a political party. Looking at your market place, and considering your values and vision, what do you stand for as a business that sets you apart from the competition? You can also deploy your views & virtues as a customer charter. This helps to develop and govern the way in which you wish to express the behaviour of the brand as a promise to the outside world. It’s a kind of ‘code of practice’ that the brand sticks to, thereby offering a qualitative benchmark and moral ground on which to work. And don’t just stop there – take a look internally too, and create an employee charter that embraces the ways in which the business treats its most important commodity – its people. If you successfully integrate a staff and customer charter into your business, you will be astonished the impact this will have on your business.

Mission statement

Once you have these elements in place – and not before – you can then create a mission statement– which serves to shape what you need to do at a top line level to meet your vision, and the way in which you wish to achieve it, as guided by your values, views and virtues. Think about the challenges you’ll face, and identify the strategies you’re going to need to put in place to overcome them. Keep in mind the need to achieve milestones along the way to achieving short, medium and long term vision goals. Most companies don’t understand how to set a proper mission statement, and this is mostly because they don’t understand how it fits into the essential essence of the brand. A bad mission statement is worthless. A good one is priceless.

Consistent brand identity

Then you have a brand. It represents everything you want about your product or service, and speaks directly to your customers and to your staff – who are your primary stakeholders (this will drip down to secondary and tertiary stakeholders). It’s aspirational, noble, and visionary – yet accessible. And now you need to develop all the elements you need in place to make your brand come alive. Every item of sales and marketing communication you create must deliver a consistent brand identity. Bring your brand plan in line with your business plan and your marketing plan, and ensure that all staff are aware of what these are and what strategies are in place to deliver them all. A brand is many different people, united in one vision. Guide that vision and make sure it is always in focus. A brand breathes life into a business; it is the heartbeat of a company. It is far, far more than just being a quirky name or a funky logo.

Corporate branding strategy

We hope that this article has provided you with some useful tips when it comes to developing a corporate branding strategy for your business, and that you now have a better idea of the steps you need to take. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Stephen Brown, our head of strategy and planning, at stephen.brown@abacusmarketing.co.uk or by calling 020 7795 8175. We would of course be happy to discuss your requirements in more detail on the phone or by email, or meet up for a free two-hour consultation at a venue of your choice.

The post What is a strategic brand proposition? appeared first on Abacus Marketing.

Young people have been Trumped again, but disruption is around the corner

According to an analysis of exit polls by the Center for Information & Research on Civic Learning & Engagement, one of the key reasons that underpinned Donald Trump’s presidential victory was the lack of youth engagement.

Historically, young people have been an integral part of any Democrat victory, particularly in Barack Obama’s success over the past eight years. However, this election represented one of the lowest youth turnouts in recent years, and it had a huge impact on Hillary’s downfall. Simultaneously, we also witnessed a significant increase in young people turning to independent candidates, particularly Gary Johnson.

Rather than getting into the politics of each candidate, I think the key outtake here is that, once again, young people felt incredibly disillusioned during a major political decision. This is something that will be all too familiar to British readers, after 75% of people under 25 voted ‘Remain’ during European Union membership