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 […]

The post Talk to Your Shopping: Voice Activated Shopping with Demandware appeared first on Isobar Blog.

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

Persuasion in PR

Why is persuasion important?  When you are trying to influence people you need to not only sell yourself but help consumers understand how your product or service will make their life easier, better, amazing?

The Principle of Liking

We all want to be liked. It’s human nature to want to return favors when someone does something for us. In public relations, the favor may be handing out a hot story to a reporter or placing a press release with the right publication for a colleague. Stopping to get coffee for another employee may end up benefiting you because at some point in the future you’ll need help. A journalist or magazine may be willing to listen when you let them know your ideas or pitch a story if you’ve proven to be a good source in the past.

When you find the things that others like, it gives you a foundation to talk about common interests. When common interests are discovered, it builds trust in a relationship.  Something as simple as noticing the brand of phone someone is using allows you to start a conversation. Opening up dialog gives up that cheerful moment of pleasant conversation, but it also gives us more.

Listening to others opens up the thought process and may spark ideas and solutions. Also, a different perspective gives us a chance to see problems that can be solved, or possibly a different way to use a product. That opens another revenue stream without having to come up with a different product. Friendly conversation also improves our skills and understanding of how to communicate more effectively. That means our powers of persuasion can improve.

Authority

When you establish someone’s credentials through something as simple as showing the number of years they’ve worked in their field or some proof of their top-level performance in the past, you bring credibility and authority to their support or endorsement. People love to know who is qualified and are more likely to go with someone who knows what they are doing. Think of your doctor; you always want to know that he or she is one of the best in their field in the area you live.

Social Proof

Clients need to know that with a PR firm representing a brand or product is not only effective but ethical. They may learn of products and services from billboards, social media, speaking engagements, books, and even pamphlets.

Consistency

It is important to be consistent. Consider the recent elections where many signs were put up to promote the importance of voting. In those areas were multiple signs were out, voter turnout increased. This can also apply in PR. Getting someone to consider your ideas or products often helps the client in presentations and media. This is usually much more effective than flooding someone’s email box.

Scarcity

When something is harder to get or obtain, don’t we all want it that much more?  Best example happens every year at Christmastime when there is always one toy that kids want, and because they all want it, it sells out early and becomes hard to find. This principle also applies to PR if an item is scarce and people want it, then it is easier to market to that select group with access.

Persuasive PR presents these same principals in written and oral form to the public, but it doesn’t end there. Persuasive PR works best when integrity and honesty are part of the presentation. It’s not about selling something that may not be necessary; it’s about establishing a relationship that lasts and brings consumers back to the client time and time again.

The post Persuasion in PR appeared first on 5W PR News and Updates, NY Public Relations Agency Blog.

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

Small Town Brewery: Taking a Small Business to a National Sensation using Public Relations

Small Town Brewery in Wauconda started two upstairs rooms of an old warehouse. They made handcrafted beers and delivered them to a thriving downtown area featuring a variety of eating establishments. And then came a new beer they crafted and named “Not Your Father’s Root Beer.” The new hard (alcoholic) root beer took off, and by 2012 it was being sold in a chain of liquor stores in Chicago – Binny’s Beverage Depot with 31 locations.

Making Their Name

Then in mid-2015, Pabst Brewing Co. and Small Town signed an exclusive distribution agreement allowing Pabst to distribute all their products nationally. To date, three of Small Town’s products are distributed around the U.S. under that agreement: Not Your Father’s Vanilla Cream Ale, Not Your Father’s Ginger Ale, and the original product (hard root beer) in six packs. Nearly two years ago, they added another element to their company, the Small Town Brewery Taproom, a local bar where people can try out all the microbrews they craft – offering 16 flavors at a time and cycling them when needed. Not only do customers get to try the different flavors, but the company tests what could likely be number four to go national … and beyond.

The business and its owners are members of the small community, and one of their big goals remains the same as when they first started, to help the community in whatever way they can. Some beer flavor options could include French toast, bourbon pecan, strawberry rhubarb, and the distribution flavors. At the taproom, customers choose up to four flavors, though they also serve water and soft drinks too.

What Can Be Learned?

Small Town Brewery may seem like an overnight success, but like many other “swift” rises, it wasn’t nearly as quick as it seems. They’ve grown in a smart way, starting small and developing their skills, although Tom Kovac claims his brewing capabilities come from a long line of family who had their hand in it going back to a ship’s captain in his family tree from the 1600s. Once the skills were in place, then expanding began, trying new flavors, calling on not just favorite flavors, but ones that have mass appeal.

Then some tweaking happened, and before long expansion to a wider audience. Once the audience had grown to a level that met the current distribution, a larger distributor was needed to increase the brand further. These are the lessons that matter. Take time to develop your skills, experiment to improve, tweak it further, expand your distribution, and then do it again.

But throughout that process, remember what is important, why you wanted to start the business in the first place. When the underlying reason is forgotten, many businesses collapse under the weight of the increasing business because the support system is no longer in place. For Small Town Brewery, the support system is its connection to the community. It even implies that connection in the very name of the company.

The post Small Town Brewery: Taking a Small Business to a National Sensation using Public Relations appeared first on 5W PR News and Updates, NY Public Relations Agency Blog.

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

How The Worlds Of PR and SEO Benefit Each Other

The world of marketing is rapidly changing. With the advent of digital communication and the explosion of social media, it is no surprise that things have gone through such a drastic metamorphosis.

With these changes, two segments are joining forces like never before. The world of SEO and PR are now actively working together on joint projects with shared goals and visions. This is due to the astounding success compounding these two segments has produced. Below are seven ways in which SEO and PR successfully complement each other.

Backlinking

Backlinking is the bread and butter for SEO. By garnering links from authoritative websites, your business is able to achieve unprecedented search rankings. One high-quality backlink has the potential to make a much greater impact than several lower quality backlinks.

Fortunately, these type of authoritative websites is the specialty of PR groups. Work with your PR professionals to take advantage of these high-quality links to drive your search rankings. By designing a mutual campaign, you can be sure to take full advantage of these situations by establishing common goals.

Hot Topics and Keywords

SEO specializes in identifying trending keywords and topics that are of interest. By providing this information to your PR group, they can work to provide stories that effectively utilize those keywords.

By focusing on creating trending content, your search rankings are further increased. This helps to increase your click-through rate substantially as well. All of this is achieved just by sharing a bit of information to allow your PR department to create more effective campaigns.

SEO Analysis of PR Pieces

Your SEO team is able to improve the quality of the PR team’s campaigns by regularly measuring their rankings and performing search engine analysis. This type of peer review enables your PR team to work to develop more effective campaigns that are better at reaching your target audience.

Your SEO team can examine things like keyword efficiency, click-through rates and much more. All of this information is able to be utilized by your PR team to create more effective campaigns in the future.

Social Media Promotion

Public relations professionals realize the importance of social media more than most. By working to create engaging content that is trending, they can further drive search rankings with social media promotion.

As topics begin to trend more and more on social media, these links continue to drive traffic to your site. As a result, this increased traffic further improves search rankings. Your SEO team can then work with the keywords featured in social media to better improve your search result standing.

The Importance of Professional Connections and Relationships

Any public relations professional knows the importance of networking. To better distribute their content, they work to establish relationships with bloggers and other small media outlets. This type of coverage can prove to be just as important as larger media posts.

By taking advantage of these smaller media connections, your SEO team can work to incorporate keywords into your PR team’s content. This increased coverage only furthers your search engine ranking potential.

Sharing Media Information

SEO and PR professionals tend to have a very different view of media companies. The types of information they have varies based on their standpoints. For example, a PR professional will likely know the general tone used by an outlet, how favorably they view certain products and an understanding of certain reporting styles of employees at the news outlet.

However, an SEO professional likely has information like the sites search rankings, their unique visitor count, and other relevant traffic information. While these two views are very different, both are equally important.

By working together and sharing this information with each department, a better campaign is able to be developed. This allows you to ensure your message is reaching your target audience with greater certainty.

Evolved Press Releases

Press releases have changed as with most other advertising. As such, to be effective appropriate multimedia components must be incorporated to maintain viewer attention. Also, social media channels have to be linked to be truly effective. Your PR team provides the content creation and design necessary to gather attention.

Your SEO team is able to provide the other piece of the puzzle. By incorporating trending keywords that go with the engaging content, you can be sure to drive traffic to your site successfully.

The world of marketing is continuing to evolve. As such, the once distinctly separate worlds of PR and SEO are becoming increasingly blurred. To truly maximize the potential of both departments, they have to work together to create content that is both engaging and trending.

While the way each group views figures and content differ, their goals are the same. They want to create increased traffic in the most efficient way possible. By working with each other to share information and insight, you can be sure your PR and SEO teams are working at full potential.

The post How The Worlds Of PR and SEO Benefit Each Other appeared first on 5W PR News and Updates, NY Public Relations Agency Blog.

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.

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