3 Awesome Things You can do with LinkedIn’s New Website Demographics

Recently, LinkedIn rolled out its new Website Demographics feature which allows any business that has a LinkedIn Ads account to better identify who exactly is coming to their site. While Google Analytics has for years shown us aggregate data with sessions, pageviews, and more, we actually don’t know who makes up these metrics. What LinkedIn aspires to do here is provide granular information about your website’s visitors such as:

  1. Job title

  2. Company industry

  3. Job seniority

  4. Job function

  5. Company size

  6. Location

  7. Country

  8. Company

What’s really cool about this is that you’re able to actually break this down at the domain, subfolder or page level, so you can see exactly who is visiting a certain sections or pages of your site. But there’s so much more. Data isn’t intrinsically valuable by itself, one needs to know what they’re going to do with that data in order to make it valuable. Because all of you are busy, I’ve taken the liberty of hashing out a couple of the best ways to use this data for good with your company.

Getting started with Website Demographics

As I mentioned before, to get access to Website Demographics, you’re going to need to have an Ads account, so you if you don’t already have one, go ahead and set one up or at least get access to one. If you do not have a LinkedIn Ads account set up and would like to have one, click here for information on how to do so.

I’m going to assume for now that you either already have an Ads account or have just set one up, so we’re going to get into the implementation stage. Once in your account, you’ll need to click on account assets and then “Insight Tag”, as shown in the screenshot below:

What is the Insight Tag you ask? The kind experts at LinkedIn describe it as “a piece of lightweight JavaScript code that you can add to your website to enable in-depth campaign reporting and unlock valuable insights about your website visitors. As a LinkedIn Marketing Solutions customer, you can use the LinkedIn Insight Tag to track conversions, retarget website visitors, and unlock additional insights about members interacting with your ads.” If you have more questions about how the tag will affect your site, you can check out this page, but in a nutshell, it’s pretty much all benefit and little negative as the tag is unlikely to slow down your site in any significant way, but you would be providing LinkedIn more information about your site’s visitors.

After you click on the Insight Tag button, you’ll be brought to the following screen:

You’ll need to verify it for your domain, but then you’ll be able to place it on all of the pages of your website. My favorite way to do this is via Google Tag Manager which makes it very simple. The Insight tag can be handled as either custom HTML tag (just copy and paste the code above) or within the pre-made option (seen below) that just requires your partner ID, which can be found in the second line of the JavaScript of the image above. Though some people may disagree with me, I find it easier to just copy and paste the entire script and add it as custom HTML.

After you have your Insight Tag on all of your pages, you can click on Website Demographics and begin to create an audience. I like to segment out by visitors to different pages to get an idea of who is visiting what pages on the site in question.

Examples of your audiences could be visitors to:

  • the homepage

  • a sales page

  • a services page

  • the entire blog section

  • literally anything else

Save your audience and then you’ll need to let your audience build. Once a minimum of 300 LinkedIn members visit the page or pages, you’ll start to have data and it will be visible under Website Demographics, but until that threshold is reached, it’ll say your audience is still building and you need to wait. This could take days to weeks depending on how much traffic your site gets, so plan accordingly. Eventually, you’ll get your visitors, the data will populate, and you’ll be able to explore around and glean some pretty cool insights. Don’t know where to start once you have this data? That’s ok. That’s the point of this post.

Use case #1: Better LinkedIn ad targeting

Let’s call a spade a spade, LinkedIn developed and released Website Demographics because it anticipates that with this new information, companies will be more likely to spend on their platform. Without a doubt, the information provided best dovetails with LinkedIn advertising. Why? Well, all of the information it provides such as job title, location, job function, seniority level, company size, etc. all happen to be targeting functions on LinkedIn.

In the event you have landing pages and/or forms that require a person to fill in their job title, it’s quite likely that your CRM will eventually contain examples like this:

  • Vice President

  • Vice President, Finance

  • VP Finance

  • VP

  • VP, Finance

  • Vice Pres

  • Executive VP

The problem with this is that if you try to collate this data with a pivot table, each one of these titles will be calculated as a separate entity, which makes calculations difficult, especially if just about every single one of the job titles collected has 8 or so variants. With Website Demographics, all of this data is easily processed and streamlined because LinkedIn will bucket the job titles into groups that it allows you to target via ads. No more guessing if certain titles can be targeted by LinkedIn.

Beyond this, there are also bits of business intelligence such as company size, company industry, job function and seniority level that other analytics sources such as Google Analytics, Webmaster Tools, Facebook, or Twitter likely won’t be able to provide. This allows you to take your segmentation to the next level by analyzing exactly who is landing on what pages and providing you the opportunity (though you’ll have to seize it) to target to an incredibly specific audience and serve them content that is highly targeted and relevant to their interests.

Sponsored InMails might be a great tool here as you’ll be able to tailor your messages specifically and be able to use your credits wisely. As a reminder, sponsored InMail messages are those that get sent to your message inbox as opposed to appearing in your news feed or in a module on the right-hand side where LinkedIn text ads are found. They allow you to contact anyone on LinkedIn without an introduction or contact information. InMail messages can have up to 200 characters in the subject line and up to 2,000 characters in the body, so there’s plenty of space to get your message across. LinkedIn does not let you send Inmails without a subject line.

Use case #2: Business intelligence for content creation (organic search/paid social)

Yes, Website Demographics can be immensely helpful if you want to run LinkedIn ads, but it does, in fact, have other use cases besides helping to fill LinkedIn’s coffers. Once we have the valuable business intelligence about who is visiting our website, we need to ask ourselves, are we currently providing these audiences with the content that they’d find useful? In the digital marketing industry, I tend to view anything that comes with a guarantee skeptically. However, I can nearly guarantee that by adding more exceptionally high-quality content to your website that specifically addresses the problems and pain points of your newly identified (or confirmed) audience, your business will only benefit. I’ve never had a single client who has said, “No thanks, we don’t want anymore qualified organic traffic than we already have.”

For example, think about the seniority and job functions of the people who are visiting your site. Is it possible that the junior-level account manager would likely respond best to different ad copy than a senior-level partner? Do they have different needs? As Tom Critchlow recently wrote, “there’s too much mediocre content written for no-one and spread to everyone.” Tailor your content to be as relevant as possible to the audience that searches for and reads it and you’ll give your organization in a much better chance to achieve more conversions (and probably higher rankings too, which doesn’t suck).

If your business doesn’t already have personas, this very well could be the time to create them, comparing the data from LinkedIn with the data you have from your CRM on who your best (and worst) clients are. Match the data from LinkedIn and interview similar profiles from your actual customers asking:

  1. What value do they receive from using your company?

  2. Do they perceive your company to be an industry expert in the field?

  3. Do they turn to your company for updates within the industry?

  4. How does your company make their job easier?

  5. What benefits do they get from working with your company over a competitor?

  6. What information would they like to see that you currently don’t produce?

  7. What information does your company have that would make their lives easier if they had access to it?

  8. On what channels/sources do they get their industry news from?

  9. On what channels do they share industry news?

Ideally, you find out what matters to your segmented audiences and those topics also have significant organic search volume. This post is not on keyword research, but if you’d like to read some good posts on how you can quickly and effectively do keyword research in your niche, you can check out:

  • Paul Shapiro’s Searchlove Boston 2016 presentation

  • Geoff Kenyon on how to use SEMrush

  • Me on how to  do keyword research in 90 minutes

But not all content that you create needs to have great search volume, another option is to create content that is likely to be engaged with because it provides value, often when your target audience doesn’t know they need it. A few companies that I think do this really well are DeepCrawl, Botify and Onnit, which send out periodic emails and well-timed articles on social media that I open strictly because they make my life easier both in my professional life (DeepCrawl and Botify) and my personal life (Onnit). The key takeaway here is not to create and send emails just because you think you should or your boss says to, but to actually deliver relevant content that provides value. Just look at the screenshot of my inbox when I do a search for Botify:

As an SEO, all of these headlines appeal to me. If you’re only sending me updates about your company or speaking about how I can learn more about your company, you’ll lose me. Targeted emails and social media posts need to make my life easier or better in order for me to open or engage with them and Linkedin’s Website Demographics provide great information about who your audience is. Now you just need to give them what they want, minimizing the guesswork.

Use case #3: Engage with visitors to specific pages

This last part use case may seem a bit creepy, but I’d ask, isn’t nearly all marketing creepy these days because of the level of granularity we have? If your marketing isn’t specific or targeting a highly relevant audience, aren’t you just wasting money and not properly leveraging the tools at your disposal? Ethics aside, let’s get to the targeting.

This use case may be most helpful if you work in the B2B space and have a Contact Us or a Services type of page. If you’re responsible for business development or closing leads, you might have CRM that tracks your leads or just your email to know with whom you’re engaging. If you see a particular company is visiting your conversion pages and they’re demonstrating interest, but you also know that that company had emailed you a few days or weeks earlier, maybe it’s time to send a follow-up.

This can be used exactly like LinkedIn’s feature for showing you who is visiting your profile, but in this case, you know they’ve accessed specific pages. Of course, you could, in theory, employ this use case for any page on your website and there certainly might be a reason to do that, but putting the finishing touches on a warm lead and sending a friendly reminder just as that person is visiting a specific page on your site might be enough to close the deal. Feel free to modify this to best meet your exact needs, but the main takeaway here is that in some cases, you might be able to tie the data back from who is a lead in your system to who is visiting your site. Engaging with that person at the right moment could be the difference between money in your pocket or money in your competitor’s.

Rounding it all up

LinkedIn’s new Website Demographics tools is super easy to use and requires very little effort to deploy. I’m of the belief that it’s always better to have more information rather than less and even if you don’t know what to do with all that data now, you could always use it later.

Without a doubt, the best use case for Website Demographics information is to plow it back into LinkedIn for highly effective targeting, but the knowledge can be used off of the platform if you have the ability to leverage the insights for content creation or following up with leads. This is a new tool so I personally don’t have all that much experience with it yet, so if you come up with other cool use cases for this data, I’d be excited to see it.

Happy marketing!

The road to success through the eyes of an intern

Suc·cess /səkˈses/

Attainment of wealth, favor or eminence

 

Most would agree with this definition. Money, popularity and power don’t seem so bad, right?

As a centennial entering the workforce, I’ve learned that humanity desires much more. Success is not the attainment of wealth, favor or eminence, but rather perpetual joy.

GSD&M interns have Internship Experience Meetings which teach us about different departments within the agency. While learning about said departments, these meetings also helped me come up with what I consider to be the five necessities for true success:

Stay curious. I’m an acting major who interned with GSD&M’s communications team. Kelly Clemons is an architecture major turned IT intern, and Jack Epsteen—once a design major—is now the head of GSD&M’s production department. My point is: shadow people that are doing things of your interest, ask questions and don’t limit yourself. Never stop learning, because curiosity is key to being an active part of the world around you and can lead to paths unknown.

Serve others. Become a servant to those less fortunate than you by volunteering. The one thing no one can get back is time (sorry, guys, still no time travel). It’s the most valuable gift one can give. Staying concerned with the well-being of others can spill over into your work life and will contribute to your journey of success. 

You can’t do it alone. Staying humble is valuable because it drives you to create meaningful work. Remember that no one produces good work alone, so let your team know how grateful you are for them, and use them as a resource for constant inspiration and learning.

Got balance? Miguel Masso, a decision sciences intern, is a firm believer in putting work down at the end of the day and not picking it up until the following morning. Everyone’s beliefs on balance are different, but what we all know to be true is that if you aren’t healthy physically or mentally, what you produce won’t be your best product. We have to put ourselves first. 

Love the environment you’re in. Having a healthy work environment is genuinely rewarding. Any conflict or friction is easier dealt with because it’s known that we have a common goal. Regardless of your title, learn what that “common goal” is and keep it in mind when communicating and working with others. Love and care for your work environment, and it will do the same for you.

Internship Experience Meetings were meant to teach us about several departments within the agency, but for me, the outcome was a lesson about what success really is. At the end of the day, we are not accomplishments and titles. As human beings, we need to find joy in the process. That process is the journey, not a goal.

 

Suc·cess /səkˈses/

Attainment of wealth, favor, or eminence joy

Unpacking Artificial Intelligence

From the future of work to the subversion of democracy, 2017 has seen artificial intelligence subject to a wide variety of associations. Stemming from scientific breakthroughs and heightened by the allure of existential risk, the implications of AI can seem grave if not overhyped, with a tendency to engender more confusion than strategic clarity among marketers. In truth, there are very exciting things going on in AI research. Coupled with and enabled by our data-driven economy, the advancement and growing ubiquity of AI software stands to dramatically impact the global economy in coming years.

But marketers should be careful not to conflate stories about experiments in deep neural network technology (such as headlines about AI’s ability to master our most challenging strategy games on their own, predict your sexual preference, and invent its own language) with game-changing technologies poised to dissolve our professions (much less our progeny). Working in a creative industry, marketers are well-positioned to thrive in an AI-enabled environment, particularly in the short term.

 

Jargon Parsing, Hype-Checking, and Current Presence

Think of AI as a collection of software techniques used to make computers reason similar to how humans reason. Machine learning is a branch of AI techniques that entail configuring an algorithm to automatically adjust itself based on large amounts of data. Plenty of machine learning methods exist (mostly amounting to robust statistical procedures), but neural networks are behind the most jarring headlines you’ll come across. Neural networks are somewhat mysterious algorithms created by processing extremely large amounts of data through synaptic structures, similar to how a human brain functions.

In the context of human capabilities, today’s AI can only perform a relatively small range of skills – it’s so-called narrow or weak. The holy grail for AI research is general or strong AI, a system that can rival human intelligence in sufficient domains so as to be considered convincingly human. With data comprising the backbone of AI and neural networks showing so much promise, an arms race is underway among researchers in government, academia, and the private sector seeking to master AI. By training their neural networks with enormous amounts of data, these researchers use a process known as deep learning to discover nuanced patterns that human cognition is incapable of reaching alone.

The thing is, though, these sorts of technologies are already commonplace in consumer tech. For instance, both Google Search and Google Translate are technically powered by AI, as are Facebook’s news feed and Spotify’s Discover Weekly. Because it fundamentally entails large amounts of image data, products involving computer vision such as Snapchat’s facial recognition, Google visual search, and Pinterest Lens also necessarily rely on AI. Autonomous technology also forms the technical basis for programmatic advertising itself – perhaps unsurprising as ad exchanges are rooted in trade automation. In truth, the technology is all around us as marketers; 2018 will just be the year when it most noticeably finds its way into more novel marketing solutions.

When reckoning with speculations about AI and the future of work, it’s helpful to think about human capabilities in four main skill categories: manual routine, cognitive routine, manual nonroutine, and cognitive nonroutine. In theory, manual routine tasks found in places like factory working and assembly lines will be the quickest to automate, whereas cognitive nonroutine tasks such as being creative (or any job entailing a high degree of interpersonal interaction, such as nurses or social workers) will grow in demand. This is because nonroutine cognitive tasks are inherently much more difficult to quantify, and new technology always entails a degree of technological unemployment.

There remains a vibrant discussion about whether job creation will outpace technological unemployment; because most marketing activities fall into the savory quadrant of cognitive nonroutine tasks, our profession stands to be largely insulated from complete job automation for the foreseeable future. But let’s not kid ourselves into thinking cognitive routine tasks are not a loathsome aspect of modern marketing. Anyone working in analytics, media, or traditional digital marketing such as search engine optimization (SEO) or search engine marketing (SEM) at a large agency knows the countless hours of routine number crunching and other cognitive chores are endemic to the attention economy – thankfully, this is where AI stands to most significantly benefit marketers in 2018.

 

Future Marketing Applications

Just as AI is not new to consumer tech, it is also not new to marketing. Most existing solutions derive their value from customer relationship management solutions, like Salesforce’s Einstein and Marketo that increasingly bake in machine learning functionality that allows for predictive and anticipatory lead-generation tactics. Adobe Smart Tags and Google’s Cloud Vision API also allow for smart digital asset management services, affording the automation of display ad trafficking by using computer vision to generate naming conventions on the fly.

Companies such as Affectiva and GumGum offer a glimpse at the emergent computer vision space, using facial recognition to track expressions and offer so-called “emotion as a service” for novel testing methodologies, as well as application programming interfaces (APIs) for creative experimentation. For retailers, providers such as ShopperTrak and RetailNext use computer vision to learn more about customers, leveraging continuous footage of shoppers inside and outside their stores to serve more relevant offers and advertising. Vendors such as Clarifai and LogoGrab use similar tech to provide services along the lines of “visual listening,” scraping the visual Web for instances of your brand or desirable user-generated content (UGC), as do existing social listening and sentiment analysis platforms such as Crimson Hexagon and Synthesio.

Even creative roles are in the sights of AI technologies. As we produce more data, neural networks will also grow more capable, increasingly able to augment routine aspects of creative work. Manifest in software like Adobe Sensei, Grid.io, and Wibbitz, these proficiencies are still budding but show great promise. And while programs that automate copywriting tasks, such as Persado and Automated Insights, can be useful for smaller-budget campaigns and copy testing, these technologies are far from diluting creative capabilities. Rather, they stand to enhance artistic faculties, stimulating and augmenting the creative process by analyzing creative work and iterating against aesthetics, archetypes, or emotional nuances.

 

Less Obvious Implications

As routine cognitive tasks take up decreasing mindshare among marketers, nonroutine cognitive activities grow in importance. In this environment, AI’s role in creative activations and tactical approaches is tantamount to its role in operations technology. Some of the most powerful brand activations moving forward will also be made possible with the emergence of new AI technologies. Following are three activation paradigms bolstered by the rise of machine learning and neural networks.

Engage Crowdculture
Alongside AI and social platforms, the crowd is said to be a pillar of the new business playbook. It follows that marketers should orient themselves toward engaging the crowd for more innovative campaigns using AI. This will not only afford cultural benefits when well executed, but can also be used as a means through which to acquire novel forms of customer data.

Though it’s unclear whether data was collected to improve targeting efforts or contribute to a larger campaign, the Snickers Hungerithm is an example of leveraging crowd culture with AI to great effect. The Hungerithm was essentially a crowdsourced algorithm based on the collective sentiment of the Web, dictating the price of Snickers at participating 7-Elevens, with the idea being that cheaper Snickers bars would help satisfy our collective hangriness. Because the rise of social and mobile has largely led to our data deluge, it makes sense that the intersection of both is fertile ground for brands to leverage the crowd. This is particularly true when an interactive experience tied to the physical world is calibrated using AI in real time, such as in the case of Snickers’ Hungerithm. More interestingly, brands are charged to experiment using this data to better inform planning about participating customers, working toward building a robust micro-influencer ecosystem for future campaigns.

Lean Into Experiential
AI affords novel opportunities for brands to interact with users in the real world and allows novel types of legitimate data collection. Not only are experiential activations notable for their capacity to familiarize society with AI, they also allow for novel types of legitimate data collection, with AI-based monitoring capabilities improving measurement and attribution modeling. Individual consumer data can be analyzed to better track marketing dollars, with technologies such as visual listening, expression tracking, and sentiment analysis allowing marketers to better calculate impressions and engagement (provided the experience is shareable, of course).

An early example of this was Chevrolet’s Positivity Pump, which let people receive discounts on gas based on the positivity of their social media profiles. Similar to Snickers’ Hungerithm, this activation centered on the negativity on social media – a cultural tension interestingly related to AI-enabled social platforms. The activation used IBM Watson’s AI technology to do something novel and legitimately valuable with social data. With experiential campaigns, be smart: The best experiential activations don’t turn consumer content into brand schlock; they respect their consumer by ensuring their activations are things consumers want to share, not what they’re forced to share.

Raise Your Chatbots
Facilitating UGC contests with chatbots is one way to leverage the shortening relationship between consumers and brands. The most interesting examples of chatbot activations involve their serving as input vehicles for AI-powered personalization engines.

For instance, executions such as Sephora’s Virtual Artist chatbot used a computer vision API to detect faces in user-submitted photos – paired with smart technology on the back-end, this activation essentially allows people to try on makeup before they buy it. Other brands such as Perrier and Denny’s have used chatbots to customize photos and deliver coupons through choose-your-own-adventure campaigns. With any chatbot strategy, data collection protocols are fundamental. It is imperative to create the most useful and interactive chatbot experiences, building relationships in ways that both elevate your brand and garner valuable consumer data for future campaigns.

 

Vigilance, Overreliance, and Our Responsibility Writ Large

In 2018, some marketing executives will be tempted to view AI investments as simply a way to cut labor costs. As business leaders, marketers have a responsibility to retrain, reinvest, and even consider readjusting revenue models and talent schemes to leverage AI in creative new ways, as opposed to simply reaping marginal efficiency gains to stay competitive in the short term.

On personal and professional levels, marketers will be increasingly reliant on AI-driven algorithms for day-to-day information gathering. Over time, this algorithmic deference will transform our cognitive abilities; our minds and modes of thinking will continue evolving alongside technology. But in overrelying on information feeds (as opposed to seeking new information, media, and aesthetics for ourselves), we risk compromising our mental gatekeeping. Assessing this scenario, the rise of AI challenges marketers to be vigilant in fighting algorithmic overreliance, pushing our appreciation for experimentation, divergent thinking, and novelty in all aspects of life. In realizing this opportunity, we can use AI to enhance our perspective, reinvigorate cultural vibrancy, and, by way of action, fight the complacency endemic to our current condition.
Artificial intelligence infographic

The post Unpacking Artificial Intelligence appeared first on The Richards Group.

Welcome to the Jungle: Retail in the Age of Amazon

When Amazon purchased Whole Foods, it confirmed the power of combining a rich digital ecosystem with a network of brick-and-mortar locations. Big retailers started realizing they couldn’t afford to treat digital touchpoints as just an enhancement to their physical-first offering – they need to dedicate resources to fortifying existing assets, reducing friction in the customer experience, and researching new ways they can use digital to diversify their own brand’s ecosystem. In 2018, the brands that will be most successful at defending against Amazon will be those that make big investments in bridging the gap between digital and physical shopping.

 

Why Look to Amazon?

The $700 billion grocery industry had grown largely stagnant since the 1980s. Seemingly out of nowhere, Amazon, the world’s most valuable retailer, gobbled up 466 stores’ worth of product and infrastructure for a cool $13.7 billion. The acquisition was mentioned more than 304,000 times on social media. Amazon’s stock surged; competing retailers’ stocks stumbled. Whole Foods became more affordable, and Amazon Fresh appeared overnight.

A far cry from its humble roots selling books online, the retailer has morphed and reinvented itself into a marketing platform, a delivery and logistics network, a credit lender, an auction house, a major book publisher, a production studio, a fashion designer, a hardware manufacturer, and a leading host of cloud server space. Now, with the Whole Foods deal, Amazon has shown that it also has an appetite for brick-and-mortar. Retailers who rested comfortably behind their carts, cashiers, and countertops are coming to realize that their greatest safeguard against digital threats is diminishing, and Amazon has the money and ambition to prove it.

Today, more than 50 percent of shoppers turn to Amazon when shopping for a product online, and 45 percent of online retail searches start on Amazon.com. Customers know their order will likely not arrive today; they won’t be able to feel, see, or experience the product in any way, yet the majority of shoppers are turning to Amazon first.

50 percent of shoppers turn to Amazon first for product searches

Why Amazon Behaves the Way It Does

Amazon’s company mantra goes like this: “Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.” The Day 1 mantra teaches that constant, feverish innovation is the only way to ensure continual growth and the only way to ward off institutional stagnation. By cultivating a culture of constant change, experimentation, and a healthy view of failure, companies like Amazon set the pace for the marketplace rather than having to react when they’re unprepared.

Jeff Bezos quote

This is something that traditional retailers struggle with, especially those whose physical locations were considered the company’s lifeblood until e-commerce shook them from their quiet, commercial slumber. Almost all of them have adopted the “online also” mentality, but when you have online-first brands like Amazon carving out physical space for themselves, then you have some catching up to do. Big retailers are losing their competitive advantage over their digital counterparts, which is why they should push for better, frictionless, customer-centric digital experiences to meet their customers where they spend most of their time.

 

Evolving Retail

Retailers can fall into the trap of dividing brands into two general categories: ones that rely on their physical stores and digital-first brands who rely solely on e-commerce. But because they’ve divided the physical and online experience, they’ve failed to adapt to growing digital needs and have alienated the digital-native customer. Joanna Arhontis, author of “The New Retail Revolution: Bricks and Mortar Stores are not Dead Just Different,” insists, “Brick-and-mortar stores have not embraced online. They have tried to take their stores and put them online and have left out the experience. They don’t quite understand how to engage with the customer like we do in-store. We have to bring that to life online. The consumer needs the retailer to engage with them.” Customers are insisting on digital support, but most retailers are failing to accommodate them. For instance, online sales will exceed $400 billion in 2017 and are expected to soar above $560 billion by 2020 – it’s the responsibility of the retailer to adapt to these changes and provide an experience that respects the user’s increasingly digital preferences.

Chart showing retail sales growth prediction for 2020 will be $561 billionAmazon, on the other hand, is completely changing what people thought was possible with omnichannel retail. It’s expanding its own customer loyalty program, Prime, to function as the new loyalty program for Whole Foods. And it’s rolling out the “Amazon experience” at Kohl’s, which grants merchandising privileges for its home devices within Kohl’s locations, but also allows any Amazon user to return products that were purchased online. Amazon is disrupting retail by constantly pursuing a more fluid customer journey that expands across digital and in-store.

 

Embrace the Ecosystem

As the most salient example of constant territory expansion, Amazon takes unpredictable forays into industries that would have seemed bizarre for it to enter only a few years ago. When successful, these moves help Amazon connect with customers through an increasing number of touchpoints by offering even more convenient services, and by sweetening Prime’s value proposition to prevent users from abandoning Amazon for other services. This is what’s called “brand stretch,” or a brand’s ability to reasonably venture into related categories while still staying true to who it is. Not all brands enjoy the seemingly limitless brand stretch that Amazon appears to have, but they can still adapt by harnessing closely related, complementary activations and business extensions so they’re more able to close the gap between their in-store presence and the ever-open ecosystem of digital touchpoints.

 

Expansion Through Acquisition

Expanding your offering through corporate takeover isn’t new – what used to seldom happen between large brands is now happening more and more as brick-and-mortar-based brands focus on keeping pace with, and even staying a step ahead, of Amazon. One way brands are accelerating their digital growth is by acquiring companies that satisfy a technology need for the brand. Because of Amazon’s expanding presence in digital décor and home installation, the big blue-and-yellow brick-and-mortar DIY giant IKEA purchased TaskRabbit specifically to stay a step ahead. TaskRabbit connects people who need tasks done with people who are willing to do them, and although IKEA already has its own installation system, the acquisition allowed it to dig its claws deeper in the digital world. Next up for IKEA: an augmented reality app for the iPhone that allows users to visualize furniture in their home before committing to a purchase.

 

Define and Defend Territory

A decade ago, a brand could get away with being really great at one thing. But Amazon is expanding consumer appetites for richer digital experiences at their fingertips. Successful brands find unique ways to create more digital touchpoints within their ecosystem that still seem reasonable within the definition of the brand. In 2015, Under Armour did just that when it acquired online dietary go-to site MyFitnessPal. The apparel giant recognized that people who wear Under Armour are also likely to be interested in nutrition, fitness communities, and tracking their workouts. This acquisition, like IKEA and TaskRabbit, elevated Under Armour from a brand that outfits elite and amateur athletes into a holistic platform for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. Now, users can be an Under Armour athlete in the gym, on the trail, or in the kitchen. Under Armour has even incorporated MyFitnessPal into its brick-and-mortar experience.

 

Nurture the Omnichannel Experience

Companies that are growing are those that push resources into improving both their digital and in-store experiences. Ulta Beauty, which is actually outpacing Amazon in terms of growth rate, has always had an exceptional in-store experience, allowing customers to sample products and receive makeup tutorials from experienced staff. Ulta’s emphasis on growing digital sales in Q1 of 2017 resulted in a meteoric 71 percent leap in online sales. What’s more, users who shop both in-store and online spend two-and-a-half times as much as users who just do one. By devoting more dollars to digital initiatives, Ulta is drawing more revenue out of its customers while still enjoying the safety of a stellar in-store experience.

Consumers who shop online and at retail stores buy 2.5 times moreBrands are finally seeing the possibility in omnichannel shopping and are making a more concerted effort to bridge the gap that exists between online and in-store experiences. Walmart just announced that it plans on adding 1,000 online grocery pickup locations in 2019. In place of building more Walmart locations, the big-box giant expects to invest in more digital experiences and integrated shopping initiatives to grow e-commerce sales by about 40 percent by the same time. It’s even looking into ways that it can get its employees to deliver products on their way home from work and amp up its logistics to support same-day delivery in certain markets.

 

Resist the Amazon Takeover

Brick-and-mortar brands that want to stay Amazon-proof will need to stop thinking of themselves merely as a physical brand that also has some kind of online experience. Whether they build something in-house or make a strategic acquisition, retailers need to be pushing their in-store vision in a few key ways:

  • Be curated. Sephora is rolling out smaller concept stores that feature state-of-the-art digital personalization and customized makeovers for visitors.
  • Be social. Lululemon uses Eventbrite registrations to draw incremental foot traffic around a common customer passion: free yoga sessions.
  • Be frictionless. Amazon Go’s highly connected brick-and-mortar locations boasted a checkout-free experience. The concept stores have gone through some growing pains, but the principle is building a completely seamless omnichannel experience.
  • Be experiential. Nike’s digital shoe terminals used product-detection technology to display enriched content around products that were placed on the terminals available in flagship stores.
  • Be bold. Walmart’s Store No. 8 is a new e-commerce incubator devoted to concocting innovative ways the world’s biggest brick-and-mortar retailer can transform e-commerce. Store No. 8 is built on the principle of betting big on transformative ideas, and could be just the kind of thing that keeps it out of Amazon’s reach.

 

Change Is Good

Shifting toward a digital-first model in a traditionally brick-and-mortar category is a big move, but it’s not unachievable. Small steps in the right direction can generate outsized returns for even the most change-averse brands. With Amazon setting the pace for both retail and digital innovation, the best brands will treat their digital ecosystem as a storefront, and their storefronts as convenient physical extensions of their digital presence. They’ll look beyond brick-and-mortar and see the possibility (and profitability) of creating meaningful digital experiences that extend the brand into more natural moments in their target’s digital day.

The post Welcome to the Jungle: Retail in the Age of Amazon appeared first on The Richards Group.

Brand Safety – The New Reality

The Shifting Landscape of Digital Brand Safety

It’s a marketer’s worst nightmare: Learning your brand’s digital ads have been seen alongside terrorist recruitment videos and content created by hate groups. That’s exactly what happened to many advertisers in March of 2017 as word spread that ads on Google-owned video platform YouTube were shown with violent and graphic content. The resulting controversy, advertiser boycott, and ongoing industry debate brought the hot-water topic of brand safety – a brand’s requirement for ads to appear in or next to relevant, appropriate content – to a boil.

The association between ads and the content they’re seen with has been a concern among brands for years, but never has it been so keenly felt as in the age of widespread digital and social advertising. As more brand safety headlines have appeared and consumers have spoken out on social media, the ad industry has been shaken to the highest levels. In fact, according to a September 2017 study conducted by the CMO Council, 67 percent of marketers stated that poor “adjacency” (negative context from content surrounding digital ads) had damaged perceptions of their brand qualities and values.

 

So How Did We Get Here?

Digital advertising has been around for close to two decades now, so brand safety itself is not a new issue. What is new are landmark events and shifts in the brand safety landscape. These key things are contributing to brand safety’s importance in the advertising conversation of the last few years:

  • Quantity over quality in ad buying. The increasing demand for digital ad inventory (across social media as well as digital video and display) has been met with programmatic methods of buying and placing digital ads automatically, allowing efficient reach at an unprecedented scale. This created a growing appetite among advertisers for cheaper and cheaper reach, met by ad networks selling that cheap reach on a widening universe of ad placements. As the available ad inventory stretches further and faster, ads are placed on fringe sites espousing hate speech or on open-content sites like YouTube next to videos showing terrorism, violence, nudity, and more. This has also given rise to myriad issues linked to brand safety, including ad fraud, viewability, and media buying transparency. As the ad industry seeks high volumes of impressions for cheap, it loses a lot of the value of premium ad placements and high-quality experiences for consumers.
  • Brand safety errors from the world’s biggest ad platforms. Google and Facebook together control an enormous majority of the digital ad inventory in the U.S. (over 60 percent across both companies, according to eMarketer) and in the last year, they’ve given brands reason to worry. From Facebook’s multiple issues with fake news to Google’s brand safety controversies, marketers are realizing that the leading ad platforms have been too lax in the areas of fraud, transparency, and brand safety. In 2017, an increasing number of voices joined the chorus demanding more from Google, Facebook, and other ad networks in these areas.
  • An increasingly volatile cultural landscape. Since the 2016 presidential election, the U.S. has been divided over many issues, with controversies centered on race, patriotism, immigration, and more fueled largely by social media conversation. These flames have been fanned further by the rise of fake news – false headlines and hoaxes that spread rapidly on Facebook and Twitter. As a result, even marketers who attempt to stay neutral on most issues are not immune to brand-safety crises, as it’s easier than ever for an innocuous ad to appear next to a terror recruitment video, hate-speech-filled fake news article, or even content portraying a strong (and potentially controversial) political opinion. The increase in division over more issues in our country than ever before means there’s exponentially more harmful territory for ad placements than ever before.

 

The Brand Safety Landscape Is Changing

Even as the brand safety issue comes sharply into focus for marketers, it is continually changing, with new developments on a weekly (even daily) basis. What’s driving this change?

  • Social media as a (still) growing advertising destination…As social media networks like Facebook/Instagram, YouTube, Snapchat, Pinterest, and Twitter continue to grow and compete with each other for advertising dollars, the volume, locations, and possible formats for ads grow as well. Undeniably, Facebook is leading this process as it expands its video capabilities (introducing mid-roll ads), continues news feed advertising (allowing brands to be in-feed with potentially damaging content), and expands ads across thousands of sites using Facebook Audience Network (which has contributed to additional brand safety issues). As video content increasingly becomes the norm for consumers’ social media experience, it opens opportunities for ads that may or may not be running during or near inappropriate content.
  • …and a consumer watchdog platform. Consumers have been utilizing social media’s two-way communication to give real-time feedback to brands for years, but recently social media has become more popular as a way to demand brand response for brand safety violations. In December 2016, online advertisers came under fire for advertising on controversial conservative news site Breitbart, and the consumer backlash toward those advertisers was manifested on Twitter, where a new account called “Sleeping Giants” was created with the purpose of drawing the spotlight (and groups of angry Twitter users) toward advertisers whose programmatic ad buys had placed ads on the site. As consumers – who often assume brands are supporting controversial material – grow more accustomed to Twitter and Facebook as platforms to unite in voicing protest, brands must respond quickly and effectively.
  • More platform tools for verification and transparency are on their way (but they won’t solve everything). As mentioned, large ad networks, specifically Google and Facebook, own a huge portion of the world’s advertising inventory. In 2017, they both came under fire for issues related to brand safety and transparency. Google has stated it will be working diligently to improve brand safety measures, and Facebook recently made similar claims. Mounting pressure from marketers in 2017 will manifest as useful standards, brand safety tools, and more transparent reporting from Google and Facebook in 2018. Be on the lookout for announcements about brand safety standards from both companies, and make sure your own brand safety standards align. Both companies will likely release tools that bring standardization and a smoother workflow to the process of checking brand safety across ad placements. And both Google and Facebook will continually face demand for crystal-clear reporting as marketers continue to invest heavily in advertising across both platforms. However, these measures will be more reactive than proactive, and are only a supplement to a forward-thinking approach to keeping your brand safe.

 

Infographic showing the growing pace of brand-safety crises timeline

 

How Can You Stay Brand-Safe?
  1. Identify current risks. Consider this an opportunity to review your current level of brand safety. Contact your advertising partners and request lists of the sites and social content you’re currently running ads against. It may take a lot of work and involve a short-term decrease in efficiency, but if it helps you avoid negative headlines like the dozens of brands mentioned in 2017 alone, it’s worth it. If your ad partners can’t provide a database, ask why. Seek new solutions.
  2. Don’t ignore the human element. Programmatic ad buying, tools, algorithms, and lists are useful and efficient, but no automated solution will ever fully replace human judgment and intuition. We (humans) understand context, we understand our audience, we understand the cultural climate in which we live. While there is no blanket solution for including human discernment in the process of buying digital and social advertising, it’s still crucially important for your brand. Whether it’s a human check of your list of sites on which you advertise, a recurring check-in with your agency or ad network, or some other method, take steps to insert a human element into your digital ad-buying process.
  3. Recognize the importance of social media. Social media are now more widely known as tools for direct feedback from consumers to brands, and in a politically chaotic, divisive era, brands who run into safety issues by running ads against divisive content (on one side or the other) will hear about it quickly. Be ready to use social media as the two-way communication tools they were meant to be. Develop a brand safety playbook so that the steps and lines of communications are already established. Communicate proactively, and pair social media communication with decisive action. Consumers asking for information and action on social media won’t patiently wait 48 or 72 hours for your brand to respond.
  4. Tailor your media plan to your brand’s principles. The landscape of brand safety has changed – not only are there dangers in being paired with violent or sexual content, but the increasingly turbulent and divisive political environment means that even appearing with political or cause-related content could spark a Twitter-fueled brand safety crisis. It is increasingly harder for a brand to truly stay “neutral” on issues, so if you haven’t already, now is the time to decide what your brand stands for – its principles – and reflect that in the sites and content you include in your digital media plan. Opt in to the sites that align with your principles; opt out of the ones that don’t. This is not an easy or quick process, but it’s becoming more important every day. Taking these steps will anchor you in the midst of a rapidly shifting brand safety landscape.

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Seeing the World Through Social Vision

Understanding What the Smartphone Camera Sees

Photos and videos are a huge part of our cultural conversation. 2.8 trillion photos were shared on social networks in 2017 (set to increase 15 percent each year). What happens when computers can suddenly see and understand that visual conversation at scale? And what can brands do with this newfound power? No need to wait. 2018 will be the year of social vision, with artificial intelligence (AI) transforming the smartphone camera into a tool that brands can use to learn about, communicate with, assist, and ultimately sell to consumers in new ways.

 

Vision, Part of the Bigger Picture

Vision is just one of four pillars in which we see AI transforming marketing. But it is perhaps the most exciting for brands and advertisers, because it promises to change how we learn about and talk to our consumers in such a fundamental way.

AI in marketing table

 

Say It With the Camera, We’ll Listen

Shared social photos are the cornerstone of conversation today. Snapchat sprung into adoption because people wanted to snap their messages rather than simply type them. And now Facebook, one of the 10 largest companies (by market capitalization) in the world, is telling its users to “let your camera do the talking.”

Facebook Camera effects let your camera do the talking

The question is, can we listen to this conversation? Over 3 billion social photos are shared daily. Of the photos that include a brand, 85 percent do not have a caption that references the brand. But with advances in computer vision, many social listening tools are gaining the capability of visual listening. By applying AI to the firehose of public social photography, companies like Ditto Labs use visual listening to help brands understand their place (or the place of their competitors) in consumers’ lives in a way that text conversation cannot.

This conversation provides context for consumption. Where are people most likely to be enjoying my product, with whom, when? It also provides information about competitive products so you can also target based on those interactions.

Photo Firehose
Source: Ditto Labs

Visual listening is only the beginning. New ad products are also making it possible to use social vision AI to target consumers. For instance, Cluep Pics allows advertisers to serve ads to audiences who have posted photos that feature specific competitors or environments.

Cluep ad serving
Image courtesy of Cluep

 

The Rise of the Lens

Google, Facebook, Snapchat, and Pinterest are all working to turn the smartphone camera from a simple tool for capturing photos into a lens through which people can discover their world. Enabled by image recognition, these companies want to change how you see and search, what you share, and what you can do anytime you are using a smart device.

Change How You See and Search

Today, you might search for knowledge about companies, products, and people by typing or talking to Google. In 2018, searching will be done with lens and images. And it’s no surprise that Google is at the forefront of this shift. With the release of Google Lens in September 2017, people can identify anything from famous artwork to buildings (including storefronts), look up product information, and save dates from posters to your calendar.

Google Lens tweet

Google CEO Sundar Pichai nodded at the ambition behind Google Lens when he said, “all of Google was built on first understanding text and web pages.” What he doesn’t mention is that much of the wealth of Google came from using its search engine to help brands advertise themselves with messages and relevant content. If tomorrow’s search engine is a lens, it follows that a lens is where tomorrow’s search advertising will live. In 2018, brands should be ready to take advantage of search ads beyond the search bar of a computer.

Using these ads, brands have the opportunity to begin to interact with consumers as they search and experience the real world.

For a preview of where Google may be headed, it is helpful to look at Alibaba, the second-largest Internet company in the world after Google. Alibaba is integrating computer vision into each step of the journey from search to purchase. For example, a customer who lenses a picture of a music album in the real world will be presented with the option of visiting the social profiles of the musicians, seeing more details about the event, or buying tickets. If they want to purchase tickets, they can then confirm payment just by smiling at the app.

Alibaba’s Alipay App
Alibaba’s Alipay App – Source: Alibaba

Change How You Share

Because the smartphone camera is inherently a social camera, lenses built on social networks are worth paying attention to. Snapchat, perhaps the first social lens, recently rebranded itself as a “camera company” and filed a patent on object recognition ads (e.g., detecting a cup of coffee in a shared photo would display a miniature Dunkin’ Donuts shop on the breakfast table).

Not to be outdone, Facebook recently released a suite of social lensing products. As Mark Zuckerberg introduced these new products at the 2017 F8 Conference, he stated that Facebook wants to “turn smartphone cameras into the first AR platform.”

Camera Effects Platform and AR Studio

In his demo of these products (Camera Effects Platform and AR Studio), Zuckerberg shows the Facebook Camera app detecting a bottle of wine and adding an information card, making object recognition ads (like those in Snapchat’s patent) seem not only inevitable but imminent. Through lenses, augmented reality (AR) can change what people see. But because the smartphone camera is inherently social, these experiences also change what people can “say” by sharing what they see.

Facebook Camera example

Though a runner may not be wearing any Nike clothing, the brand uses Facebook Camera to become part of how they share their run with friends. Source: Facebook

Brands should explore opportunities with AR products and social lenses that change what people see about their brand. Advertisers must hold these experiences to a high standard, perhaps even more so than other ads, as the social lens – which uses our most personal device to change how we see ourselves and our world – is an intimate one. Thus, ads that use the social lens must be useful, interesting, or worth sharing.

For more on how AR is becoming a powerful marketing force, read Utility Over Novelty: AR’s New Marketing Focus.

Change What You Do

Since the dawn of the Internet, people have been finding products on shelves and showroom floors, then searching for them online in hopes of finding a better price. With social vision, the barrier between physical products and the buy button is eroding.

Source: Pinterest

In February 2017, Pinterest released Pinterest Lens, a camera function that finds pins related to anything a user can point their camera at. Already, Pinterest recognizes pictures of branded goods, logos, and locations. But discovery is only half the story for Pinterest Lens. A growing number of pins on the Pinterest platform feature the “Buy Now” button, letting inspiration turn into transaction in the span of a moment. In September of this year, Target announced that it will be integrating Pinterest Lens into its app and website.

This is not limited to packaged products. Social vision will give us new ways to instantly act when we see nearly anything. Soon, the information card that pops up when you point your camera at a restaurant may include a “Reserve Now” button.

This expression of intent may even take the form of a screenshot. For example, rewardStyle’s new LIKEtoKNOW.it app harnesses image recognition technology to convert screenshots into an itemized list to be shopped. If the image in the screenshot is created by an “influencer” in rewardStyle’s network, the users will automatically receive an email with shoppable links to each of the featured products.

rewardStyle’s new LIKEtoKNOW.it app

Image courtesy of rewardStyle

 

Your Ads, Through a New Set of Eyes

Ultimately, the rise of social vision and lensing makes all ads and products Internet-connected, interactive, and inevitably social. Tomorrow, people will be looking at anything from a magazine to a billboard with a new set of digital eyes. Companies need to ensure their products and ads are recognizable and are designed with the next steps that computer vision apps make possible in mind. Here are some tips to ensure that your brand is seen in this new world:

Listen
Use visual listening tools to understand how your brand and your competitors fit into the culture and lives of your consumers.

Target
Consider using visual targeting ads based on what consumers have shared in their images.

Be Easy to Find
Make your storefronts recognizable and ensure your location data is current and accessible. Make sure product and logo images are widely available and easily identified by image recognition software.

Be Interactive
Create content that is tied to a greater experience. Encourage the use of social lenses to link experiences and ads to products for purchase (e.g., “snap this ad using Pinterest Lens to see the whole collection”). Look for ways to use augmented reality ads to showcase your product in a new light when different objects, people, or places are recognized.

Overall, social vision is a big milestone on our pathway to “reconciling our dual citizenship in the physical and digital worlds” (as Hiroshi Ishii of MIT’s Media Lab put it). It will radically change life and marketing in 2018 and beyond, rewarding brands who take advantage of visual listening, new ad types, and the social lens.

The post Seeing the World Through Social Vision appeared first on The Richards Group.

Utility Over Novelty: AR’s New Marketing Focus

You see augmented reality (AR) in action with every yellow marker in a live NFL game. You play around with AR each time you try out a new Snapchat lens. You used AR to catch that rare Poliwag Pokemon last year in Pokemon Go.

Augmented reality is no new trend. In fact, the term “augmented reality” was coined in the early 1990s, and the concept of placing digital objects in the real world has been around since the 1950s.

If AR has been around for some time, why are we hearing about it so much lately?

Marketing with AR is changing. As accessibility is increasing, augmented reality is moving from flashy, entertainment-based executions to more useful, utilitarian concepts that make consumers’ lives easier.

 

The Past: AR as an Entertainment Marketing Tool

In the past few years, marketers have largely used augmented reality as a tool to entertain and inform an audience. Entertainment-based marketing concepts have historically worked best with AR because the technology lacked widespread adoption. Marketers employed flashy and creative executions to grab attention and instigate people to play around with the technology.

Consider some of the most lauded AR executions of the past few years:

Pokemon Go
In 2016, Pokemon Go got the nation off the couch and onto the streets with a game that encouraged physical activity in communities across the nation.

Pokeman Go
Source: pokemongolive.com

Snapchat Sponsored Lenses
Since the first branded lens in 2015 with 20th Century Fox, Snapchat has run hundreds of sponsored Snapchat lenses for brands. Some of the most notable lenses include Taco Bell’s Cinco de Mayo lens, which turned a user’s face into a giant taco shell, or Starbucks’ holiday lens, which turned a user into multiple holiday carolers.

Snapchat sponsored lenses
Source: twitter.com/tacobell

Star Wars AR
In 2017, Disney and Star Wars deployed several AR apps, including an AR lightsaber game and AR First Order Star Destroyers flying over famous landmarks.

Disney AR apps Star Wars
Source: gizmodo.com

These executions gamify an experience or entertain the user while creating awareness of a brand, but they are in stark juxtaposition to futurists’ predictions of AR being a fundamental change in human-computer interaction. As The Verge writer Adi Robertson put it, “augmented reality’s silly present sits uneasily with lofty rhetoric about its future.”

 

The Future: AR as a Utilitarian Marketing Tool

When Apple released its ARKit in June of 2017 and the subsequent iOS 11 update in September, it was clear that things were changing. While AR has been limited in the past by accessibility, with the release of the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X, Apple now offers the best hardware and software for AR app development.

“We’ve never had the vehicle or platform to make AR really good. This is what ARKit does.”
– Michael Valdsgaard, IKEA’s head of digital transformation

Google, Microsoft, and Facebook all have AR developer platforms as well, most notably Google with ARCore for Android. All of this recent hardware and software development means more advanced technology than ever to power our augmented realities.

Widespread AR adoption means more people have the opportunity to use augmented reality in their daily lives. Because of this, marketers will move away from flash-in-the-pan, moment-based executions that reach a smaller group of people toward more useful, widespread tools to make life easier. Entertaining AR applications certainly won’t go away, but in 2018, we’ll see more AR apps that feel more practical.

Augmented reality is ripe with opportunity for utility because, unlike virtual reality (VR), AR is grounded in reality. And for something to be useful, it has to have relevance to our own realities, our daily lives. As The Economist wrote in 2017, “Replacing the real world with a virtual one is a neat trick. Combining the two could be more useful.”

In an examination of some of the newest AR tools, it’s clear more and more developers are keeping utility in mind as they’re exploring the technology:

AR as a Measuring Tape

Air Measure AR measuring app

Air Measure, one of several measuring tape apps released in fall of 2017, turns your iPhone into a digital measuring tape.

AR as Your Interior Designer

IKEA’s interior design AR app

Source: IKEA

Released on iOS in the fall of 2017, IKEA Place is an AR app that allows consumers to virtually test-drive furniture and home goods with 98 percent accuracy, perhaps the most precise AR home improvement app yet.

AR as a Navigational Tool

Continental’s heads-up display (HUD) AR app
Source: Continental

Continental is a leader in augmented reality vehicle heads-up display (HUD) that gives you a 3D rendering of real-time traffic information through your front windshield.

AR as Your Virtual Business Assistant

Virtual assistant AR

Source: @azamsharp, Twitter

In June of 2017, developers experimented with a new way of sharing data with life-sized bar charts for business meetings. In late 2017, Prezi released a demo for AR presentations.

AR as Your Realtor

AR for realtors

Source: Justin Miller @incanus77, Twitter

In 2017, developers also experimented with overlaying housing information, a tool that could be useful for potential real estate buyers to make smarter decisions about what properties to pursue.

AR as a Teacher

AR for education

Complete Anatomy 2018, developed with ARKit, allows users to explore body parts like a human leg overlaid with anatomical information to virtually “dissect” it.

AR for astronomy

Night Sky updated its app for iOS 11 to take advantage of software advancements to provide a powerfully accurate augmentation of night-sky constellations.

We also can’t ignore the recent developments in AR headsets and glasses that allow augmented reality to become more like a 3D experience (vs. viewing a 2D augmentation through a phone). RideOn, for instance, is a company that recently developed a pair of AR ski goggles for the slopes. The goggles incorporate a display overlay, a high-definition camera, and Facebook Live integration.

Microsoft’s HoloLens is a self-contained AR headset where users wear a pair of thick transparent glasses. While initial demonstrations were purely entertaining in nature, now industries like healthcare, utility, architecture, and engineering are taking advantage of the utilitarian benefits of the HoloLens for education and improvement. While the technology still has a long way to go, it’s clear that industries are beginning to see the usefulness of AR in their trade.

 

How Can Your Brand Use AR to Be More Useful?

In 2018, AR technologies will be more advanced than ever. But even more importantly, they’ll be more widespread. More people than ever before will have access to this technology in their daily lives. So now is the time for marketers to find ways to use augmented reality to provide value in the lives of their consumers. We’ll never fully move away from the flashy, moment-in-time executions we’ve all grown to love, but in 2018, brands will increasingly consider tools that help consumers live better lives. And, ultimately, that means your brand is experienced in a way that is valuable in everyday life. That type of relevance is what many marketers dream of.

When evaluating how your brand could use augmented reality, first think about where the pain points are for your customers. What are their obstacles to purchase, visitation, or use? Design your solutions around helping make the lives of your customers easier.

Think about how home improvement brands like The Home Depot could integrate AR tape-measuring technology into its app to help its customers gain the confidence to take on any home improvement project.

AR measuring tapes

Source: Laan Labs

Retailers can help their customers easily find their brick-and-mortar locations via augmented directions.

Starbucks AR for directions

Source: Andrew Hart, @AndrewProjDent, Twitter

Consider how a restaurant brand could use augmented reality to help its guests get a better sense of what it could be like to eat certain menu items.

Restaurant menu AR example

Furniture companies could use new AR technology advancements to help their customers envision new products in their spaces.

Furniture store AR example

A car manufacturer or dealer can help potential buyers envision how a car could look (and even move).

Automotive AR example

Source: Jelmer Verhoog, @JelmerVerhoog, Twitter

In 2018, augmented reality will be available on more than a billion devices running iOS. This is a huge turning point for the technology. By 2020, AR revenue is predicted to reach $90 billion.

AR will always harbor entertainment and gaming-related executions, and for good reason. But the true sign of augmented reality becoming an integral technology in the lives of consumers is its usefulness. And in 2018, more brands will embrace AR to provide utility to their customers and help people envision a future with their brand.

The post Utility Over Novelty: AR’s New Marketing Focus appeared first on The Richards Group.

Blockchain: Bringing Integrity Back to Ad Buying

Tackling Ad Tech’s Biggest Challenges With the Technology Behind Cryptocurrency

In 2017, marketers will spend $83 billion in digital advertising, an increase of 15.9 percent from the previous year. As the market has grown, advertisers, publishers, and users have all faced growing pains as a result. A solution has emerged from an unexpected place that could reduce ad fraud, deliver better targeted ads, and reduce wasted ad spend among other issues – Bitcoin.

Despite any feelings you might have about Bitcoin, the underlying technology, called Blockchain, has captured the imagination of entrepreneurs and established businesses as a revolutionary technology with implications far beyond cryptocurrency.

 

What Is Blockchain?

Blockchain is a distributed ledger that was invented to support the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. Here’s how it works:

Blockchain is revolutionary because it requires no middleman to facilitate transactions, and it’s more secure because copies of the ledger are verified and must be agreed upon across the system. In simpler terms, since no central authority “owns” the ledger, each party involved can track the progress of their transaction and trust they’re all seeing the same, correct information.

In Bitcoin, each block is a financial transaction, but with Blockchain, these individual blocks could be anything. What’s more, each block can be “programmed” to adhere to rules, creating some interesting automation opportunities. A great example of this is a “smart contract,” where a Blockchain-based contract between two parties could automatically pay out funds when the conditions programmed into the contract are met. Think about how a vending machine works – it self-executes code to release a particular item (a drink) when a condition (payment) is met.

A few marketers have been working hard at understanding how this disruptive new technology could be used to solve the advertising industry’s most pressing issues. We’ll explore a few of those initiatives and help sort out the hype from the true opportunities for all parties involved below.

 

An Alternative to Ad Blocking

The Basic Attention Token (BAT) is a recently announced open-source initiative from one of the founders of Mozilla. It proposes a system that “radically improves the efficiency of digital advertising by creating a new token that can be exchanged between publishers, advertisers, and users. The utility of the token is based on user attention, which simply means a person’s focused mental engagement.”

Here’s how it works: “In the ecosystem, advertisers will give publishers BATs based on the measured attention of users. Users will also receive some BATs for participating.” Put simply, it cuts out middlemen like exchanges and puts control of user data back in the hands of the customer, verifies actual attention through integration with the browser, and connects advertisers and publishers directly.

BATs have the opportunity to give consumers something they have been wanting for years in the digital advertising space – better control over the ads they see. Without control, consumers are currently turning to ad blockers, costing publishers more than $22 billion. Through Blockchain technology, BATs provide an alternative – allowing publishers to be paid for their content and consumers to be paid for their attention.

Imagine this scenario – a kitchen appliance advertiser wants to advertise on a mainstream food and lifestyle website. The advertiser pays out BATs to the publisher to have an ad placed in a prominent position on the site’s homepage. A user then engages with the ad and receives a few BATs from the advertiser for paying attention to them. The user’s BATs are then used to purchase an article on the publisher’s website that normally requires a subscription. In this exchange, all parties are rewarded in a way that improves the experience from start to finish, all through BATs.

While the BAT initiative may seem like science fiction, it’s very real and has already launched in beta. In addition, it has some serious talent behind it, including Brendan Eich, the creator of JavaScript and co-founder of Mozilla. It is a long-term initiative, but represents the kinds of disruptive solutions that Blockchain enables.

The BAT rollout has already begun with the beta release of the Brave browser, an open-source, privacy-focused browser. Initially, BAT will launch on the Brave browser, but could be extended to other browsers, and even other platforms like messenger apps. Imagine a user on the messaging app Telegram receiving BAT tokens in exchange for viewing an ad.

 

Transparent Ad Purchasing

When an advertiser purchases digital advertising, it generally must run through a third-party vendor who is responsible for taking the ad, putting it on the right site, and paying the site owner to put the ad there.

The rise in programmatic buying has automated this process, but it’s also created some challenges. Advertisers don’t have a clear line of sight into who’s receiving their ad dollars, and publishers sometimes see only a fraction of the money paid by the advertiser. Blockchain can provide more transparency and trust for these transactions.

Over the summer, Digiday announced members of the programmatic ad alliance Pangaea, including Reuters and CNN International, joined a project to create a supply-side platform (SSP) prototype using Blockchain to improve the transparency of the entire ad-buying process. Essentially, the project would be able to provide publishers with an itemized bill showing exactly how much money an advertiser started with, where and how that money was distributed (or kept by the third party), and ultimately how much the publisher receives. Simply put, the goal of Pangaea is to “root out any potential fee-skimming within digital ad transactions so publishers and buyers can see exactly where the money is going.” This means a more fruitful relationship as advertisers make sure their ads are going to the right place, and publishers are delivering the ads most relevant to their audiences.

Another promising initiative developed in partnership with NASDAQ is The New York Interactive Advertising Exchange (NYIAX). This initiative, launching in Q4, goes another step forward by creating the world’s first guaranteed advertising contract exchange. This new exchange connects the worlds of ad tech and financial tech by allowing publishers and advertisers to buy, sell, and trade advertising inventory in an open market. By using Blockchain technology, these trades can be done more efficiently and with full transparency between all parties involved.

 

The Real Blockchain Opportunity in 2018

In an episode of Forrester’s “What It Means” podcast, Principal Analyst Martha Bennett compared the current state of Blockchain to that of the Internet in the 1980s, full of opportunity as well as hype.

Here are a few very real ways for forward-thinking brands to get involved in 2018.

Learn More About Blockchain
The first step is to get a better understanding of Blockchain and how it can be leveraged for your business and industry. Blockgeeks is an online educational resource full of articles, training technology, and avid Blockchain fans and users ready to answer questions. It’s a great first step to not only understanding the core mechanics of Blockchain technology, but how brands, publishers, and advertisers can take advantage. For a broader perspective, Epicenter is a weekly podcast covering the rise of decentralized technologies including blockchain, cryptocurrencies, and other distributed systems.

For more hands-on learning, the Linux Foundation’s Hyperledger has a free online course you can take covering blockchain and distributed ledger technologies as well as how you can start using its technology for your business.

Participate in Blockchain Tests
For users, the Brave web browser is already available for download. In addition, publishers can already begin setting up accounts, and ad testing will begin at the end of this year, according to the BAT road map. Blockchain initiatives in ad tech will need advertisers and publishers to volunteer in these promising new tests.

In addition, the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) has a nice summation of the most compelling advertising Blockchain initiatives. It has also created a working group to focus on evaluating the Blockchain opportunity.

Build Your Own Blockchain Initiatives
Those ready to start building their own Blockchain initiatives should look at Ethereum, an open software platform based on Blockchain technology that enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications. On Ethereum, brands and advertisers are already building everything from hotel booking platforms to smart contracts.

One final thing should be made clear – the excitement that surrounds Blockchain comes from its potential to move our industry forward in a time of confusion. Those who want to tackle our most serious issues should not shy away from the uncertainty implicit in these early days. Rather, they should embrace the excitement and possibility of this new technology.

The post Blockchain: Bringing Integrity Back to Ad Buying appeared first on The Richards Group.

Porsche surprised coffee drinkers at a cafe with something to really wake them up.

Adweek – November 20, 2017

By David Gianatasio

Recently, a coffee shop in Carson, Calif., began offering customers a mysterious new beverage called E-Jolt, telling them it was so “incredibly powerful,” they’d have to sign a waiver before ordering.

“Waivers for coffee is the hip new thing,” explains a bearded hipster barista in the clip below.

Folks who put pen to paper were whisked outside to sample the product, and they were in for a wild ride. Their hearts raced and they sped around in circles, though this particular hidden-camera stunt wasn’t really selling coffee at all.

Who needs java to rev you up when you’ve got the 680-horsepower Porsche Panamera Turbo S E-Hybrid, which goes from 0 to 60 in 3.2 seconds? It leaves those Starbucks holiday cups in the dust!

Rides took place at the Porsche Experience Center, about two miles from the coffee shop, and the whole scenario was designed to “shake up perceptions of hybrid technology,” Marshall Ross, creative chief at Cramer-Krasselt, the agency behind the stunt, tells AdFreak.

“Hybrid engines are considered ‘good’ technology thanks to their ecological benefits,” Ross says, “but they’re not known for much else. No one thinks hybrids are fun or exhilarating. And those two notions are central to the Porsche brand. The way this car adds a mind-blowing element to what is normally a fairly dull driver experience made us think about what a jolt of caffeine does. It creates a buzz, opens your eyes, wakes you up.”

The cafe channels the vibe of old commercials set in fancy restaurants, where brands such as Folgers would secretly replace fresh-brewed coffee with instant. Here, Porsche adds a high-octane twist: “We’ve secretly replaced their coffee with a car,” Ross says.

C-K and Porsche have teamed up for inventive work before, including magazine ads featuring holograms and other novel technology. “Innovation is a core brand attribute we want to amplify in communications,” Ross says. “So, we’re always looking for ways to behave innovatively, rather than simply talk about innovations.”

For E-Jolt, the challenge was “to create a situation that would give people a smile because how we demonstrated the car felt fresh and surprising,” he says. “While the hologram may look more ‘techy,’ this was pretty technical from a camera point of view. This was true hidden-camera. The responses were real. There were a ton of cameras to hide to make this work.”

That realism factor actually made C-K “a little nervous” going into the two-day shoot, Ross says, because “the entire success of this project hinged on people taking the plunge,” and the team worried that the adrenalized sales pitch and waiver might dissuade too many folks from ordering. “But nearly everyone did [order an E-Jolt]. The only ones that didn’t either weren’t feeling well, or were creatures of habit.”

In fact, one guy “opted for a baby quiche instead of a ride in a 680-horsepower sports car,” Ross says. “Hope the quiche was good.”

The post Porsche surprised coffee drinkers at a cafe with something to really wake them up. appeared first on Cramer krasselt.

Get a real buzz from launching great creative work? 

Us too!

 

It’s why Magnafi are looking for a marketing literate, results driven Director of Client Advocacy to help our clients realise their business and brand ambitions. Someone who shares our passion for exploring the evolution of film; challenging its conventions and continually searching out what’s next.

 

We imagine you as a natural leader who colleagues respect and love to go the extra mile for. You’ll create, retain and grow relationships with ease. You’ll be genuinely motivated by your client’s commercial success but know that continually championing the best creative ideas is their strongest ally. You’ll be strategically strong, quickly grasping your client’s business challenges and helping them translate them into meaningful goals and KPI’s. You’re also an incredible energizer for their team, turning empathy into actionable tasks at lightning speed.  You’ll thrive in a fast paced and demanding environment, demonstrating meticulous financial and organisational rigour. We think you’ll have experience leading multichannel film campaigns both client and agency side. Above all you’ll love film and the power it has to move audiences.

 

Magnafi is part of the MMI Group; the largest portfolio of content strategy and film production companies in Northern England (UK). We combine a full strategic agency set up with the largest TV commercial and content production engine outside London incorporating a studio complex & post-production facilities. You’ll work side by side with film directors, technologists, producers, designers, documentary makers, creatives, digital planners, motion graphics artists to name just a few.  It’s an unusual collection of skills all under one roof but it’s a set-up which our clients absolutely love.

 

And to continue to lead in this space, we recruit on a strong set of values born from a collective pride, ambition and inventiveness. Our shared ethos means we can run through walls together. The first question is always – are you with us?

 

If this hits you in the heart as well as the head then send us your cv or up to date Linkedin profile to hello@magnafi.com

 

We encourage applications from those seeking return to work, part time or flexible working arrangements and candidates from diverse backgrounds. International applications are welcome with relocation packages available.

 

The post Get a real buzz from launching great creative work?  appeared first on Magnafi.