Saturday, April 23, 2016

Virtual reality - the next step in entertainment and marketing?

I remember my first experience with a virtual reality environment.  I was six years old, at Disney World, and I remember putting on a heavy set of headgear, almost like a helmet, running around in a pixellated and poorly defined maze, performing some sort of mildly entertaining children's activity, and when it was over, leaving fairly dizzy.  Looking back, I'm sure the computing power behind this experience was massive, housed in multiple racks of equipment.

Yesterday in class, we experienced something much more defined, with crystal clear imagery of real life settings, powered by a phone, a significant leap forward in the technology, but still not to the point where it has become mainstream.

What then, is needed in order to make VR an everyday entertainment medium?

This company is trying to take the next step, building an integrated virtual reality theme park, allowing participants to "live" the experience.  Check out a first look video:

These environments will offer a unique opportunity to marketers and retailers.  As VR merges with social mediums and MMO games, what will users be willing to pay to "furnish" their virtual space with the latest and most stylish items?  With wider adoption, when do companies begin to create virtual advertising and items in order to convert real sales?


Friday, April 22, 2016

Silent Twitter Eulogies: Condolences for Prince & Chyna

No more wailing and crying, sobbing and shouting, no mass marches or Sunday funerals, not even phone calls. Welcome to the new age of Twitter Homage for the Dead!

Today we lost two iconic beings, in their own rite. Prince I knew about, loved the music and his eccentric yet captivating sense of fashion, and a 80's legend. Chyna, a groundbreaking female wrestler and a porn star, I knew nothing about. And they both died young (57 and 45 respectively) under mysterious conditions (elevator and apartment couch respectively). 

In early days, when a celebrity passed, major TV outlets would break the news and the nation would be glued to the screens in disbelief, sorrow or both. This process would continue for a few days until people grieved enough to move on. There would then be a televised funeral that again, the entire nation would watch. Fans would follow up with greeting cards and love letters to the artist. It was a drawn, somewhat surreal and a definite cathartic experience. 

Today, the eulogy machine is set and ready to go. It is quick, not surreal and almost has a feeling of checking something off the to-do list. As soon as CNN broke the news of Prince's passing today, tweets poured in from all over the world. Some very personal from close friends and families, others from celebrity fans who respected and admired the artists. Same for Chyna. And in many cases, that tweet just about does it. There are no funeral arrangements to go to, no phone calls, no dressing up, no buying flowers, not even sitting down to think and pen down a letter. Tweet and move on! 

Online condolences bring about another solemn yet interesting debate. Is a tweet about someone's passing given the same weight as one for Donald Trump's latest gaffe-of-the-day. We certainly won't put them on the same scale although they might get the same 30 seconds of our attention. Is a tweet too casual or almost dismissive act over someone's passing? Or is this the new form of condolences on-the-go? Tyler Brule, a senior editor of Financial Times who was shot twice in Kabul, Afghanistan says this about the tweeting and death, "Is it really a show of respect when you use Twitter to express your condolences? Where is the dignity when you use an outlet that curbs the amount you can write? The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the AirAsia crash, Joan Rivers’ death and Charlie Hebdo — all blend into a sterile clump of thoughts, prayers, condolences and shock."


Is Facebook actually worth $1.5 trillion?

It could be, if we were attempting to place a value on the loss of productivity generated by Facebook.  This article seems to think so.  According to the article, "the Manhattan Project is equivalent to about 0.5% of the time consumed by US Facebook users in a single year".

Here's a recent chart on how much time we're spending on social media.

Maybe it could be worse.  We could be spending close to 2 hours per day on chat apps.  See Thailand in the chart below.

Does that mean the average person in Thailand spends close to 35 hours a week on some form of social media or chat application?

Nobody's suggesting we go back to the way things were before the internet, but it looks like we could all do with a little more social and a little less media in our lives?


#RIPPrince Brand Responses So Far

Brands posted tributes to Prince today mostly with purple-clad homages.  According to AdWeek, some brands did not manage the response about Prince's death that well.  Cheerios and Hamburger Helper are two brands that poorly managed the response by providing too much brand presence.  They posted the images below and have since deleted them as their responses feel too much like ads rather than tributes to the musician. Other brand responses remain up but look overly self-promotional like the Getty Images one below.   The lesson learned here is that when joining a social media conversation about paying homage to a legendary figure such as Prince, it is important not to make the response all about your brand.  Kind of common sense however apparently easily forgotten by brand social media managers.   

Not so good responses:

Good responses:




Thursday, April 21, 2016

Why aren't people buying on mobile?

After class last week, I thought I would take a look into why people really aren't making purchases on mobile, instead preferring to research and browse on mobile, but switching to desktop, tablet, or even brick and mortar to make the final purchase.

After reading a handful of articles...

Here's what I think:
  1. Your website's mobile functionality just isn't that great - Sure, on a desktop, I can view your product from every angle and spin it around in 3D.  On mobile, I'm looking at a part of a box, with no way to scroll because your display frame doesn't support that.  Mobile shopping experience, over.
  2. Payment information is difficult to collect on the go - You know what's worse than writing a check to pay?  Trying to make a purchase on my train ride, while I juggle my phone, wallet, credit card, briefcase and coat.  Oops, did my shopping cart just reset while I was in that tunnel?
  3. More is not always better, particularly when it comes to information - You're ultimately pushing your customers into a state of analysis paralysis.  Sure, seeing the latest customer reviews are great, but wait, did that just say that there's a faulty power supply in that new TV I was looking at?  Hmm...maybe I'll think about that one a bit more.
Not to fear, fellow marketers, there's always the tablet...or is there?


What's Next in Mobile Advertising?

All of us are glued to our cell phones -- and for marketers, that means big opportunity. As mobile continues to become a more significant part of advertising budgets, it’s an important area to watch.

1.Content marketing will improve the mobile marketing experience: "With the rise of ad blockers, marketers are starting to think about how they can improve the whole advertising experience for users, especially those on mobile devices,” says Sloan Gaon, the CEO of PulsePoint, a programmatic advertising company. “Poor mobile advertising experiences are an issue that content marketing can solve for. Content marketing can drive real value as part of a user's mobile experience by providing information that a consumer wants to engage with. If the content is valuable to your target consumer, then your mobile ad will be valuable.”

2. Instead of BIG data, it’s about accurate data on mobile -- and this data will be coveted: At the beginning of the holiday shopping season, Google began offering marketers data related to how their ads drove in store traffic. Location data will play an increasingly important role in 2016.

3. Video on mobile is growing, and targeting by location is key: “While video and mobile are certainly primed to grow next year, video advertising on mobile is still relatively new and in a growth phase. Next year, this trend will continue, but I don’t see it rising tremendously,” said Hillel Scheinfeld, COO of interactive-video marketing company Viewbix. “Overall, I expect to see more advertisers exploring with videos inside apps and using location and geo-targeting to reach consumers more effectively on their mobile devices.


Kids these days: reaching Gen Z through Snapchat

According to Piper Jaffray, Snapchat overtook Instagram this week as the "most important service" at 28 percent to Instagram's 27 percent. While Snapchat is still new and uncharted territory for most marketers, firms are beginning to realize its use in reaching younger (Generation Z, for example) markets. Snapchat is the fastest growing social network in the history of social networks, and 63 percent of its more than 100,000 daily active users are between the ages of 13-to-34. In order to stay relevant, marketers are following these younger demographics into the more intimate content space. And, this intimacy, a blend of private and public content, is where marketers are devoting incrementally more of their resources. However, the user-centric platform is a challenge for marketers on because it’s made for users rather than marketers. Snapchat lacks some of the basic tools necessary for measuring ROI, for example. There is a weak monetization strategy that is difficult to track. As Snapchat grows, it will be interesting to see how brands reach younger audiences and keep the content fresh and genuine. Reaching these audiences that expect realness and dynamism requires less approval processes and "tapped in" marketers.


The hurt is spreading

The media landscape continues to shift, and this NY Times article describes what the news sites are dealing with now: a decline in audience that is attributed to those audiences being siphoned off by apps and social platforms:

It is a sad and yet familiar scenario, although this time some of the players are different – instead of the mass magazines like Newsweek and US News & World Report struggling (and then morphing into radically different products like “Best Colleges,” “Best Hospitals,” in print and online, etc.), the publishers noted this time are sites like GigaOm and BuzzFeed. A staggering statistic from the article: “In the first quarter of 2016, 85 cents of every new dollar spent in online advertising will go to Google or Facebook, said Brian Nowak, a Morgan Stanley analyst.” And, now that Facebook has opened up Instant Articles to all publishers instead of just a handful, one would have to believe that the trend will continue. 

I so sympathize with these publishers….the other quote that struck me was “With each turn of the screw, people begin to realize, viscerally, that this is what it feels like to not be in control of your destiny.” I know that feeling! As so much print spending has gone to digital, we have not been in control of our destiny and have had to focus on operational efficiency, idea generation, etc. I think we have been able to do some cool, impactful things for our clients, but it is really hard work year after year to do more with less. I also think that it’s a fun time to be in this business and watch everything change.

And clearly, Zuckerberg is feeling the pinch too – they are afraid of the “Context Collapse” and what that will do to Facebook’s business….so he has diversified his holdings (with Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp) as well to make sure he has a stake in the ground on every front in the social arena. He also bought Oculus Rift, and, since he has made what I think are some really good bets so far, I think this business of media and social and digital and marketing is going to get even more interesting in the next five years. I don’t know anything about that arena, so am looking forward to exploring it tomorrow in class!


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Snapchat is Growing Up

Snapchat was once the new kid on the block, putting pressure on big social media rivals such as Facebook and Instagram.  However, the company's rise in popularity has forced it to go head-to-head with all the largest social media platforms and compete for the one thing everyone is gunning for:  attention on mobile phones.

Snapchat has been expanding its services to match those of its competitors.  This week, the company released 6 new features to makes its app more relevant, including allowing people to make phone calls, send audio messages and send video messages.  Snapchat also now providdes the ability to conduct video calls like a private livestream.

These new capability launches follow Snapchat's decision two years ago to let people replay videos.  These decisions have been made in an attempt to keep people within their ecosystem longer.  Competitors such as Instagram and Facebook are expanding their services offers with the same intent.  For example, Instagram just announced that videos on its platform can now be up to 60 seconds in length.

Who will win the ultimate fight for users' attention?


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Four Favorite Ways to Use VR with Travel

Virtual reality headsets may not be mainstream yet, but VR is already showing a dynamic range of applications and uses.  A few weeks ago, the CTO of LikeLive gave a presentation and demo of their sportscast app.  It kicked off my thinking of how the travel industry could make best use of the unique features of VR.  The following are my top bets:

1. Showing you new locations

Ok, so maybe this one you could have guessed.  As I wrote in a previous post, a huge part of successful travel marketing is getting the traveler to envision themselves at the location.  Travel agents have historically used incredibly descriptive and visual language, and travel ads always feature colorful and detailed pictures of the property.  VR allows hotels and tour operators to take this trope to the extreme by literally immersing you somewhere else.  Marriott has done a tremendous job of this already.  They set up virtual reality booths (complete with headsets, headphones, and wind and water effects) outside City Hall in Manhattan to catch newlyweds; viewers were transported to London or Hawaii to experience a Marriott honeymoon vacation.

2. Ecotourism (to the extreme)

Besides showing you a new place you may want to visit, perhaps there's a reason you want to stay at a distance.  Ecotourism has steadily gained in popularity as more travelers increasingly seek to choose travel destinations that support conservation efforts.  Virtual reality creates the opportunity to get up close and personal with endangered species and locations (such as coral reefs) without jeopardizing the native balance by disruptive behavior.  Discovery Networks has already partnered with VR company Littlstar to develop videos highlighting threatened and protected animals.  Make sure to click around as the video plays to see the full 360 view!

3. Accessible Tourism

Another niche area of travel is dedicated to trips and excursions that are accessible to those with limited mobility and/or disabilities.  While ecotourists may intentionally choose not to travel to certain destinations, other travelers may find themselves physically unable.  Google has already started making inroads here with their extreme dedication to Google Maps.  See the video below for a view from the top of Mont Blanc, part of an entire climbing experience Google has made available on a variety of platforms.


4. the Beyond!

What about locations people haven't even been to yet?  NASA has you covered.  As we increase the range and capabilities of space probes, we will be able to experience destinations human beings have yet to step foot on.  Don't forget to click around in the video!


Veeroll Crushes It Using Facebook Ads, And Now You Can Too!

Spending only $2,500, tech startup Veeroll was able to sell 122 subscriptions in two weeks using targeted Facebook ads. Depending on the size of your company, that is either pocket change, or your entire social ad budget. Deciding the best strategy to help grow your business can be tricky. Luckily, Veeroll was kind enough to share exactly what they did to achieve these results in a recent article on Ironically, Veeroll is a company that helps its customers generate video ads automatically. Nevertheless, here are some of the key takeaways from their experience.

The first lesson is to avoid doing all of this on your own. Most entrepreneurs are people that want to turn a great idea in the viable business. That doesn't mean they are experts in digital marketing. Join  a community group and seek advice from people who do this for a living. Advertising on Facebook can be risky, so it helps to have an expert on your side to help you optimize your CPC and other metrics.

The second lesson can be abbreviated as ABO - Always be optimizing. Use the Facebook Ads manager reporting system to see who is responding and who is not. This will help you see trends and give you the insight needed to find out if your message is resonating with your intended audience and leading to actionable results.

The third, and potentially biggest takeaway, is that video creates a higher engagement rate than image or text. Period. According to data from Simply Measured, videos are typically shared 1200% more times than links and text combined. This is probably part of the reason why Facebook and other social media companies are investing in video at their current rate.

The fourth lesson is to know your audience. Veeroll ran their Facebook campaign in two different phases. The first phase was a website click campaign aimed at people on the network who expressed interest in Veeroll's niche market. They also tried to find look-a-like profiles to their current mailing list. The second phase of the campaign was sent to a another segment of the same "cold" audience, along with a set of "warm" leads who had previously visited the website and blog. Veeroll also found if beneficial to be creative with the ads that were sent. Give your audience something fun to do or watch as a way of standing out from the crowd.

The fifth lesson was that the ads were much more successful when there was a focus on "giving over getting". You can't always know which stage of the buying process your target may be in, but you are going to greatly increase the likelihood of your ad being effective if you consistently provide something of value. Veeroll noticed a significantly higher relevance score when the ad recipients perceived value from the ad.

The final lesson is the be organized, but don't wait forever to pull the trigger. Before you start your campaign have a specific goal and strategy in mind. Revisit your plan often to ensure your ads are working. At the same time, you won't score on the shots that you don't take. While this of advertising may seem intimidating, you aren't going to reap any rewards if you refuse to take a risk.


Monday, April 18, 2016

"Damn It, My Mom Is On Facebook Filter"

Some say Facebook is starting to earn itself an image of being an "old world" technology, doomed to the kind of obsolescence that MySpace once faced in the breadth of new competition.

You know teenagers.  If their parents are doing something, it must be uncool.  Today, most teenagers' parents are using Facebook regularly, meaning teenagers are distancing themselves from the platform accordingly.

But.....SNL has another option:


Interactive Mobile Ads - Even Better Than Building Your Own Pizza

With demand for mobile marketing increasing, mobile ad startup Adtile appears poised to benefit. Adtile produces motion ads which take advantage of a smartphone's GPS, gyroscope, motion coprocessor, accelerometer and digital compass on both Android and iOS.  Instead of simply tapping an ad or clicking to watch a video, Adtile ads immerse the marketer into the user experience by asking consumers to shake, turn or otherwise interact with the ads.  For example, Adtile did work for a coffee chain that required the user to shake their phone, filling up a cup with coffee in the process. Once the cup was full, Adtile, using location data from Yelp, showed a map with a list of nearby stores.

Adtile says it motion ads have an average engagement rate of 30%, a participation time of 23 seconds and an average CTR of 5%.  The company has continue to expand its technology by branching out into virtual reality and by developing a product called Air Pencil, a tool where the consumer treats his or her phone as a device for drawing in the air (see link to YouTube video below).  Adtile's new mobile software platform, Adtile VR, allows users to experience virtual reality on smartphones without the need for special equipment.  This VR software is easy-to-use, smooth and natural for real-time motion simulations.  By incorporating Adtile VR into native or web-based applications, users can "explore" the digital space by turning left and right and looking up and down, using touch controls to interact.

Adtile uses algorithms using smartphone sensor technology to accurately capture the scale and sensitivity of motion.  Its blend of short-range, arms-length gestures with medium to long-range motions allow for accurate physical movement in virtual space.  This technology allows users to have a real connection with their surrounds via their smartphones.  Additionally, Adtile has been given approval by the USPTO for its patent on "multiple panel touch user interface navigation" and Adtile is partnering with Singapore Press Holdings to offer motion ads as part of SPH's mobile campaigns.  Adtile appears to be uniquely positioned to help users interact with brands via mobile.


Sunday, April 17, 2016

What makes a campaign viral!?

Here there are some steps you can take to increase your chances of having your campaign go viral.

Make It Visual
The things that go viral are the things that are visually appealing, in almost all instances. Adding video or images to your campaign is one of the first things you need to do to build a viral marketing campaign.
However, you also need to make sure that the visuals are viral-worthy. Make them humorous, informative or surprising. The more surprising, the more of a chance the item has of being shared.
Blog posts, Tweets and Facebook posts with images are more likely to be shared. Buzzsumo did a study of over 100 million blog posts where it looked at the number of social shares each post got, and found several similarities between the most shared content. One of the elements that stood out the most as a recurring theme was the importance of visuals.
The study found that posts with one or more images get more than twice as many shares on Facebook and Twitter than those without any images in them.

Plan the Message
While some viral campaigns are accidental, most are carefully planned.
Make a careful script for your video or a careful plan for your infographic so that your ultimate message is clearly received by your audience.

Work the Emotions
Viral campaigns are the ones that tug on people’s emotions. Often they are humorous, but they can also be sentimental. As you plan the campaign, make sure there is an emotional catch.
Play on their fears, hopes, dreams or sense of humor, and your campaign will be far more likely to go viral.
Emotion is what compels people to take action. Some people eat when they’re sad. Some people go to the gym after watching a motivational sports movie. The feelings that you get after seeing, hearing or reading something that strikes an emotional chord influences your behavior. And there’s science to back it
Know Your Audience
As you consider the emotional triggers to tap, make sure you know the triggers that affect your audience.
What is it they want from you?
Are they hoping for some super secret information?
Are they looking to be entertained?
Are they wanting to appear informed and clever?
Keep the Campaign Simple
Your campaign cannot be complicated. If you are sending a novel to your target audience, they aren’t going to pass it on.
A short video, a simple infographic or a concise article are the most likely targets for something that goes viral. Stick to two or three main marketing messages, and nothing more, in your campaign.

Launch the Campaign
When are they most likely to be online, visiting social media sites?
This is the best time to launch your campaign. Spread it throughout your social marketing sites, and encourage your followers to share. If the video, article or image sparks something in your audience, you will be able to sit back and watch as it goes viral.

Don’t Try to Force It
Don’t hit your audience too hard with your new campaign, though. If it’s going to go viral, it will. If it’s not, no amount of blasting is going to make it happen. Launch your campaign at a strategic time, remind your audience about it casually, and then see what happens.

Build Sharing Into the Campaign
You don’t have to create content and cross your fingers hoping someone will share it. Instead, be proactive and make sharing a built-in feature of your campaigns. This is exactly how Dropbox was able to quickly scale to become a multi-billion dollar corporation. The concept is very simple but extremely effective. Dropbox built in a feature that gives users free storage space by referring other users to the service. That incentivized people to share the tool. Companies like Uber and Airbnb have used similar strategies as well.
dropbox referral marketing
Another twist to this technique is what Google did when it initially launched Google+. If you remember, not just anyone could get a Google+ account when it first launched. It was done on an invite-only basis. In order to gain access, people took to Twitter and forums begging to get an invite from people who had access. That exclusivity made people want a profile even more, which increased the number of people talking about the new social network all across the web.
Content doesn’t go viral unless people are sharing it. The lesson to take from Dropbox, Uber and Google is to ask for the share.

Integrate User Generated Content (UGC)
The NWA biopic “Straight Outta of Compton” had record breaking box office numbers. While the movie was highly anticipated and had great reviews, we can’t help but think that the viral “Straight Outta” meme generator played a role in the movie’s success.

The marketing effort takes advantage of user generated content, which is one of the most popular viral marketing techniques we’ve seen in recent years. User generated content relies on your audience to create and share content for your company. It helps your audience feel like they’re apart of your campaign and, let’s be honest, it’s entertaining.

People Share Useful Content
It seems obvious, but it gets overlooked all the time. Creating highly relevant and useful content is an easy way to increase the chances of going viral. If you can create a piece of content that’s actionable and has practical use, you’ll be far ahead of the game.

Get Your Content in Front of Influencers
You’ve probably heard the word influencer a lot when it comes to marketing. Influencers are people who have a large active following in their industry. Here’s 55 digital marketing influencers you should be following on social media. Getting your content Tweeted out or mentioned by an influencer can take your blog post from behind the curtains and right onto center stage in front of thousands of new people. And there are two ways to get them to take notice:


Millennial Marketing

By Blaire Townshend

In a recent article on Search Engine Journal, Neil Patel took an unconventional tack—instead of writing about the importance of marketing TO millennials, he advised millennials on how THEY could market to others. He summarized his suggestions in five main points:

  • Choose the channels that resonate with your audience
  • Be your brand
  • Embrace the selfie
  • Strategy trumps tactics
  • Look at your data
Besides these suggestions, Patel also advises millennials to emphasize "authenticity," and thinking "holistically," and to know the difference between attention and impressions. He argues that these strategies will help millennial marketers to find value and to best serve their audiences.

As a millennial myself, I find these suggestions to be in keeping with what I know of myself and how I prefer to be marketed TO. Authenticity and transparency are of the utmost importance to my generation, and we seek out brands and companies that practice both in their marketing initiatives. The idea of "being your brand" speaks to this, as well—we want the brand to accurately reflect the people who administrate it, and to feel that brands are personable and accessible. As someone who is entrenched in the arts marketing world, this is particularly relevant to me.

I found this to be an interesting article not only in its unusual focus, but also because I represent both sides of the coin. I am a millennial who who wants to pursue marketing; and the current marketable audience of interest is the millennial generation. By valuing authenticity, transparency, and relatability, as Patel suggests, I hope to effectively market to my peers in a manner in which I in turn would wish to be marketed to.

Patel, Neil. "An Introduction to Digital Marketing for Millennials (Not 'To Millennials')." Search Engine Journal. 15 Apr. 2016. Web. 17 Apr. 2016.


Saturday, April 16, 2016

Bots Costing Advertisers

It is a well known trend that companies are shifting their marketing dollars from traditional advertising to digital advertising.  The benefits of digital marketing are vast:  more targeted ads, extensive analytics, higher ROI, etc.  However, there is an offsetting cost that is costing advertisers significant money:  bots.  Bots are website robots that run automatic tasks such as clicking on advertisements.  This in turn causes companies to pay for these "fake" clicks with no promise of a return.

How much are these bots costing advertisers?  According to a study released by the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, bot fraud is stealing ~$7B from advertisers.  Display media with CPMs over $10 received 39% more bot traffic than lower CPM media and media with CPMs over $15 had a 173% high bot rate.


The Future Is Finally Here. What Does That Mean For Media Companies?

Virtual reality. For so many years, even just hearing the words got me excited. It has been this "thing" that is going to change the world and the way we live in it. But at the same time, it has always been just out of reach.  At 35, I can recall even at a very young age being told by my parents and teachers that VR is going to be here one of these days. But as I got older, it just never really seemed to materialize. It has always been this illusive target. Believe it or not, but the concept of virtual reality is almost as old as the television. You can watch some early videos of VR on YouTube. It's pretty entertaining. Anyway, are we finally on the verge of a major technological breakthrough that will bring VR to the masses?

VR was brought back to the forefront of technological discussion after the sale of Oculus to Facebook for Billion dollars. This acquisition shows just show serious tech companies are getting about the potential of VR. It leads me to wonder if the future is finally here?

Mark Zuckerberg essentially triple stamped a double stamp (Pro Tip: You can't triple stamp a double stamp; If you know your "Dumb and Dumber" banter) at F8 when we made it clear that VR and AR (augmented reality) are going to be a major part of the strategic vision for Facebook, just as for Google, Samsung and presumably Apple.

A recent article by Justin Hendrix dove into the what all of this means for media companies. He argues that since there is a significant chance VR will emerge as an important communications medium in the next decade, it's time to structure experiments to build expertise and open up opportunities. The challenge is that many media companies are already spread thin from a budgetary standpoint in order to keep pace with the transition to mobile and the increased focus on big data. Additionally, there doesn't seem to be any type of business model that can be utilized. The best way to stay ahead of the game will be to encourage first-mover employees to experiment and to partner with universities and tech companies. The both seem to have the financial resources and enthusiasm for VR, but are lacking in the content department.

I am curious to see how tech and media companies alike begin to utilize this new exciting technology. Discovery has already started making investments in VR. This might be the only way I can get my soon-to-be wife to go on a safari, or sky diving with me. This should Hopefully if and when VR does go mainstream it will be more than just "the world's greatest porn machine". Not that there is anything wrong with that from a business perspective. Someone is going to make a killing doing that, but I digress. Would love to hear your opinions on this. is VR just going to be for gamers and lonely people, or will other industries take advantage of the new wave of enthusiasm and create experiential products that can be enjoyed by the masses?


Mobile targeting based on the weather

For me, the class yesterday on mobile was equal parts scary and cool. On the scary front, I think about the NSA (or The Sun in England) and tapping phones and that Will Smith movie “Enemy of the State” where power-hungry people will use technology for their own ends, not necessarily for the oft-cited “law enforcement” or “good of society” reasons. I am not a conspiracy theorist, but there certainly have been enough instances of abuse of power that the increasing ability for everyone to be tracked all of the time is a little creepy. On the flip side, receiving relevant ads as opposed to irrelevant ads (I am in the industry so can’t turn on my ad blocker to not get ads at all) is compelling. At Hearst, we have a division called Core Audience that uses both first and third party data to make our clients’ digital advertising work smarter. One of the things they talk about is cross-device advertising, and being able to figure out the likelihood that it is the same person on the iPhone in the morning and at their work computer in the afternoon…I think kind of what Professor Kagan was talking about when he said that it is important to consumers to be able to put something in their shopping cart on the phone and then have it there on their computer….important but not easy. Anyway, one of the other things that Core Audience espouses is daypart targeting by device…on the theory that, for example, people just waking up and checking the news and weather on their phones are not necessarily awake enough to be receptive to an advertising message. One of the exceptions to this is advertising messages that are relevant to the news and weather.

In fact, two years ago one of my clients designed their entire digital campaign around the weather - Johnsonville Sausage was always focused on the grilling season, but did a digital campaign that was activated when the first really nice weather weekends started in different parts of the country and then gave consumers grilling ideas. This year, they are coming back to print (in combo with digital), because I think where the campaign failed was that they did 100% digital, and didn’t use any other media. And then I ran across an article that talked about weather advertising, linked to here:

One of the links in the article is, in my opinion, a very good case study on the effects of advertising a weather-related product – it’s for Pantene, which is owned by P&G. Although the case study is from 2013, I think it’s very relevant because they, unlike Johnsonville, came up with a complete cross-channel plan (digital, social, mobile, and in-store) to stop the slide of their products, specifically in Walgreen’s. The complete case study from the MMA (media and Marketing Association) can be found here:

My opinion is that the campaign worked because it was targeted and relevant, cross-platform, focused on the entire purchase journey, but also because it was selling a solution and not just a product. For me, the Pantene story was cool because they didn’t just get caught up in the media platform – they knew what consumer problem their products solve for consumers, and then aligned that with the campaign.


Is watching people play video games really a thing?

"Is watching people play video games really a thing?"  After reading through the results of that simple Google search, I can say, that yes, it's definitely a thing, and it's only going to get bigger.

Initially, it didn't make any sense to me.**  Apparently, it didn't make sense to Jimmy Kimmel, either, stating,  "To me, watching another person play video games is like going to a restaurant and having someone eat your food for you."

Of course, Jimmy faced a lot of criticism for that stance.  "The same could be said about anything: why go to sporting events if you can play it yourself? Why go to concerts when you can sing in the shower?" asked one viewer, and in reading through this Reddit post, I found a number of people who felt the same way.  The prevailing argument appeared to be that these were the best at an activity that a large group of people enjoyed, and in the same way that college football players still watch the NFL, people are attracted to watching the top tier of any activity perform.  It's the same thing that explains the viral takeoff of curling during the Winter Olympics.

Personally, I think it's a continuation of the mainstreaming of "nerd culture", globally.  When the top grossing movies are Star Wars, Transformers and Jurassic World, joined by a half-dozen comic book character reboots, and the leading television shows are Game of Thrones and The Walking Dead, it's natural that video games and video game spectators will follow.

**Full transparency: I knew it was a thing before that search, but I never really subscribed to the idea.  I've been a gamer since childhood, and even now, juggling work, EMBA and a family, channeling my best Frank Underwood, I don't mind spending a few minutes virtually beating up on your 12-year-old niece or nephew.  That said, my interaction with this industry was limited to using it to preview potential purchases.


The Mobile Safari: How Africa's Leapfrogging

In March 2015, I had the amazing opportunity of traveling to South Africa with Columbia Business School as part of my international seminar.  While I could go on about all the awesome things I was able to see and experience, one of the most striking things was just how much people relied on their mobile phones.  According to a recent Pew Research report, cellphone use in Africa has exploded in recent years and is nearly on par with the US in many countries.  For example, 83% of people in Ghana have cellphones, just under the 89% of Americans.  Compare this to the fact that only 20% of Ghanaians have access to safe sanitation facilities.

Adults who own a cell phone, Africa

As part of our course, we were paired with local entrepreneurs to advise on a given business problem of their choice.  My team was set up with Quicket, an online ticket marketplace, who was seeking to grow their pan-African presence.  When it came to mobile strategy, whether to develop for cellphone applications wasn't even a question; mobile was integrally part of Quicket's business.  Not only is Quicket able to be seamlessly used and accessed via mobile, their entire ticket scanning platform was based on mobile tickets and was driven by a mobile app.  Every other company we met in the incubator had a similar mobile-forward approach.

The proliferation of cellphone use in Africa is especially striking given the complete lack of other communications infrastructure.  Only 2% of adults in the Pew study had a landline in their home.  From a digital marketing perspective, this a gold mine: an entire population of previously unreachable people (from a digital perspective) are now outpacing other more connected countries.  Compare the charts below that show African nations at the bottom of internet connectivity, yet leading many European and Middle Eastern countries in social networking usage.

Mobile payments have also taken off due to a combination of cellphone proliferation and general lack of banking options.  African nations comprise the most underbanked population in the world, with 80% of adults completely unbanked.  Yet despite this, Africa demolishes the global average for mobile financial services usage. 

As the rest of the world continues to move online and get mobile, Africa stands to have a fantastic leg up in the mobile game.  Whereas the rest of the world is focused on turning existing web applications to mobile, Africa has been forced to develop for cellphone use from the beginning.


Friday, April 15, 2016

"Blocking Uber is like blocking the Internet to protect the Fax"

Chile' former Transportation Minister, Pedro Pablo Errazuriz believes that "Blocking Uber is like blocking the Internet to protect the Fax" and many agree, myself included.

There is no reason to block technology or a better way of doing things simply because there is no current regulation in place for it.  If this were the case, there would be no improvement in any area, and innovation would be something only a few would dare to dream about.

Let's imagine for a second that what Errazuriz states actually happened.  Since there were no regulations in place for something so revolutionary as the Internet, and the only way of communicating was land lines and faxes, what would the world would look like today?

The world as we know it, it is possible simply because people and governments have welcomed and regulated new ways of doing things.  If it hadn't adapted to something as big as the Internet and the system was still protecting the fax and the fax industry, well, there would basically be no Digital Marketing. AT ALL.  And Professor Kagan would most likely be in the music industry still...  Or maybe developing some crazy metrics to test for color fax advertising effectiveness!

Google would be the biggest fax advertiser, and would have this amazing ad placements for sale on fax's thermo paper packages! Of course payment would only be accepted by fax, and you would have to fax over your contract for a certain fixed period.  Your ads would be "live" once the new packaging was created and shipped -let's say 2 months after faxing your "order"?

Who knows! But the reality is that we as business people, and in many cases entrepreneurs, can't limit innovation to things that have a regulatory system in place.  We need to continue to disrupt the system and bring new and better ideas in all areas of the every day life. The goal is to find the inefficiencies and offer a better and improved way of doing things. Just like Uber does.